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Our Minneapolis child custody lawyers cannot overstate our respect and appreciation for members of the Armed Services who make countless sacrifices to protect the freedom of everyone in the U.S. Perhaps one of the greatest sacrifices that military members make involves the effect that their service has on family relationships.

While 2014 data indicates that the military divorce rate has declined to about 3.1 percent (slightly lower than the civilian divorce rate of about 3.6 percent), divorced Armed Services members face significant challenges. A recent law enacted in Minnesota particularly relates to maintaining relationships between servicemembers and their children.

Deployment Affects Many Child Custody Issues

Whether or not members of the Armed Services have physical custody of the children after divorce, the terms of the settlement change in an instant when they are deployed. In 2015, the Minnesota legislature created the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act to address these changes on an expedited basis.

The Act’s detailed rules pertain to every imaginable aspect of the changes that military members experience when they deploy and when they return from deployment, but a few important points are as follows:

  • Deployment notification requirements: Within seven days of receiving notification of deployment (or as soon as reasonably possible), military parents must notify the other parent in writing and provide a plan for meeting their responsibilities pertaining to the children.
  • Expedited court responses: The courts must hold evidentiary hearings within 30 days that a motion is filed pertaining to changes in custodial responsibilities, and they must make decisions within 30 days of the hearing date. Electronic testimony may be permitted when a party or witness cannot appear physically in court.
  • Authority to non-parents: The courts can grant caretaking or decision-making authority to an adult who has a close and substantial relationship with a child upon request from a deploying parent.
  • Return from deployment: The agreements provide for reasonable parent-child contact when a deployed parent returns on leave, and the original custody agreement generally resumes after a deployed parent returns, with specific notification and other requirements.

These and countless other specifications in the Act go a long way toward establishing reasonable rules during exceptionally challenging circumstances. However, anyone who has faced deployment knows that the process seems to progress at a whirlwind pace — potentially beyond the legal system’s ability to address the best interests of the children to the degree deserved.

Divorcing Military Members and Spouses Should Consider Making Plans Before Deployment

Even with the best parenting plans in place, the children of virtually any divorce face substantial challenges. These challenges can compound exponentially when military parents leave the country for many months. When spouses divorce, they need to spend as much time considering the interests of their children during deployment as they think about the time when both parents are physically available to their children.

When active military duty is in the mix, experienced Minnesota child custody attorneys encourage their clients to develop deployment plans at the same time that they work on their parenting plans. Even if these secondary plans require some changes at the time of deployment notice, they provide a good baseline that helps both parents to arrive at a temporary arrangement that best meets the interests of the children. To address the special issues involved in military divorce, call us at (763) 783-5146  or use our convenient contact form.