Child Custody and Visitation when Dad is Deployed

Posted on Apr 1, 2013 by Katie Carter

If your child’s father is in the military, he isn’t the only person who can exercise his visitation. A military parent who is deploying has the ability to delegate his visitation to a family member, including a step parent, provided that the court finds that this delegation satisfies a two part test. First, the family member must have a close relationship with the child and, second, the court must find that the delegation is in the best interests of the child.

Many moms are shocked and angry to find out that their child’s father can delegate their visitation to their new wife during deployment. Moms expect their child’s father to exercise visitation with some sort of regularity, but are often unprepared for the thought of handing over their child—not to dad—but to the new woman in his life.

If you find yourself in a situation where you think this might happen to you, remember first that your husband must satisfy the two part test before the court will allow his visitation to be delegated to another person. Does the new woman have a close relationship with your child? Is there any reason that you think that visitation with this woman would not be in the best interests of the child? That’s what you’d have to show the court to prevent this from happening.

If the court allows your child’s father to delegate visitation to someone else in his absence, the order can do a couple of different things. It can:

  • Delegate all of the visitation to the other family member;
  • Delete a certain portion of the visitation to the other family member; or
  • Give primary physical custody of the child to the non-deploying parent, if the deploying parent had it before, and give visitation rights to the deploying parent’s family member.

For moms, this can be one of the most difficult and unexpected scenarios presented by dad’s military service. For more information about problems that may arise for military families establishing custody and visitation, click here.