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Protecting Your Parental Rights During A Deployment 

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces live under an umbrella of unique circumstances. For example, their actions are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and are subject to the constant possibility of relocations and deployments. Although a military divorce follows the same process as a civilian one, several factors must be considered. One of the biggest concerns that many military members have is how they can develop a parenting plan and be an involved parents in spite of a deployment schedule that is unpredictable by nature. 


Virginia ranks second regarding the size of its military population (California is first). In 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia passed the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act. It covers any active-duty member (or member of a reserve unit that has been activated) who has parental rights and addresses the concerns mentioned above. 


How Does It Protect Me?

The selfless men and women who deploy on behalf of our country and its citizens should not have to sacrifice their parental rights to do so—and that concept sits at the core of the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act. Think of a Marine who is divorced and is also the primary custodian of their child. What happens when the Marine has to go on a UDP (Unit Deployment Program) to Japan or deploys to a combat zone for an unspecified period of time? 


The Act allows the Marine to modify their current custody or visitation order while away temporarily. Even more importantly, the Marine can have the matter re-heard when they return within 30 days of them returning home. (The deployment cannot be used as a reason not to reinstate the original order.) The temporary order can allow others to step in and spend time with the child during the parent’s deployment. For instance, if the Marine remarries, their spouse (the child’s stepparent) can maintain a relationship through visitation even when the Marine cannot be there. This benefit applies to other relatives such as grandparents as well. 


The parent who isn’t deploying cannot disrupt the child’s  communication with the deployed one. Depending on the situation, the deployed parent may have access to the internet, video calls, and they may have a satellite phone. Additionally, if the deployed parent is given leave during the deployment, the non-deployed parent should reasonably accommodate it.


For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the months leading up to a deployment are rigorous. Some units travel to different areas of the country for training. Others are assigned to schools to develop skills that support their unit overseas. This will also not negatively impact service members’ ability to change their custody or visitation order. The court will allow them to give testimony via a video conference or phone call if necessary. 


Speak with an Attorney at Norton Pelt about Your Custody Concerns 

Though we used a Marine as an example (attorney Jason Pelt served in the Marine Corps ), it is important to note that the Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act applies to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coastguardsmen as well. Our attorneys assist civilian and active-duty members of military famileswith custody, visitation, adoption, and protective orders. If you are concerned about custody or how an upcoming deployment could jeopardize it, contact our office today to set up a consultation.

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