How Can Military Duty Impact Time-Sharing or Visitation with Children in Florida?

1344775_south_african_navy_helicopter_.jpgAs a military town, Jacksonville divorce and family law attorneys, along with the courts, must understand that military duty may impact a divorce proceeding or other court matter, but also will most likely impact child custody and visitation matters at some point. Florida laws have made provisions for those in the military when it comes to custody; visitation; time-sharing; and child support matters if the servicemember is on active duty and set for deployment. Florida does not punish members of the military for serving their country by assuming that is in the best interest of the children to be with the nonmilitary parent. In fact, the law provides that if a servicemember is set for deployment, then the time-sharing plan may be modified in a couple of ways:

1. The court may grant a temporary modification of time-sharing and child support and upon the return of the servicemember parent, the prior order will go back into effect. Also, the court may grant extended time-sharing for periods when the servicemember is on leave. This way there are no permanent changes to custody or time-sharing, but simply an order to get from the time of deployment to returning home; or

2. If the deployment will be for more than 90 consecutive days, then the servicemember can actually designate a third party to have time-sharing in accordance with the original order. However, that individual must be a family member or stepparent. If the other parent objects, then that parent must show why it is not in the best interest of the children to have time-sharing with the designated family member of the serving parent.

The Court’s position is not to punish individuals for serving their country, but to look after the best interest of the children while that parent is on active duty. Upon returning home, Florida Statute 61.13002 provides for the prior order to go back into effect so as not to impose a permanent change in time-sharing simply because duty to country exists. However, the statute also recommends that the provisions that will be in place during times of deployment be placed in the original order as to avoid future necessity of the court’s intervention since there may be significant time issues with notice of deployment and actually leaving. The State has also provided that such matters are to be heard on an expedited basis by the Court and the servicemember may appear by telephone if she or he is unable to appear in person due to their military orders.

Florida family law cases involving children have a starting point with the court for the standard to be used by the Judge in making decisions of time-sharing, it is, “the best interest of the child.” In looking out for the children, the State has made allotments for such matters that may arise in the family units since they are in separate households and especially for those serving in the military since there is not a choice in where one is sent. While the court may issue temporary orders regarding time-sharing and child support for deployment matters, there are other provisions in place for the same issues when the servicemember is transferred to a different station permanently, so an actual modification may be necessary to handle those matters.