Hartley Law Office, LLC

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Child custody and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

When divorced military servicemembers in Dayton are called to active duty, many have questions about whether or how deployment will affect their arrangements regarding custody of their children. To understand the legal context surrounding child custody and military deployment, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is crucial.

SCRA provides protection for servicemembers from certain types of legal actions that may be filed against them in the United States while they are serving on active duty. Importantly, it does not bar lawsuits or render immunity from them. It allows for the "temporary suspension" of actions that could "adversely affect the civil rights" of active duty military personnel. The suspension generally lasts until the servicemember is able to make an appearance in court once active duty status has ended.

When a court looks at actions involving child custody and SCRA, it will carefully weigh the servicemember's rights under SCRA against the best interests of the child. It will consider, for example, the length of time during which a soldier is unavailable; the longer that lasts, the more likely the court may be to consider a child custody modification. It may also grant a custody order intended to be temporary, and thus not at odds with SCRA, but could later make that order permanent if it considers it to be in the child's best interest. It could even determine that a servicemember mobilized to another state should be able to make arrangements to appear in court, and thus is not entitled to a suspension under SCRA.

The availability of a temporary suspension under SCRA is an important right that servicemembers have, but its protections are not absolute. Parents concerned with issues of child custody and active duty may find that a legal professional can play a valuable role in making their case in court.

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