How Does the Florida Court Protect Military Families in Custody Cases?
Divorce can be a complicated endeavor for many different families. However, if you or your spouse is a military member, your divorce may face a unique set of circumstances that other families may never have to consider, such as if a parent is deployed. It is imperative to employ an attorney who is familiar with the unique circumstances that a military family may face and ensure your rights are protected.
In every state, child custody laws will differ, however, every state does reference the military parent in some form. Florida is a state that provides a military parent numerous protections and avenues to continue a relationship with their child while on deployment. However, you must petition the court prior to your deployment to have a legally binding plan and agreement between you and your former partner.
The first step is to provide proper notice to the other parent of your deployment, and a proposed plan for the deployment time. Florida statute provides for a 7-day window after receiving notice of a deployment for you to provide notice and the proposed plan to the other parent. However, if you do not comply with the 7-day requirement, the court may still find you compliant if a reasonable effort was made. 61.709
Prior to your deployment, it is important to have a temporary custodial responsibility agreement 61.721 This agreement must be in writing and signed by both parents. This agreement would be discussed with your attorney and former partner then formally filed with the court. This agreement is only temporary and terminates upon the return of the deployed parent. 61.723 The agreement should address:
(a) To the extent permissible, identify the destination, duration, and conditions of the deployment that is the basis for the agreement.
(b) Specify the allocation of caretaking authority among the deploying parent, the other parent, and any agreed-upon nonparent.
(c) Specify any decisionmaking authority that accompanies a grant of caretaking authority.
(d) Specify any grant of limited contact to an agreed-upon nonparent.
(e) Provide a process to resolve any dispute that may arise if custodial responsibility is shared by the other parent and an agreed-upon nonparent, or by other agreed-upon nonparents.
(f) Specify the frequency, duration, and means, including electronic means, by which the deploying parent will have contact with the child, any role to be played by the other parent or agreed-upon nonparent in facilitating the contact, and the allocation of any costs of contact.
(g) Specify contact between the deploying parent and child during the time the deploying parent is on leave or is otherwise available.
(h) Acknowledge that the agreement does not modify any existing child support obligation and that changing the terms of the obligation during deployment requires modification in the appropriate court.
(i) Provide that the agreement will terminate according to the procedures under this part after the deploying parent returns from deployment or as otherwise agreed upon in writing or in a record by the deploying parent and the other parent.
(j) Specify which parent is required to file the agreement if the agreement must be filed with the court pursuant to s. 61.729.
If you and your former partner are unable to come to an agreement regarding the custodial arrangement for your child, you may petition the court to order a temporary custodial agreement. After receiving notice, you may petition the court to grant temporary custodial responsibility. An expedited hearing will be held. 61.733. Once again, such an order by the court is temporary in nature and will terminate upon the deployed parent’s return. 61.743. Florida statute provides the temporary custody order must:
(1) Designate the order as temporary and provide for termination after the deploying parent returns from deployment.
(2) To the extent permissible, identify the destination, duration, and conditions of the deployment.
(3) Specify the allocation of caretaking authority, decisionmaking authority, or limited contact among the deploying parent, the other parent, and any nonparent.
(4) Provide a process to resolve any dispute that may arise if the order divides caretaking or decisionmaking authority between individuals, or grants caretaking authority to one individual and limited contact to another individual.
(5) Provide for liberal communication between the deploying parent and the child during deployment, including through electronic means, unless it is not in the best interest of the child, and allocate any costs of communication.
(6) Provide for liberal contact between the deploying parent and the child during the time the deploying parent is on leave or otherwise available, unless it is not in the best interest of the child.
(7) Provide for reasonable contact between the deploying parent and the child after the parent’s return from deployment until the temporary order is terminated, even if the time of contact exceeds the time the deploying parent spent with the child before entry of the temporary order.
The final task for the court would be to enter a temporary order for child support. The temporary order may order child support to be paid by the deploying parent; may require the deploying parent to enroll a child in DEERS or TriCare; or suspend or reduce the existing child support obligation of the custodial parent until the deployed parent returns. 61.747
Florida statute requires you to be informed of your child’s caretaking and location even while on deployment. If after, you have been deployed a modification to this agreement must be made; such modification is required to be on record and agreed to by both parents. 61.725 No modification will be legally binding without your knowledge and confirmation. Further, while you are deployed, the custodial parent must keep you informed of any change in the address or residence of the child. 61.711 This protection allows for the deployed parent to have some security knowing they are up to date in the care of their child.
There are many items to consider regarding your child while you are deployed. Ensure you are protected by employing the aid of your Military Child Custody Attorney who can walk you through each step and draft a fair and comprehensive agreement between you and your former partner.
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