Improving Child Custody Rights of Georgia Military Parents

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In our last post, we discussed the increase of divorces in military families. The complications of divorce in military families in Georgia are typical of those faced by other military families in states across the country. Child custody issues make military divorces even more difficult to resolve these complications.

In mid-July, the Uniform Law Commission approved the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. This act was created as a standard and guidance for states in providing military service members with their child custody rights.

Some service members have had issues with the court system regarding proper jurisdiction. When one service member returned from a deployment, he found that his wife had left their home and had taken their child to another state. When the service member filed a petition for child custody, the judge informed the service member that the judge did not have jurisdiction because the service member's military orders were changed to another state. The Uniform Law Commission is focused on standardizing state child custody laws to simplify and find a solution for similar issues seen by this service member.

Child custody involves two things - legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody constitutes the education, religion, medical and other significant decisions of the child. Physical custody includes where the child resides and the daily care of the child. Child custody arrangements may be determined by parents of the child, through the help of the parents' attorneys or mediation. If the parents are unable to agree on an arrangement, the court may set up an arrangement and will base the custody decision on the best interests of the child.

Visitation is a consideration of child custody. A reasonable visitation typically means that the parents are able to come to an agreement about when a parent may spend time with the child. A fixed visitation is a court-determined schedule of visitation. This type of visitation typically occurs when parents are not able to come to an agreement.

While child custody is a heated component of many divorces, it can be an even greater source of contention in military divorces due to often unique issues faced by relocating service members. It is the hope of the Uniform Law Commission that, upon approval, the uniform code they have created may be introduced to state legislatures and implemented to standardize the law for the benefit of those in Georgia that serve our country.