It’s tough being on active duty when you have children. When that comes on top of a divorce or child custody dispute, things can get even tougher. If you are facing a divorce or fighting with your child’s other parent, you want to know: will your military service affect your claim for child custody?
This blog post will review the factors Colorado courts consider when allocating parental responsibility. It will discuss how these factors apply to active duty parents, and whether your military service will affect child custody claims.
How Colorado Courts Decide Your Claim for Child Custody
Any time parents cannot agree on the custody of their children, it falls to the courts to allocate parental responsibility. This may be part of a divorce action, or a separate claim for child custody. Colorado family law judges have the authority to assign parenting time and decision-making responsibilities between the child’s parents based on the best interests of the child. Parenting time decisions are based on a number of factors:
- What each parent wants
- What the child wants (if he or she is mature enough to express an independent opinion)
- How the child interacts with each parent, siblings, and others in the household
- How well the child has adjusted to his or her home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved (but disability by itself isn’t enough to restrict parenting time)
- The ability of each parent to encourage an appropriate relationship between the child and the other parent (except in cases of domestic violence or child abuse)
- Past patterns of parental involvement
- The parents’ physical proximity to each other as a practical consideration for parenting time
- The ability of each parent to put the child’s needs before his or her own
When considering who should make decisions for the child, the court will look at:
- The parents’ ability to cooperate and make decisions together
- Past patterns of parental involvement and mutual support
- If mutual decision-making responsibility will promote contact between parent and child
How Military Service Will Affect Your Claim for Child Custody
That same framework applies to civilians and military personnel alike. Colorado does honor the federal Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and has adopted a Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA). However, these laws are more focused on how a parent can bring a child-related claim or defend against it, rather than the court’s decisions about child custody.
Under the UDPCVA, a Colorado family law judge can’t use the fact that you have been deployed as a reason to deny or restrict parenting time. However, the practical realities facing a military parent means that several of the best interest factors may work against you.
Parents’ Proximity and Overseas Deployment
The Colorado court looks at the practical realities of shared decision-making and parenting time. When one parent is deployed out of state or overseas, those practical considerations can sometimes work against a military parent. It will be up to you and your family law attorney to show how you can use leave and modern technology to stay active and involved in your child’s life and decision-making.
Past Patterns of Involvement and Military Spouses
Many families have one parent who is more responsible for day-to-day care of the children. This can become especially true for military families where one spouse is deployed or on active duty. When a parent’s term of service is over and he or she is ready to move into a more active role, that past pattern of involvement may create a hurdle for military spouses. If the court isn’t convinced that you would have been more involved if you were not deployed, the judge may allocate more parenting time or decision-making responsibilities to your child’s other parent. It will be up to you and your divorce attorney to draw connections between you and your child while you were home and efforts you made to stay connected while deployed.
Mental and Physical Health and Veterans
It is an unfortunate truth that many military veterans return from service with significant mental and physical disabilities. While those disabilities will not be enough on their own to deny your claim for child custody, they may affect the balance of your child’s best interests. If you are a veteran with mental or physical health concerns, be sure to work with your attorney and your VA to show that you are treating your disability and minimizing its effect on your child.
If you are a veteran or active-duty military servicemember, winning your claim for child custody may involve showing the judge that you can work around your assignment when your child needs you. A family law attorney with military experience can appear on your behalf in court, assert your rights as a servicemember, and advocate for a fair allocation of parental responsibility. Don’t let your military service affect your claim for child custody. At Aviso Law, LLC, our divorce lawyers are veterans themselves. We know the issues facing active-duty military parents, and make it a point to help you understand how your service will affect child custody issues. We are here to serve you and your family during deployment, and upon your return. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.