Military Deployments and Child Custody
In 2012 Illinois updated its divorce statutes to accommodate service men and women who were deployed overseas but were involved in a child custody battle. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the statutory body of law in the state that governs divorce and related issues such as child custody. The Act made several key changes to account for parents who are active duty military. The following key provisions were enacted into law:
- Any order modifying custody (either in part or in its entirety) due to the one parent’s deployment as a member of the United States Armed Forces must now also provide that after a set amount of time following the end of the deployment, the pre-deployment custody order is to be reinstated;
- Custody hearings are allowed involving a parent who is being deployed or received orders to deploy to be given expedited priority;
- Service members may testify or participate in the hearing via telephone or other electronic means such as Skype if they are in fact deployed;
- The deployed parent may designate an individual (with the court’s permission) to exercise the visitation rights the deployed parent has under the existing custody order; and
- The fact a parent is absent, relocated, or fails to comply to due deployment may not act as the sole grounds for justifying a modification of an existing custody order.
The purpose of these changes was to make the process of custody arrangements more fair and cognizant of the challenges faced by parents who serve in the armed forces. It helps protect a military parent’s custodial rights while deployed and upon return from deployment.
Consideration of the Best Interest of the Child
The most important change is the establishment of the military parent’s rights to serve as a factor in the best interest of the child. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides several factors that are to be considered when evaluating the best interest of the child. How this plays out with the new law is that a military parent has the legal right to return to the pre-deployment custody order upon their return from deployment. Furthermore, it is the non-deployed parent who has the burden to prove to the court that such a move is not in the best interests of the child.
Contact a DuPage County Family Lawyer Today
Divorce is a stressful process and the addition of a military deployment overseas can only further complicate the process for all parties involved. However, military parents should not have to endure their military service being used against them in a custody battle. The new changes to the state’s divorce and custody laws help clarify what rights military parents have while simultaneously keeping the child’s best interest at heart.
An experienced child custody attorney will be well versed in any changes to Illinois state law and will fight to ensure you reach a favorable divorce and custody agreement. Contact a skilled DuPage County divorce lawyer today for immediate assistance.