Historically, North Carolina has had a number of special protections for military parents in contested custody situations. Effective October 1, 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly conducted an overhaul on the custody rights of military parents. More specifically, it adopted the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act which was developed on the national level. This law is found under North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 50a Article 3.
What does this mean for you as a military parent?
It means the laws specific to custody situations for military parents have changed drastically, with both positives and negatives in store as we move forward. This law provides for agreements to establish a temporary parenting arrangement specific to a deployment. It also grants certain forms of authority so that another person can act in the military parent’s stead. It is recommended that any such agreement includes a specific termination date in relation to the release from deployment notice or when the military parent returns from deployment and provides notice to the other parent.
In the absence of a termination provision, though, the statute provides that any agreement made pursuant to these provisions will terminate 60 days from the date the deploying parent gives notice to the other parent that the deploying parent has returned from deployment. If a parenting arrangement cannot be established by consent between the parents, either parent can also seek expedited relief from the courts for a temporary parenting arrangement to create an arrangement prior to the deployment. Other provisions also include the prohibiting of any court to grant a permanent custody order in the absence of the deploying parent without the consent of the deploying parent.
The main piece of advice I will offer:
Should you be a military parent, please ensure the family law attorney with which you are seeking legal advice is aware of these unique custody laws and has experience with military custody situations. I cannot express my sheer despair when I have a client that had a previous attorney with no knowledge of these laws and protections for military parents. I remember one case in particular, during my client’s deployment, his then-attorney failed to bring the court’s attention to these protections. When he came home, he found that he had lost custody of his little boy. This is a fate that I would not want anyone to experience. No military member deserves to have their child taken away when he or she is representing and fighting for our country.