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Child-custody orders can be modified in military divorce cases

Any Tennessee resident who has been through divorce knows that it can harshly affect children. Although parents may feel angry and resentful, their children are often experiencing considerable fear and anxiety. The question of whom they will live with can create even more insecurity until final child-custody decisions are made. In the aftermath of a military divorce, the question of custody becomes even more critical because of the possibility of sudden deployments.

When a service member is deployed, the person often must give up child custody at least temporarily. Problems can develop if the service member returns home and the former spouse or partner or other party given temporary custody decides to keep the children indefinitely. The resulting child-custody war can drag on for weeks, months or years.

Fortunately, the military requires certain service members to establish family care plans or collections of resources and legal documents that specify who will take care of a service member's children in the person's absence. Those required to have family care plans are single parents, those who are married to other service members who have dependents, those who have primary responsibility for dependent family members and those who have custody or joint custody of a child whose noncustodial biological or adoptive parent is not the service member's current spouse.

The plan specifies medical and educational arrangements for family members as well as interim child-custody arrangements.

In general, child-custody arrangements are state matters and rely on state laws. For that reason, when a service member is is relocated to another state, a modification of an existing child-custody order must go through a state court. When the child-custody arrangement has no provision for relocation, the military service member will need to work with the court and the child's other parent to modify the child-custody order.

Source: MilitaryOneSource.mil, "Child Custody Considerations for Members of the Military," Jan. 9, 2015

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