Serving in the military is one of the greatest sacrifices, and also one of the most honorable choices anyone can make. From experiences with servicemembers in both active duty and reserve capacities, our lawyers know that the most stress falls on the servicemember and their family. When serving in the military and going through an experience such as divorce, life can become even more complicated.
Last year, Pennsylvania took the step of trying to simplify things. Governor Tom Corbett signed P.L. 241, No. 32, called “Consideration of Criminal Conviction, Modification of Existing Orders, Child Custody Proceeding During Military Deployment and Expedited or Electronic Hearing”, which went into effect in June. As the title would suggest, the statute provides that a court may not alter a custody arrangement involving a servicemember while they are away on duty. A court may issue a temporary custody order involving the family of the servicemember if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child.
The new statute specifies that the court may issue the temporary order upon the joint petition of the servicemember and their family members. Essentially, while specifying that the temporary custody order will not exceed the amount of custody time granted in the original order, it allows the servicemember’s family to assume custody rights while the servicemember is deployed.
The statute also specifies that the servicemember’s active duty status, and therefore absence from their child, cannot be taken into account on its own as impacting the best interest of the child for the purpose of modifying custody. Related to that, the inability of the servicemember to attend a hearing because of their deployment will not be held against them for a custody modification. The court must allow the servicemember to testify and present evidence using the telephone or Skype or video conferencing.
Determining child custody arrangements is complex, even without the added factor of active military service. Whether or not you are deployed, call our experienced child custody attorneys today to discuss your personal child custody situation!