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Can child custody be modified while a parent is deployed?

Under the current Michigan law, pursuant to the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, if a parent files a motion to change child custody while the other parent is deployed, then the Michigan court should consider staying the motion. It is very important to understand that the length of the parent's deployment must not be used to make a best interest of the child determination. Similarly, any future deployments cannot be taken into consideration either

A court must not modify, amend or issue any new order that changes the child custody arrangement which was in place before the parent's deployment unless there is clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child for the petitioner of the motion to have custody, then the court may enter a temporary custody order.

If a temporary child custody order is entered, the court can include how long the order is effective. The parent who is deployed can, at any stage of the process, file an application to stay the proceeding or an extension of the stay. However, an application to stay must be written, signed and certified to be true. It is important for the deployed parent to inform the court when their deployment ends. This can be done before the end date of the deployment or not later than 30 days after the deployment has ended. Additionally, where a parent and the deploying parent share custody of their child, the deploying parent is mandated to inform the non-deploying parent of the upcoming deployment in a reasonable amount of time.

Family is important to many people and familial relationships become even more important and emotional when one party is being deployed. Child custody matters during such times can be emotionally charged and confusing. Consulting with a family law attorney familiar with the unique challenges that Servicemembers face in family court may be helpful.

Source: Michigan Legislature, "Child Custody Act of 1970 - child custody while parent on deployment," Accessed Aug. 31, 2015

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The Smith Law Offices, P.C.
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