Child Custody and Active Duty Military

Last month Governor Tom Corbett signed a new law which will go into effect in June.  This law imposes many military-friendly changes, including a provision which will prohibit custody arrangements from being altered while an active-duty military service member is deployed overseas. A judge may only enter a temporary change in custody if the judge finds it is in the child’s best interests.  This new law amends both the Domestic Relations Code and the Military Code, found in Title 23 and Title 51, respectively.

The new law also allows service members who are deployed overseas to petition the court for a temporary order to assign custody rights to his/her family members.  This would essentially allow family members to step into the shoes of the service member and assume his/her custody rights.  The family member must be joined in the petition, and the proposed custody cannot exceed the rights granted to the service member. Upon return from deployment, the original custody agreement will be reinstated.

The law also makes clear that when a court is making custody determinations, it cannot, in and of itself, use a service member’s absence from a child’s life or an absence from court hearings due to deployment to make changes in the custody arrangement.

The law also contains provisions which allow a service member to petition for an expedited hearing and allowances for testimony via telephone, videoconference, or other electronic means if the individual is unable to appear in court due to deployment.

You can access the text of the new law here: New Legislation.