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New Jersey Law Protects Deployed Military in Child Custody Disputes

Another state appeals court has ruled custody, visitation and child support orders cannot be made while a parent is a deployed member of the U.S. armed forces.

The Indiana Court of Appeals became the latest to admonish a lower state court when it reversed a custody order last week, ruling the trial court improperly considered a father’s military service in determining custody, and violated state and federal prohibitions against making such rulings until a deployed parent can participate in court proceedings.

Our military divorce lawyers in New Jersey continue to represent the men and women of our military in divorce and child custody issues. Deployment is one of the many challenges unique to those serving in the military. Frequent base transfers can also impact custody and visitation rights. Like Indiana, New Jersey governs military divorce under state law and offers deployed service members added protections.

Service members should be proactive in seeking qualified legal advice to assert and protect their rights at the earliest possible stage in these cases.

Custody, Visitation, Child Support & Military Deployment

In re: The Marriage of: Caleb Hazelett v. Hailey Hazelett, 18A-DN-1592, a deployed service member whose wife gave birth after they had filed for divorce in March 2017, appealed a child support, visitation and custody ruling made in his absence. A superior court awarded sole legal and primary physical custody to the mother and ruled the father was to have supervised parenting time and had to pay about $900 per month in child support.

The appellate court found the trial court did not enter appropriate findings in reaching its determination and reversed the court’s custody decision, ruling the order of supervised parenting time was based solely on the father’s absences as an active-duty member of the military.

The appellate court ruled that considering military service as a factor violated state law and that the court failed to find unsupervised parenting time would endanger the child’s physical health or emotional development.

In 2013, New Jersey also passed a law that limits the court’s ability to order permanent custody or visitation rights until 90 days after the conclusion of a service member’s deployment. The service member is also allowed to choose someone to stand in during ordered parenting time.

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) also adds a number of financial protections that typically prohibit default judgments, evictions, or other financial awards until a deployed service member can mount a defense. 50 U.S.C. app. §§ 501 et seq., offers a number of legal protections to deployed service members, including the right to stay proceeding, and a stay or elimination of judgments, attachments or garnishments that occur while a service member is deployed.

Residency requirements also often complicate jurisdiction in military divorce cases. Under New Jersey law, divorce may be filed in the state in which a service member is currently stationed, the state in which a spouse is currently residing, or state in which a service member claims as permanent residence.

Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today for a free and confidential consultation.

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