When it comes to child custody, military families often face problems that other families don’t.
This is especially true when one parent has to move because of their service. In this article, we’ll look at the laws about child custody and moving with the military, as well as what parents need to know.
Understanding Child Custody and Its Types
The family law system is based on the idea that children have a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents and that the child’s best interest should be of utmost importance. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) establishes Australia’s legal framework for child custody.
Under the Act, the two types of custody arrangements are parental responsibility and physical custody.
Parental responsibility is the right to make important decisions about a child’s upbringing, like where they go to school, what religion they follow, and what kind of medical care they get.
Physical custody refers to where a child resides and with whom he or she spends time.
Most of the time, parents are encouraged to work out a custody plan between themselves or with the help of a mediator.
If this is not possible, the case can be brought before a judge.
Military Relocation and Child Custody | Child Custody Military Relocation
When a parent in the military has to move, it can be hard for them to stay in regular contact with their child, especially if the move is across state lines or to another country.
In these situations, the child’s best interests must be considered when determining custody arrangements.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) recognises that parents who are in the armed forces may have to deal with certain issues when it comes to child custody, and it has special rules to deal with these issues.
For instance, if a parent is required to relocate due to military service, they may be able to petition the court for permission to take their child with them.
However, the court will always consider the child’s best interests when rendering a verdict.
This could include the child’s age, his or her relationship with each parent, how the move will affect the child’s education and social life, and how easy it will be to stay in touch with both parents.
In some instances, it may be necessary to modify the custody arrangement to account for child custody military relocation.
For instance, the court may order that the child spend longer periods with the non-relocating parent during school holidays or that the relocating parent pays for the child’s travel expenses to visit the other parent.
It is important to note that military parents do not have an automatic right to custody, and each case will be decided on its own merits.
If you are a member of the armed forces and are dealing with child custody issues, you should consult with an experienced family attorney who can guide you through the process.
Considerations for Joint Custody in the Australian Air Force
Joint custody within the Australian Air Force needs careful planning and consideration. Co-parenting arrangements are made more complicated by the unique requirements and obligations of military service.
Here are the important factors that joint custody Air Force parents should consider when establishing and sustaining successful arrangements.
1. Frequent Relocation: The nature of military service often involves frequent postings or deployments, which can present challenges to joint custody arrangements. Parents in the Air Force must plan and communicate effectively to ensure the child’s needs are met despite geographical distances.
2. Communication and Co-Parenting: Open and effective communication between co-parents is essential for successful joint custody. This becomes particularly important when one parent is on active duty or deployed. Technology, such as video calls or messaging apps, can help maintain consistent contact between the child and the absent parent.
3. Flexibility and Adaptability: The unpredictable nature of military service requires flexibility and adaptability from both parents. Schedules and visitation arrangements may need to be adjusted to accommodate changes in deployment or training schedules. A cooperative and understanding approach is important to ensure the child’s stability and well-being.
4. Support Networks: The Air Force community can provide valuable support to parents navigating joint custody. Connecting with other military parents or seeking guidance from family support services can offer practical advice and emotional support during challenging times.
5. Legal Assistance: Consulting with a child custody lawyer experienced in military-related custody matters can be beneficial. They can guide navigating the unique legal considerations associated with joint custody in the Air Force and help ensure the child’s best interests are protected.
Case study – Military relocation and child custody
Our firm acted in a matter where we represented a naval officer who was stationed in a different city as a result of their deployment.
There were court orders in place that already stipulated the parenting arrangements, and our client wanted to change the arrangement.
He had failed in negotiating directly with the mother of the child, so engaged our firm to negotiate on his behalf. After presenting a strong argument and attending mediation, we were able to successfully obtain a change in the parenting arrangement.
The client was very happy as we did not have to attend court in order to achieve this.
When Is a Modification of Child Custody Necessary?
In a child custody military relocation, the military parent may seek a modification to their current child custody arrangement.
The grounds for modification depend on the specifics of each case, but may include the following:
- A substantial change in circumstances: The parent seeking modification must demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original custody order was made. This change may be due to the parent’s military deployment or transfer.
- Impact on the child’s best interests: The court will consider the impact of the proposed relocation on the child’s best interests. Factors that may be considered include the age of the child, the relationship between the child and each parent, and the child’s education and social connections.
- The practicality of maintaining contact: The court will also consider the practicalities of maintaining contact between the child and the non-relocating parent. This may include factors such as the distance between the parties, the availability of technology for communication, and the cost and feasibility of travel.
- Reasonable notice: The relocating parent must provide reasonable notice of the proposed relocation to the non-relocating parent. This notice should include information about the proposed move, the reasons for the move, and any proposed changes to the existing custody arrangements.
- Proposed alternative arrangements: The relocating parent must propose alternative custody arrangements that are in the child’s best interests. This may include modifying the existing custody arrangement to allow for longer periods with the non-relocating parent during school holidays or providing financial support for travel expenses.
Child custody military relocation can be stressful, but with the right legal advice, parents can work towards a solution that prioritises their child’s best interests.
If you’re a member of the military and are facing child custody issues, it’s necessary to understand your rights and obligations.
By working with an experienced lawyer, you can ensure that your child’s needs are taken into account and that you achieve the best possible outcome for your family.
Director of Melbourne Family Lawyers, Hayder manages the practice and oversees the running of all of the files in the practice. Hayder has an astute eye for case strategy and running particularly complex matters in the family law system.