Military service members who are stationed in Florida, and throughout the country, are commonly called away from their homes on deployments, which can last anywhere from a matter of days to more than a year, in the service of the United States. If during the course of a deployment a military family law, or other civil legal issue, should arise, military personnel are often unable to appear in court to represent their interests.

Through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, military service members are able to obtain a 90-day stay for court proceedings in civil matters, but the act does not guarantee that the stay will be granted. Despite his reportedly having immediately notified the court that he was deployed, providing a letter from his command and complying with all of the other requirements under the act, a judge allowed a child custody case to go forward without the presence of the 6-year-old child’s custodial parent, her father. The man is serving in the U.S. Navy and was deployed on a nuclear-powered submarine when his ex-wife, who had previously lost custody due to abuse charges, filed a request seeking custody of the young girl.

According to reports, a decision regarding the girl’s custody was briefly postponed, but it was not indicated whether or not the submariner-father would be back in time for the new hearing. Outrage has purportedly grown and spread threw social media campaigns and at least one lawmaker has started working on new legislation to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

Whether at home, or abroad, it may be of benefit for anyone who is involved in a custody dispute to obtain legal representation. A lawyer can help you understand your options and will help ensure that your rights are upheld.

Source: Navy Times, “Sailor’s duty to country puts him at risk of losing daughter in custody battle,” Robert Allen, June 22, 2014