Those who serve our country in uniform make incredible sacrifices. They spend long periods of time away from their loved ones and families and should not be punished for their contributions to protecting our rights. Fortunately, South Carolina has adopted a law known as the Military Parent Equal Protection Act that helps protect the rights of military parents. This act addresses military child custody and visitation problems that arise when one parent is deployed.
What types of service members are covered under the Military Parent Equal Protection Act?
Those who are in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines Coast Guard and Reserves are all eligible for this law's protection. The statute provides a specific definition of what constitutes military service. It includes being called to serve for more than 30 consecutive days as a member of the National Guard.
What protections does the law provide military spouses?
The purpose behind the law is to make sure that parents or spouses who serve in the military are not treated unfairly in the family court. The statute says that military service alone can’t be the determining factor in a custody or visitation proceeding. Courts will make temporary arrangements that only last until the spouse in the service returns from their deployment. In a case where a parent has permanent custody of a child before their deployment, a change in custody arrangement can be damaging to the family and the child. This act prevents a deployed parent from losing permanent custody, and their custody resumes once they return from service.
If a custody order already exists when a parent is deployed, the family court can’t modify the order until 90 days after the deployed parent returns. The statute also includes the opportunity to use technology to complete visitation time such as Skype, FaceTime and other video chat platforms.
Will a deployment affect my child support obligations?
Under the Military Parent Equal Protection Act, a family court judge can issue a temporary modification to increase or decrease the level of support owed to a child while a parent is deployed. These modifications can be helpful to offset unexpected expenses that arise when a spouse is deployed.
Military service can lead to an increased level of income, particularly if you receive combat pay. This payment may mean you are making more money than you previously did in civilian life. Under the Military Parent Equal Protection Act, this income is not included in permanent income calculations. A short term temporary pay increase thus will likely not impact your long term child support obligation. But there may be a temporary change in what you have a responsibility to pay.
How can an Aiken, SC family attorney help?
If you have received deployment orders or know that your military service will take you overseas and are worried about visitation or custody schedules with your children, our experienced lawyers can help. We will help ensure that your rights are protected, while you are abroad protecting ours.
Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.