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Child Custody and the Military Parent

Child custody disputes are difficult for many families, but they are especially complicated when military deployment is involved. However, recent developments in Illinois law will help protect the custodial rights of military parents.

The legislature amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act by redefining what can be considered when evaluating custody and the best interest of a child. The law lists several factors to be considered, such as:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • The relationship of the child with each parent and/or other siblings
  • The child’s adjustment to his home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved
  • The potential for violence
  • Whether there is a history of abuse
  • The willingness of each parent to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Whether either parent is a sex offender
  • The existence of a military family-care plan — a plan that a military parent completes prior to deployment

Many safeguards exist to protect the military parent’s custodial rights while deployed, and also upon their return. When a parent’s absence, relocation or failure to comply with a custody-related court order is due to military deployment, this by itself may not be sufficient to justify a modification of a prior custody order. Under the best-interest-of-the-child amendment, the military parent has the right to revert to the custody order in place before the deployment, within a set time upon his or her return from deployment, unless the non-deployed parent shows proof that this would not be in the best interests of the child. The burden of proof is, however, on the non-deployed parent.

And also under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, courts cannot permanently alter existing custody orders while a custodial parent is unavailable due to military duty. The deployed military parent can petition the court to delegate visitation to a third party in his or her absence.

Military custody issues can be a complicated matter, and an experienced family lawyer can help protect your rights.

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Paul Chatzky
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About Born in Havana, Cuba, Paul Chatzky is fluent in Spanish and English, enabling him to effectively represent a wider range of individuals and businesses. He is AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, and is listed among Illinois Super Lawyers, which is a reflection of his high ethical standards and exceptional legal knowledge. As…

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Deborah E. Chatzky
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About Prior to joining the firm as a paralegal, Debbie was employed by major banking institutions as a loan processor and as an executive secretary. Debbie was also employed as an administrative assistant for the Board of Jewish Education. Having majored in Sociology, Debbie graduated from the University of Florida in 1980. Debbie completed her…

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