Child custody and visitation issues for military parents in Texas

Child custody can be among the most complicated aspects of any divorce or breakup, and for military parents the issues involved can be even more complex. When members of the military divorce in Texas, one of the biggest questions they may have is how their child custody and visitation rights will be affected by deployment.

Child custody during deployment

When a custodial parent is deployed, Texas law provides that he or she may ask the court to designate another person to take temporary custody of the child. In order of preference, the court may award temporary child custody to:

  • The child's noncustodial parent
  • Another person chosen by the custodial parent
  • Another person chosen by the court

The court will assign temporary custody based on its assessment of the child's best interests, with preference given to the noncustodial parent. Thus, the deployed parent may only designate another person to receive temporary custody if the court determines that it would not be in the child's best interests for the other parent to take custody of the child.

Similarly, the court will only select another person to care for the child during the custodial parent's deployment if it determines that it would not be in the child's best interests to award custody to either the noncustodial parent or the person chosen by the custodial parent.

After the custodial parent returns from deployment, the temporary custody order will expire and each parent will resume the rights and responsibilities that he or she had prior to the deployment period.

Visitation during deployment

Under Texas law, a noncustodial military parent may designate another person to temporarily exercise visitation rights on his or her behalf during periods of deployment.

As with child custody determinations, the law requires that temporary visitation orders must serve the best interests of the child. Unlike child custody orders, however, the court typically does not give preference to the child's other parent for temporary visitation. Unless the court determines that it is not in the child's best interest, temporary visitation rights will typically be granted to the person chosen by the deployed parent. In many cases, this may mean that temporary visitation rights are granted to the child's grandparent, stepparent or other relative.

Military parents in Texas also have the option of asking the court to award makeup visitation time after he or she returns from deployment. If the court determines that doing so would be in the child's best interest, it may grant additional visitation time to the noncustodial parent's normal visitation schedule to make up for the time he or she spent on deployment.

Contact an attorney for advice

For a more detailed explanation of these and other issues relating to military divorce in Texas, contact an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer with extensive history representing members of the military in family law matters can advise parents about their rights and help them understand the law as it relates to their specific circumstances.