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How military deployment affects child custody

There are many people from New York who are in the military. Being in the military is a big commitment, which often times leads to one being stationed in places away from the United States, or in the U.S., but not in the city where the military member lives. This can take soldiers, sailors and airmen away from their lives, including family and friends. Many of these people also have children and are not able to be with them while they are deployed.

If the deployed service member has a child custody order regarding a child, then being away can have an effect on that order. If the service member has joint or sole custody of the child, being deployed may make it difficult to abide by the order. So, the order can be modified while the service member is deployed. However, the court can make provisions to ensure that the service member is able to have contact with the child through phone, video chat, emails and other forms of electronic communication.

When the service member returns from deployment though, he or she can motion to modify the order that was changed while he or she was deployed. Return from deployment is considered a significant change in the circumstances, and the order can be modified based on what is in the best interest of the child. This is determined based on analyzing a number of factors pertaining the well-being of the child and the parents' ability to care for him or her.

Military service is very honorable, and many people in New York choose to serve. Unfortunately, this decision can take them away from their children while they are deployed. This can affect their ability to abide by a custody order, which may be modified based on the deployment and then modified again upon return from deployment, based on what is in the child's best interests. These are very fact specific cases though, and the results depend on the specific situation in each case.

Source:, "New York Domestic Relations Law § 240. Custody and child support; orders for protection" accessed on Oct. 17, 2016

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