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Short-term custody options for deployed single parents

Military parents know that their country could call them to serve across seas. Despite distance, the nature of this job does not necessarily conflict with raising children. However, separated parents might not have a spouse at home who would continue to care for their children until their return.

Because active servicemembers might require long travel periods for work, state law now offers temporary child custody and support agreements. Parents may appoint a trustworthy adult to care for their children in the meantime. This person may commonly be a grandparent, relative or the other parent depending on the situation.

This year, Florida adopted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which sets forth specific guidelines for these agreements. These rules aim to be fair to both the parent and the person who will care for the children during deployment.

The parent must inform the other party within one week from the day they learn of their pending deployment. A good agreement should address the duration of deployment, the temporary caregiver's degree of control over parental decisions, how to resolve possible conflicts and communication between the deployed parent and their child.

Short-term child support may also play a part in the agreement. However, parents might also seek to adjust any existing child support payments through a separate process to plan for deployment.

If circumstances change, parents may seek to modify or terminate the contract before their deployment ends. Certain safeguards are in place to protect children from an overreach of the temporary caregiver's authority as well as parents' rights.

Temporary deployment agreements are, of course, much more complex than asking a neighbor to feed the cat while on vacation. When the military is involved, special rules can affect the parent's legal responsibilities. As such, parents should speak to their family law attorney before finalizing their arrangement.

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