Parenting children in military families is difficult under even the best
of circumstances. Parenting children through military divorce is even
more challenging. Even if overseas combat missions are supposedly winding
down, all serving in the military can expect to be transferred every two
years, at best, and deployed to serve in short (or long term) combat/"advisory"
missions at worst.
Military spouses with children must consider the timing of their marriage
dissolution proceedings. If the civilian spouse of the military member
does not intend to stay in Colorado after the dissolution is final, then
it makes little sense to begin the dissolution proceedings in a Colorado
court—with a judge who would be reluctant to permit the civilian
spouse to remove the children from Colorado on either a temporary, or
Even if the civilian spouse remains in Colorado after the dissolution is
final, the service member will almost certainly be moved to a new duty
station within a year or two of the dissolution. Unless the civilian parent
wants to move with the service member, the court will have to review the
relocation request by the service member. Almost certainly, the children
will be separated from one of their parents.
In light of frequent deployment of service members, courts in Colorado
have had to adjust to the realities of military life, military marriage
and military divorce when it comes to considering the best interests of
the children. In one case the court was presented with an Air Force reservist
who had equal parenting time under the court's order, but he was being
deployed overseas. He wanted his new wife, the children's stepmother,
to spend his parenting time with his children while he was deployed. Even
though his parenting orders permitted the children's mother to have
the right of "first refusal" to the children's time if he
did not exercise his parenting time, the court looked at the big picture.
The court assumed that a fit parent will act in the best interests of
his or her children and, as such, could delegate his or her parenting
time to another person—even where the custodial parent had a "right
of first refusal" to the children's time. In this case, the children
were allowed to spend their time set aside for their father with their
step-mother while he was deployed. It remains unclear how a court would
rule in a similar situation if the deploying parent delegates parenting
in his absence to a friend or neighbor rather than to a spouse or family
member. Also unclear are how disputes over the house rules of the "local"
parent are to be enforced when in conflict with the parent with whom the
child usually resides.
During the height of the Iraq war, the Colorado legislature wrote some
parenting protections for Colorado National Guard or Reservists who are
called up for a federal deployment. In a law enacted in 2008, it is now
clear that the parenting rights of deployed Colorado parents in the Guard
or Reserve will not be lost or impaired if they consent to the other parent
raising the children during their active duty service and deployment.
The laws governing the parenting of children of military divorces are complex
and far-reaching—in both federal and state law, as well as under
military regulations. Before guessing how your proposed, informal, solution
may affect your custody or parenting orders for your children, consider
consulting with experienced Colorado family law attorneys such as those
at Clawson & Clawson LLP. Deployment is stressful enough. At least
make sure that your parenting rights regarding your children and their
parenting issues will be preserve and protected during your deployment.