If you’re in the military, there is a good chance you will be required to mobilize, deploy, or serve temporary duty at some distance from your kids. Luckily, Arizona law does not allow courts to consider this as a problem that would limit your right to parent your kids.
Instead, the law may allow you to delegate all or part of your parenting time to a family member, a stepparent, or someone else who has a close and substantial relationship to the kids – as long as the court determines this is in the children’s best interest.
Your absence due to deployment or mobilization, or the potential for future absences for this reason, is not sufficient for your ex to modify your parenting order permanently. However, when you receive notice that you will be deployed or mobilized in the near future, the court may order a temporary change to your parenting responsibilities or parenting time that would just cover the deployment period.
That could mean that your ex would have additional time with the kids while you are gone. However, you may be allowed to choose an appropriate person to take your parenting time while you are away.
Petitioning to delegate your parenting time
According to our statute, the court may allow you to delegate someone to take your parenting time while you are absent, as long as that delegation is in your children’s best interest.
How do you choose an appropriate person to take your parenting time? For one thing, the law requires the person to be:
- A member of the child’s family
- A stepparent
- Someone else with a close and substantial relationship with the child
For another, the person can’t be someone who would be subject to parenting time limitations, such as requiring supervision. In other words, you need to choose someone who is fit to parent your child.
You should be aware that this delegation, even though it is a court order, would not establish separate parenting time rights for the person you delegate. For example, if you were allowed to delegate your parents to take your parenting time while you are away, they would not have parenting rights anymore once you return.
How will we resolve disputes?
While you are away, disputes about parental decision-making or parenting time may arise. If they do, your delegate and your ex will be bound by the dispute resolution mechanism you chose in your parenting plan. However, this could be excused for good cause.
Transitioning back to normal
Whenever the family court makes a temporary order about parenting for a deploying/mobilizing military service member, it must include a specific transition schedule that will facilitate a return to how things were before you went away – assuming that this is in your children’s best interest.
That said, the court will not restrict your parenting time based on deployment unless it finds that spending time with you would seriously endanger a child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
If you have been notified of an upcoming mobilization or deployment, there are choices you need to make. While your deployment can’t be used against you in the long run, it’s important to get the right orders in place to facilitate parenting time with the person of your choice.
It starts with a petition to allow the delegation. Talk to your family law attorney about what you need to do.