No. Although military service often includes periods where you can’t keep to your usual parenting schedule, Arizona courts can’t hold this against you when determining how much parenting time you will usually get. Instead, the courts will generally allow a temporary modification to your parenting schedule while you are deployed, mobilized or activated to an area that is a substantial distance from your children or if your duty will otherwise interfere with your parenting.
According to Arizona law, once you have received notice that you will be temporarily moved, deployed, activated or mobilized, you can petition (or your ex can petition) for a temporary change to your parenting schedule during that deployment or mobilization.
Once this petition is received by the court, a hearing will be scheduled as expeditiously as possible. After the hearing, the court will grant the temporary modification as long as your mobilization or deployment would have a “material effect” on your ability to exercise your parental rights and responsibilities.
Does my ex get the kids 100% of the time while I’m deployed?
Not necessarily. The law does not require the temporary modification to your parenting order to give all of your parenting time to your ex while you are mobilized or deployed. Under certain circumstances, you may be allowed to delegate some or all of your parenting time to your child’s relative, such as a stepparent or grandparent, or to someone else who has a long-term, substantial relationship with the child. The court will allow this if it determines that the delegation is in your child’s best interest.
The court will not allow you to delegate your parenting time to someone who would face restrictions, such as being required to be supervised.
Other options may exist, as well. For example, if your mobilization or activation is for only a short period, such as an annual two-week period for members of the National Guard, you might be allowed to have make-up time when you return.
What if I’m deploying right after my divorce?
If your child resides with you at least half the time, the court will refrain from entering a final parenting order modification until 90 days after your deployment ends, unless you agree to the modification being issued sooner.
What happens when I get back?
The temporary parenting order the court issues for the deployment/mobilization period will have a transition plan for your return. This plan will prioritize your child’s best interests and should take no more than 10 days to complete.
An important consideration
One thing to remember about situations like this is that you and your ex can generally negotiate whatever you think would be fair. Your attorney will propose the temporary parenting order to the court, and it can contain whatever provisions you and your ex agree are appropriate, as long as they comply with Arizona law. Making an effort to be reasonable about coparenting can really pay off in terms of expense and trouble.
If you have been notified of a pending deployment, activation, temporary change of duties or mobilization that will affect your parenting time, the first step is to talk to an attorney who understands military family law.