Military Deployment and Family Law

Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act

The new Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act repeals C.R.S. §14-10-131.3 and adds a new article 13.7 to Title 14 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. House Bill 13-1200 became a law on July 1, 2013.

This new bill addresses issues that arise when a parent is deployed while serving in the military. In the past, most states have not adequately addressed this issue. This bill hopes to ensure that deployed parents are not penalized while serving their country and while protecting the best interest of the child and the rights of the non-deployed parent. It also recognizes that there may be step-parents and half-siblings who are involved in the child’s life and with whom the relationships should continue even though the parent is now deployed.

One of the key points of the new bill provides that the absence of a military parent from a state does not deprive the state court of jurisdiction over the custody or visitation proceeding if the state court already had jurisdiction regarding matters of custody. As part of this, the deploying must give notice of deployment to the other parent within 12 days of receiving notice of the deployment orders. There is a provision recognizing this may not always be possible. The bill also requires that a plan be prepared for the care of the children during a deployment. (C.R.S. §14-13.7-105). Section 201 sets forth the requirements of a parenting plan during deployment which may include the rights of a non-parent (step-parent) for visitation and decision making in the place of the deployed parent. The non-parent is given standing to enforce the terms the deployment parenting agreement. Section 202 specifically states that this order terminates when the deployed parent returns from the deployment. Section 204 allows the deploying parent to delegate custodial authority to an adult non-parent if the deploying parent has full custody of the child or the other parent is barred from contact with the child.

Part 3 of the bill provides for the means for a court hearing which may be expedited and which may take testimony by electronic means if the deploying parent is unavailable to determine interim orders while the parent is deployed. This section also acknowledges that a non-parent may be granted custody and visitation in place of the deployed parent.

Part 4 of the bill discusses how the interim orders are terminated upon the parent’s return from the deployment. In most cases, as long as the parents agree, the interim orders are terminated. If the parents cannot agree, then any interim orders expire 35 days after notice is given to the non-deployed parent that the deployed parent has returned from the deployment.

By Richard M. Arnold, Esq  Arnold & Arnold, LLP