Military service can pose all sorts of unique challenges to families. This can prove especially true when child custody issues surface in the wake of a divorce.

Regardless of whether it’s the mom or the dad who might be absent due to a call to duty, concerns over the best interests of the child are bound to take precedence. That often leads to disputes that can only be resolved by a judge.  

This point is highlighted well by one case that involves an Ohio-based mother and a Washington state-based Navy father and their 6-year-old daughter. All the elements together seem to reflect something of a perfect storm involving father’s rights, mother’s rights, military service and child custody.

The conflict centers on who should have custody of the girl. The father currently has sole legal and physical custody. That was granted as part of the couple’s 2010 divorce. The child had been taken from the mother by Michigan Child Protective Services ahead of the divorce. The reason why is unclear, but a psychologist’s recommendation at the time was that she should not have anything but supervised visits with the child.

Since then, the father remarried and moved to Washington. But, according to his attorney, he has always complied with parenting time orders set out by the court. Last August, the mother petitioned to regain custody and things began to come to a head.

A hearing on the issue was scheduled for early last month, but the father couldn’t attend because he is at sea on a submarine somewhere, location classified.

That prompted the judge to order the immediate transfer of the child to her mother. She also threatened to issue a warrant for the father’s arrest if he didn’t comply. That order was later frozen after the father’s attorney invoked a delay allowed for under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. As things stand now, action in the case has been postponed until sometime in October.

The point to take away from all this is that rights do not get trumped by military service. But to be sure that those rights are properly protected, the help of an experienced attorney should be enlisted.

Source: Daily Telegram, “Judge defends actions in custody case,” Dennis Pelham, June 24, 2014