Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.
Military parents have a great deal on their minds, both before setting off for deployment and while overseas. If you count yourself among those people who serve in our armed forces I would like to first thank you for making that sacrifice for all us here in southeast Texas. We are indebted to you for your willingness to go above and beyond in protecting our country. The sacrifices that you make are especially difficult if you are a parent.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is geared towards helping you to know what is recommended for you to take care of prior to your being deployed. Obviously, it will be very difficult for you to focus on anything other than your mission once you are overseas, so it is much wiser to start focusing on these issues now rather than later. Financial, medical and emotional support for your children is essential to their being able to grow up and become positive contributors to our country.
Does your child have a legal father?
This is not the same question as asking whether or not your child has a father. If you are a mother who was not married to your child’s father at the time your child was born, he or she could be lacking a legally recognized father. When two parents are married, there is a legal presumption that when a child is born the mother’s husband is the father to the child. No further action needs to be taken by the couple to have this legally established. However, that presumption does not exist when parents are not married.
If you and the other parent were not married when your child was born you could have completed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) that is your statement under oath that this child is your biological offspring. If you and the child’s father fills out one of these forms and files them with the state, no further action will need to be taken. The father of your child will from that point forward be the legal father of your child. While an AOP may not have been completed, a court order may have been obtained previously that legally recognizes the father of your child.
Or, you could find yourself in a position where fatherhood was not acknowledged voluntarily and you have not yet been to court. Some people in your position find themselves not knowing at all what the situation actually is. Does your child have a legally established father or not? If this sounds like where you are, then you can choose to go one of the two routes I described above. You and your child’s father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity or you can file a paternity lawsuit and have paternity determined through a court case.
Are there orders in place from a court that deals with custody, visitation and child support?
This is another big issue that you need to attend to prior to going overseas. It is likely that you and your child’s other parent will share parental rights and responsibilities. A possession order will determine how much time you will be able to spend with your child and when. With your going overseas it is seven more important that you know what the visitation you will have with your child is going to be like once he returns from overseas. Most parents who have gone through family law cases are joint managing conservators. You can ask a court to have your ex-spouse or child’s other parent to be able to determine the primary residence of your child while you are outside of the country.
Rights and duties relevant to the possession of your child
While most parents in Texas share on a near equal basis in the rights and duties associated with raising their child, one right that is not held equally is the right to determine the primary residence of your children. Either you or your child’s other parent will hold this right individually. The parent who has this right is known as the custodial parent. The other parent is known as the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent has their time spelled out in the court orders under a possession order.
An important question to ask yourself is who will be able to have custody of your child while you are deployed overseas. As mentioned a moment ago, you can ask the court to be able to allow the other parent to be able to determine where your child lives while you are away overseas. Likewise, if you are the noncustodial parent to a child then you can ask the court to assign your visitation time with your child to another adult.
What is the parenting plan going to look like while you are deployed?
A court order goes into a great amount of detail regarding a number of different subjects related to you and your child, but it typically will not discuss with much detail what will happen with your child should certain contingencies occur in your lives. There just simply is not enough room to work every hypothetical situation into this document.
What you and your child’s other parent can do is create an agreement/roadmap that will go into the level of detail that you would like. That way there will be no question as to what will happen when you are deployed and are not able to fulfill your duties as a parent when you are shipped overseas.
What about child support? Will your child still be able to receive support even after you are not ln the country. A child support order includes two requirements. The first is that financial support be provided to your child and the second is that medical support will also be provided. If you are the noncustodial parent, then you need to be aware that your net monthly resources will be what is needed in order to determine how much child support you will pay.
It happens on occasion that sometimes parents who are deployed overseas seas is that their income can change- either positively or negatively. If this occurs, you can request a modification of the current court orders to show exactly what degree of an income increase or decrease has occurred. This could be true even if you are the parent of a child who will not be deployed but who raises a child with a person who will be. You can also ask to have a modification of the amount of child support that you receive done.
You may want to see if you can arrange it so a relative of yours has access to your bank accounts while you are overseas. This can come in handy if your child needs someone to help him or she pays for something while you are deployed.
How to get child support set up before you go overseas for deployment
If you and your child’s other parent have never been able to agree upon how much child support should be paid, then it is a good idea to attempt to get this number established by a court prior to your being deployed.
Many parents find themselves in a position where he or she will agree with the other parent on an amount to pay in child support, only to see that other parents increase the amount for seemingly no reason at all. Thus, if you want to avoid the chances of your child’s other parent asking for an increase in child support while you are deployed, it is wise to attempt to get a court order before you even leave the country. Since custody, visitation and other aspects of parenting are also taken care of in a child support case, there are even more reasons to attempt to establish a fixed amount of child support prior to deployment.
Can you designate another person to receive information about the amount of child support that you pay or receive when you are out of the country on deployment?
You are able to designate another person to receive information about your child support case by filling out a form and sending it into your local child support office. You can go to the Office of the Attorney General’s website for more information on this. Likewise, you can also revoke this form when you return from deployment.
What happens if you are already deployed and your child is born?
As far as logistics is concerned, it would be a lot easier for you if your child is born before you are deployed to another country. However, sometimes you cannot control when these things happen. In the event that you are overseas when your child is born and you are not married to the child’s mother, you can still establish paternity via an Acknowledgment of Paternity being completed.
You may not be sure if you are the child’s father. If that is the case you should not sign any paperwork until you can have genetic testing administered. Free DNA testing is offered through the Office of the Attorney General.
If you are beyond the point of establishing paternity, you should do whatever you can to maintain a relationship with your child when you are overseas. Technology has made this task much easier given that phone calls, email, Skype, social media and text messaging are all prevalent. It is true that you will not have as much of an opportunity to take advantage of these methods of communication but you should seek them out when you have the available time. You can have a profound impact on your child even when you are thousands of miles away.
You can also check in with your child’s other parent so you can maintain a sense of decision-making capabilities when it comes to the daily life of your child. School activities, extracurricular events, doctor’s visits, and many other occurrences will go on in your absence. You can feel less homesick and distant from your child by keeping up to date with what is going on in their life as best you can.
What should you do when you get back home from deployment?
You should get in touch with the Office of the Attorney General’ child support division in order to re-establish who is to receive child support on behalf of your child and who can access information about your child now that you are back home.
Noncustodial parents should ask the OAG to review your case if your income has increased or decreased as a result of being deployed. The child support that you pay no longer be correct based on those changed circumstances.
Finally, you should spend as much time with your child as possible. While he or she is likely very happy to have you back home, it may take some time for him or her to adjust to your being home instead of overseas. You can learn about your child’s life and how it has changed. This will help you to make decisions with your child’s other parent about your child’s well-being.
Questions about family law issues in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Do you have any questions about the content in today’s blog post? If so, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your particular circumstances.
Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in being able to help the people that live in our community. We practice in all of the family courts of southeast Texas and work every day to help our clients achieve their goals. If you are facing challenging circumstances related to your family, you need to look no further than the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to assist you in whatever capacity you need.