Securing shared custody can be a difficult prospect for service members in the United States military. Their active duty status may preclude them from being able to offer the kind of in-person support that young children tend to demand.
Not being home when the kids need to go to school or get picked up after class can indicate that you can’t fulfill your parental obligations on a daily basis during your active service. It is also possible that you are either currently on deployment or facing imminent deployment to a location where you will not be able to provide daily care for your children or even visit with them.
In that circumstance, the courts may allocate full or primary custody to your ex in divorce proceedings. However, that determination is not permanent, which means you have the right to seek a modification of the custody terms if your life circumstances change. The end of your active duty or deployment is certainly a life change that potentially warrants a change to your parenting plan.
Modifications are an official change to custody and support orders
Many people find that it is possible to make informal custody arrangements with their ex when things change in their life. Your former spouse may have had full custody for long enough that they are eager to share some of that responsibility with you.
However, while they may be amenable to the change, it is important for your peace of mind and the relationship you have with your children to preserve those changes in formal court documents. If your ex agrees, you can file for an uncontested modification that outlines your new custody arrangements. If your ex doesn’t agree with the terms you propose, you will need to prepare yourself to head to court for a contested modification hearing.
The courts want to do what is best for the kids
It is common for parents to become so focused on their own wishes and rights that they don’t stop to think about the way they sound in court. The best way to propose changes to the existing custody arrangement is from the perspective of a concerned parent who wants what is best for the kids.
Your children absolutely benefit from having an ongoing relationship with you as well as with your ex. The courts will be more likely to respond favorably to a parent who asserts that shared custody is for the benefit of the children rather than just a way of asserting their own parental rights. Simply seeking a modification can be a sign that you are ready to step up as a parent, which the courts may view favorably.
However, the details of your marital relationship and your previous relationship with your children can impact the way that the courts rule. Building a body of documentation and evidence regarding your intentions to support your children is important to the success of your modification request. However, it’s important to understand that even if one request gets denied by the courts, you can always try to assert your rights again in the future with more assistance and documentation to help your case.