As a single military parent, the thought of deployment can weigh heavier on you than it might on service members who do not have children or who have partners who can help raise their children when on active duty. In addition to having to worry about who will care for your child when you are overseas, you also have to worry about losing custodial rights…or do you? Washington statute RCW 26.09.260 explains what is to become of a parent’s custody and visitation rights when he or she receives temporary duty, activation, deployment or mobilization orders that require him or her to move a substantial distance away from his or her residence.

If your child resides with you a majority of the time and you receive deployment or mobilization orders, the child’s other parent or another identified guardian may receive temporary custody in your absence. However, the temporary custody order shall end no later than 10 days after you return home and provide the temporary custodian notice of your return.

However, if the temporary custodian believes it is necessary, he or she may file a motion with the courts to reconsider the placement of the child only if he or she believes you pose an imminent threat to your child’s safety. If the other parent or guardian files a motion to transfer residential custody to him or her, the courts will not consider your temporary deployment, duty, activation or mobilization as a determining factor.

If you receive orders that significantly affect your ability to exercise visitation rights or residential time with your child, you may ask the courts to delegate your time, or a portion thereof, to a family member with whom your child has a close relationship. This family member may include but not be limited to a stepparent, a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. This delegation, however, does not mean the temporary custodian may pursue separate custodial or visitation rights upon your return.

This article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as legal advice.