What are MI's custody laws for active duty military personnel?

If you have recently obtained a divorce, have children and are in the Military, you may worry about your status as a parent when you deploy. Can the other parent file a change of custody while you are away and terminate your parental rights in the process? Do the courts favor the parent who remains stateside? Prior to 9/11, there were few laws in place to protect the parental rights of active duty military personnel. However, after 9/11, as the war tore apart more families, the federal government and many state governments took measures to change that.

According to the Michigan Guide for Military Family Law, prepared by the Michigan Department of Attorney General and Thomas M. Cooley Law School Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, Michigan is bound by the Servicemember Civil Relief Act. The SCRA states that if a parent files for a change of custody during the other parent's deployment, the deployed parent may file an application for stay, which the court must grant. The court may not, during time of deployment, issue a new order that changes the custodial arrangement that was in place on the date the military called the parent to deployment.

In addition to the SCRA, Michigan has its own state laws that protect active duty military men and women. Like the SCRA, the Michigan Child Custody Act prohibits the courts from honoring a motion for change of custody while one parent on deployment and from entering a new order or modifying or amending an existing order. The MCAA, however, does address the immediate needs of the child for a stable environment.

The courts may enter a temporary custody order if the parent who stays can show, via clear and considerable evidence, that doing so is in the child's best interests. However, per the MCAA, once the deployed parent returns from active duty, the courts must restore the custody order that existed prior to the period of active military duty. The goal of both the MCAA and SCRA is to prevent military parents from being disadvantaged as a result of their service to the United States.

The information in this post is not intended to serve as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. 

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