Sailor loses fight to have parents fulfill temporary time-sharing

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Florida is home to many military installations for all five branches of service. In recognition of this fact, the legislature passed a law permitting military members who were placed on temporary assignment to designate a person to fulfill their time-sharing responsibility with their children. One member of the Navy recently argued that his three-year assignment to Guam was "temporary" and wanted to allow his parents to fulfill his paternal role while he was overseas. However, an appellate court disagreed.

The statute allows a parent who is "temporarily assigned to military service" for more than 90 days and the assignment "materially affects" the parent's ability to comply with shared custody requirements, to designate one or more people to fulfill the time-sharing requirements on the parent's behalf. When the Navy assigned the sailor to a three-year term in Guam, the sailor used the statute to designate his parents to take his place under the court-ordered time-sharing plan. The mother of the child objected to the arrangement, and a lawsuit followed.

The trial court ruled in favor of the father, but the appellate court rejected the sailor's argument. The dispute turned on the meaning of "temporarily assigned." The sailor argued that he would be returning from Guam at the end of three years, and, thus, his assignment was temporary. The court ruled that if the father's interpretation were correct, he could designate his family members to exercise his time sharing rights for his daughter's entire childhood. The court held that this interpretation contradicted the plain meaning of the statute, and it reversed the decision of the trial court.

Military parents have many unique custodial and support arrangements. Solving child custody issues in a divorce where one parent is in the military may require the expertise of an experienced family law attorney. Anyone in a divorce that involves a military parent may wish to consult an attorney for advice on various custody alternatives.

Source: Panama City News Herald, "Court rules against Navy father on time-sharing," April 26, 2018

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