If you are currently an active duty military servicemember with orders to deploy, you may be wondering what happens to your parenting time with your kids while you are deployed. In other words, will you be forced to forfeit your parenting time with the minor children by virtue of your deployment? Will the children automatically need to stay with the non-deploying parent the entire time you are gone or can someone else exercise your parenting time in your place? Worry not, because these questions have been answered by the Illinois legislature.
For many servicemembers, the thought of “substitute” parenting time never crosses their mind. A common assumption is that if they are deploying, their children will naturally need to stay with the other non-deploying parent full-time until they return. However, for some families, this is not always the most functional scenario. For example, for children with parents who live in two different states, and with parents who do not get along, seeing both sides of the family can get very complicated when the non-deploying parent is unwilling to schedule time for the children to see the deployed parent’s family. Another example of where this may become complicated, is where the non-deploying parent does not have the capability of having parenting time with the children full-time due to other obligations such as work.
However, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides protections for military members scheduled to deploy or who are already deployed. Specifically, section 602.7 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides an alternative option for parenting time with the minor children while a service member is deployed. Section 602.7(d) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act specifically states:
“Upon motion, the court may allow a parent who is deployed or who has orders to be deployed as a member of the United States Armed Forces to designate a person known to the child to exercise reasonable substitute visitation on behalf of the deployed parent, if the court determines that substitute visitation is in the best interests of the child.”
This law is extremely important for military members because it allows them to designate someone other than the non-deploying parent to exercise parenting time with the minor children while they are deployed. This law is particularly helpful for blended families, or in other words, families in which the biological parents of the minor children have remarried and have other spouses or family members that want to spend time with the children while the service member is deployed.
So how does this law work in practice? By way of example, if a military member has remarried since divorcing the mother of his children and lives in a different state, he may want to allow his current spouse to exercise his parenting time with the children while he is deployed. This is because if the children are left with the non-deploying parent in one state, the children may not have the opportunity to see the deployed parent’s family in another state for the entire duration of the deployment. This is problematic because some military members receive orders to deploy anywhere from 7 months to 1 year or more.
However, if the deployed parent’s current spouse has been a part of the children’s lives for many years and has built a loving relationship with the children then she likely has an interest in spending time with the children while her spouse is deployed. Additionally, the current spouse can arrange time for the children to spend with the deployed parent’s family without involving the children’s mother.
The first step in this process is for the military member to file a Petition for Substitute Parenting Time. In said Petition, the military member would be required to name a particular person who would be responsible for exercise the parenting time allotted to the military member under their Parenting Plan or Allocation Judgment on their behalf. The Petition should also include that the military member has received orders to deploy and the dates in which deployment will begin and end. It is also important for the Petition to include an explanation of the relationship between the children and person who will exercise substitute parenting time. In particular, it is helpful to point out things like how long the children have known said person and what their day to day relationship is like with one another. Finally, the Petition should include a statement that substitute parenting time is in the best interests of the minor children.
If you are a military member who is currently deployed or has received orders to deploy and would like to designate someone to exercise substitute parenting time in your place while you are gone, please contact our office for further assistance.