Florida is a military state and Jacksonville is certainly a military community. As a result, family law practitioners are seeing a great many changes in the law with regard to servicemembers who have children. One such change is the ability of the servicemember to delegate timesharing to others while the servicemember is gone due to the needs of the military.
Effective July 1, 2018, the Florida Legislature created part IV, of Florida Statutes, Chapter 61, which is entitled the, “Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act.” It can be found in Florida Statutes Section 61.703-61.773. This new legislation replaced the prior statute to provide additional guidance and information to the servicemember and attorneys alike.
Specifically, the new legislation is much broader and more comprehensive with regard to timesharing of minor children. To clarify, a servicemember’s timesharing can be delegated to family members and other qualified persons when a servicemember is absent due to the needs of the military. The statute defines an eligible family member as: “a sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, stepparent, or grandparent of a child or an individual recognized by the deploying parent and the other parent to be in a familial relationship with a child.”
The legislature recognizes the need for children to maintain continuity when a servicemember parent is absent. This means that children who have a relationship with a stepparent, grandparent or other person in a familial relationship may still have timesharing with or even reside with a stepparent.
There is an important procedure which must be followed so it is important to retain counsel to work through the process; however, if you are a servicemember or the spouse of a servicemember who is deploying, it is important to consider the benefits of this statute.