Military Relocation and Child Custody

Relocation involving military service persons is unavoidable and sometimes unpredictable. When it comes to child custody, if one of the parents is serving in the military, then it becomes an issue when there is a need to relocate, and especially if the court has granted shared, physical, or legal custody to that parent. 

In shared custody, the child spends almost equal time with both parents and both parents have a say in major decision making regarding the child. In a situation where one parent is serving the military and wants to relocate, it brings about issues that must be addressed to enhance the best interests of the child. 

Florida law for instance requires that any parent who wishes to relocate when serving a child custody order must seek permission from the other parent. Of course, the other parent may refuse to allow a military person to move with the child since the military comes with a lot of conditions and sometimes unpredictable deployments. 

When one parent refuses to allow the other parent to move with the child, he or she may seek the intervention of the court, and for a parent who is relocating more than 50 miles away from their current place of residence, it is a must to seek the court’s permission, otherwise, the court may order that parent to take the child back, or even lose custody to the other parent. 

Military Relocation and Child Custody

When deciding upon a case regarding military deployment, the court would consider the best interests of the child. Therefore, it is not an automatic thing that the child will remain with the other parent. 

On the other hand, Pennsylvania does not give the exact miles or whether the relocation is within the state or outside the state. The laws of the state define relocation as a change of place of residence of the child, and that change will significantly affect the ability of the non-relocating parent or party to exercise their custodial rights. 

That means for any party that wishes to relocate in Pennsylvania state, the non-relocating party must give consent just like in most other states. If the non-relocating party refuses to consent to the parent who wants to relocate with the child, then the court has to decide. 

Does Moving Affect Child Custody?

When a parent relocates due to job demands such as military deployment, training, or any other work related to the field, the other parent might be considered to take responsibility for caregiving while the other parent is away. This only happens on some occasions but if it is in the best interests of the child to travel with the other parent, then the court would grant such a right. 

In California for instance, relocation due to deployment may lead to changes in child custody terms until when the time for deployment ends. This serves the military parents who share custody with other parents. That means the court will permit changes in the existing custody agreement for the duration of the deployment. In this case, the court will consider the distance from the child’s home, and the best interests of the child. 

While California protects the parental rights of the parents who are deployed or mobilized as in the case with military parents under Family Code Section 3047, they also consider the best interests of the child to ensure that both parents continue to enjoy their contact with the child by any means possible. 

International Relocation 

As we mentioned, military persons may be deployed as per the orders of the military and when such orders of deployment come, the servicemember must obey the orders regardless of whether it is within the state, outside the state, or even outside the country. 

Oklahoma among other states requires parents who have been deployed to comply with relocation notice requirements. This includes serving the notice to the other parent 60 days before the proposed date of relocation, or 10 days if the parent did not receive the notice of deployment earlier enough. The parent must also state the reasons for the move, and for a service member, it is an order that must be fulfilled. In addition to that, the parent must provide the new address, and proposed custody or visitation schedule. 

While Oklahoma law requires parents to present notice of relocation, it sometimes becomes hard for a servicemember who is on urgent deployment and where notice of deployment has been served later than required by the laws governing child custody. The servicemembers are also protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) but that does not supersede the best interests of the child. 

Child Custody Modifications Due to Military Deployment 

Modifications of an existing custody order are dependent on the state where the parents live with the child. This is because different states have different laws regarding relocation and child custody. 

Florida law for example does not allow the courts to permanently modify an existing custody order in cases of deployment, activation, or temporary military assignment. In this situation, the court only allows for temporary adjustments that suit the best interests of the child, and when the relocating parent resumes from service, then the previous order is reinstated. This is similar to other states such as Kentucky, and Wisconsin. 

Therefore, if the child custody order is modified for the sake of a parent who has been deployed to serve military duty, such an order is considered temporary and when that parent returns from service, the original order will be reinstated. 


What the court will consider in all aspects is the best interests of the child or children. While it is in the best interests of the child to have continuous contact with both of the parents, where one parent serves the military, deployment may affect the visitation and other child custody rights for the time when that service member is on deployment. 

That does not mean that the court will not grant the parent to move with the child. It will depend on many factors and whether it is in the best interests of the child for that servicemember to move with the child or not.