Quality, Responsive and Trustworthy Legal Services
We offer clients a strong work ethic combined with prompt and personalized client care.

Deployed Parents Act: Rights of Non-Parents (Part 2 of 2)

Part one of this article discusses the problems military parents faced before the Act, who qualifies for the protections of it, and what the benefits are. This article focuses on third parties (non-parents). Parents can make temporary agreements that allow non-parents to spend time with a child during deployment and ask the court to treat the agreement as a court order. Or, a judge will have a trial on the deploying parent’s request to appoint a non-parent to have temporary legal rights during deployment.

Custodial Responsibility

The Act uses Custodial Responsibility as a comprehensive term that includes any and all powers and duties relating to a child. The non-parent must be named a party to the lawsuit on a temporary basis during deployment. All types of Custodial Responsibility are available only to non-parents. The non-parent must be family member, including a sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, stepparent, grandparent, or a person “recognized to be in a familial relationship with a child.” If the non-parent isn’t a family member, he or she must be someone with a close and substantial relationship with the child, meaning there is a significant bond between them. Without any formal agreement or a court order awarding Custodial Responsibility, no other person has any rights to visit or communicate with a child while a parent is deployed.

Three Types of Custodial Responsibility

• Caretaking Authority

A court may grant Caretaking Authority to a non-parent only if it is in the child’s best interest to do so. A deploying parent who nominates someone to have Caretaking Authority is asking the court to let that person exercise the right to live with a child and care for that child on a day-to-day basis. It is roughly equal to physical custody and it includes the legal right to visitation, possession of a child for lack of a better word. It also includes the ability to make day-to-day decisions while the child is with that person, including the authority to designate another person to have limited contact with a child.

For example, an aunt given Caretaking Authority may legally consent for the child to spend Saturday afternoon with grandparents during her weekend of visitation. Unless the parents agree, Caretaking Authority can’t give the non-parent more time than the deploying parent has in any existing custody order, or more than “the amount of time that the deploying parent habitually cared for the child before being notified of deployment.”

• Decision-Making Authority

Someone granted Decision-Making Authority has a legal right to make important decisions about a child’s education, religious training, health care, extracurricular activities, and travel, but only if the deploying parent is unable to exercise that authority, and only if it is in the child’s best interest. Decision-Making Authority is roughly the same as legal custody. Contrast this with the right to make day-to-day decisions while a child is with a someone who has Caretaking Authority. An order granting Decision-Making Authority must list the specific decision-making powers that will and will not be granted.

• Limited Contact

The non-parent given Limited Contact privileges has the right to visit for a limited period of time unless the court finds that doing so isn’t in the child’s best interest. Limited Contact rights are given a lower standard to meet than the other two types of Caretaking Authority, which require a judge to find that granting authority to the non-parent is in the child’s best interest. Limited Contact includes authority to take the child from his or her home for a visit. A grant of Limited Contact can also be made to minors, such as siblings or step-siblings, giving them the right to see the child while mom or dad is deployed. In the official comments, the Act says that Limited Contact is a more limited than visitation, meant to give the deploying parent the ability to maintain the relationship with the child by allowing someone that the child has a close relationship with to spend time with that child while he or she is absent.

See: The Deployed Parents Act: Protecting Parents (Part 1 of 2)

See: The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, Chapter 50A, Article 3 of the NC General Statutes. 

Laws change. This article is current as of 2019. ©

Print Friendly, PDF & Email