As of March 11, 2022, Wisconsin parents who receive notice of deployment have new options available regarding custodial responsibilities for their children during deployment.
The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) creates Wis. Stat. chapter 324, specifically addressing custody and visitation issues for deployed parents. The Act expands the ability of both parents to delegate the custodial responsibilities for a child when a parent is deployed. Following is an overview of the most notable aspects of the Act.
The most significant changes promulgated by the Act are provisions allowing for delegation of custodial responsibilities during deployment.
Wis. Stat. section 324.21 enables the parents of a child to enter a written, signed agreement granting custodial responsibility to a nonparent in place of the deployed parent for the duration of deployment.
The person accepting temporary custody must also agree to the arrangement in writing. This subsection also lays out the specific requirements that must be followed in drafting and executing the agreement, including addressing the frequency and means of contact between the child and deploying parent.
If parents are unable to make an agreement on their own, Wis. Stat. section 324.31 provides an alternative method. From the time notice of deployment is received, either parent may file a motion with the court asking for a temporary order granting the deploying parent’s custodial responsibilities to another while that parent is away.
If there is an existing action under Wis. Stat. section 767, the motion is to be filed in that action. If there is no existing action, then a new one may be created. In the order, the court is to specify allocation of custody, placement, and visitation among the three parties.
The court must also provide for liberal contact and communication between the deploying parent and their child, so long as doing so is not contrary to the best interest of the child.
Wis. Stat. section 324.37 takes care to emphasize that the custodial authority given to the nonparent is only temporary, and provides the process for termination of authority either upon end of the deployment or by stipulation of all involved.
Lastly, under Wis. Stat. section 324.39, if physical placement has been granted as part of the order, then temporary child support may also be set according to Wis. Stat. section 769.
The Act also sets out the requirements for the deploying parent to notify the other parent of the impending deployment. If the parents are not living in the same household, then under Wis. Stat. section 324.05(2), they are to make a documented exchange of plans for how they each plan to fulfill their custodial responsibilities during deployment.
While the Act generally expands options for families with deploying parents, certain limitations may still exist.
The Act designates “deployment” periods as between 30 days and 18 months where the service orders are designated as unaccompanied, and do not authorize dependent travel or permit the child to be in the deployment location.
If a parent receives service orders permitting them to bring their child and opt not to, then it is unclear if the options created by the Act would still be accessible. It also does not address deployment periods exceeding 18 months.
Conclusion: Some Questions Answered for Deployed Parents
A family faced with deployment of a parent is a family necessarily facing significant change and uncertainty, even if only temporarily. The UDPCVA answers questions and provides options for these families, with the ultimate goal of minimizing potential disruption and preserving the best interests of children of deployed parents.
This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Family Law Section Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Family Law Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.