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Legal Information: Washington


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December 3, 2020

If the parent with residential custody and/or visitation rights is in the military and gets deployed, what happens to that parent's custody or visitation?

If a parent receives military deployment orders that require him/her to move a substantial distance from his/her home or the military deployment orders would affect his/her ability to exercise parental or visitation rights, then the judge may be able to temporarily assign his/her custody and visitation rights to the child’s family member (including a step-parent) or another person with a close relationship to the child. The judge must also decide whether or not assigning residential time or visitation rights is in the child’s best interest. The judge cannot assign residential time or visitation rights to a person who would otherwise not be allowed to have those rights, such as a parent who committed child abuse. For more information about in what situations a parent would not be able to get these temporary visitation or custody rights, see the questions in the section called When the parent –or someone who lives with the parent– is abusive.

Any assignment of custody or visitation rights during the deployed parent’s absence does not give the temporary custodian (caretaker) the right to file for a separate custody or visitation order.1

1 R.C.W. § 26.09.260(12)