In my practice I have had the opportunity to assist numerous military service members with issues relating to divorce, paternity, child custody and visitation. Many of the issues these service members confront relate to custody and/or visitation problems occurring while the individual is on temporary duty or under deployment or mobilization orders ("deployed" or "deployment"). A soldier on deployment should be focused on his/her duties, not worried about whether he/she will be able to speak with the child during deployment or worried about what will happen with the child at the end of deployment. In light of these concerns, Mississippi has enacted legislation to protect the parental rights of its deployed service members.
This law, Miss. Code Ann. 93-5-34, was passed for the purpose of swiftly and efficiently resolving matters involving custody and visitation when a parent is deployed and to facilitate continued communication between parents and their minor children when a parent is deployed. This statute protects our deployed service members in the following ways:
(1) if the service member has sole or joint physical custody of a child, by limiting the duration of any temporary custody orders to no longer than ten (10) days after the deployed parent returns; by prohibiting the use of the service member's deployment as a factor to be used in any custody modification action; and, by requiring that the non-deployed parent make the child available to the service member for telephonic, webcam, and email contact with the child during deployment;
(2) if the service member has visitation rights with the child and is deployed, by allowing a court to delegate the service member's visitation rights to a family member with a close and substantial relationship to the minor child during the duration of the service member's absence;
(3) by allowing service members who receive deployment orders an opportunity to an expedited hearing in custody and visitation matters if certain conditions are met; and,
(4) by allowing the service member on deployment to present testimony and evidence by affidavit or electronic means in custody and visitation cases if certain conditions are met.