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Military Mom Fights to Get Back Kids; Stepmother Lost Custody While She Was Deployed

Florida resident Amanda Hurst left her two children, ages 7 and 8, in the custody of her stepmother just prior to going overseas to fight. According to a My News 13 report, in 2009 Hurst joined the Army and was immediately deployed to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just before Hurst’s 2013 honorable discharge from the armed services her stepmother, who was given guardianship of the children, moved to New Jersey. Hurst’s children, who have special psychological needs, eventually ended up in the custody of the state. Presently, both children are in New Jersey foster care while Hurst remains in Florida.

According to New Jersey court documents, the state agrees the children belong with their mother in the Sunshine state – but under the condition that the emergency services provided will continue in Florida. According to Florida’s Department of Children & Families (DCF), which has the authority to investigate if abuses or neglect of abuse arose in Florida, there are no allegations on record. Accordingly, DCF is working with New Jersey reunite the children with Hurst in Florida.

Child Custody & Florida Military Families

When it comes to family law matters, a court must consider “the best interest of the child” under Florida law. In fact, public policy – and the state constitution – dictates that a minor child’s biggest necessity is having a relationship with and seeing both parents on a consistent basis. For military families, this matter is particularly fact-specific as many servicemen and women like Hurst are deployed overseas for years at a time or are moved from one military base to another every few years.

Fortunately for military families, state legislators have addressed this issue. Specifically, (1) the court cannot modify a current parenting plan and timesharing agreement while the military parent is temporarily deployed (if the best interest of the child can be established, a temporary change may be made); and (2) when military a parent is deployed for more than 90 days, he or she can legally designate a family member as the caretaker of the child.

The latter situation was the case of Hurst, and she chose her stepmother as the guardian of her two children. Florida law limits this designation to a stepparent, grandparent or other relative by marriage. Additionally, the designation must be made in writing and must be provided to the other parent no less than 10 days prior to military parent’s deployment.

Child Custody Help in Orlando

Attorney Steve W. Marsee assists spouses in reaching child custody and child support agreements that benefit the best interest of the children and are also reasonable for all parties involved. Do not try to navigate this often emotionally sensitive time in life through complicated state law. With decades of experience servicing the families of greater Orlando and throughout the state of Florida, the legal professionals at the office of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. can help guide you through this process. Call 407-521-7171 today for your initial case evaluation.

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