Military Parent’s Child Custody and Jurisdiction Battle

Florida Husband and Wife have two Children together.

Wife serves in the armed forces and expects to be deployed to the Middle East.

As dictated by the military and sound parental judgment, Wife prepares and files with the military a Family Care Plan, designating who will care for her Children in her absence – and if anything should happen to her.

Wife designates Husband, who is also the father of Children.

As many prospective clients like to describe their situations, this sounds “straightforward”, right?

But the devil is always in the details.

Husband has some mental health issues and becomes unable to care for Children.

Wife is summoned home to pull together alternative arrangements in a flash.

Wife re-designates her StepMother as caregiver of Children.

Again, sounds “straightforward”, right?

Again, not so much.

StepMother has a falling out with other relatives and takes it upon herself to relocate herself and the Children to New Jersey. StepMother had no right to do that, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

On top of that, StepMother falls down on the job of caregiving and the Children are taken into protective custody by the child welfare agency in New Jersey.

Wife returns from her deployment about two years ago, to find this mess, which sounds like a law school essay exam question on child custody and jurisdiction.

The good news for Wife is that both Florida’s and New Jersey’s respective child welfare agencies now agree that it would be desirable to reunite Children with Wife, in Florida. But not so fast (two years in).

New Jersey’s child welfare agency believes Children are in need of significant services – and insists that Florida’s child welfare agency agree to provide them before Children will be released from their custody. Florida’s child welfare agency doesn’t appreciate its New Jersey counterpart’s attempts to dictate to it

But, after a conference call between the family courts in both states, it appears that everything is on track for Children to return to their anxiously waiting mother. All that remains to be ironed out is the timeframe.


  1. this Orlando News 13 TV article: Florida military mom to regain custody of kids in NJ foster care and
  2. this [Chicago] ABC News 7 article: Army vet mom fights for custody of special needs children after tours of duty .