The Texas Family code provides special provisions regarding parenting time and access to children when the military parent is deployed.

Military deployment is not the same as a change of duty station (“PCS”). Deployment begins with the physical movement of individuals and units from their home installation to the designated theater of operations. One of the greatest distinctions between a duty station and a deployment, relevant to the questions pertaining to conservatorship, possession and access of a child the subject of a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, is the inability of friends and family to accompany the military member on a deployment. On the other hand, family members accompany the military member to a duty station, and the military member can maintain a relationship with his or her child. A deployment is a temporary location of service, where a duty station is intended to be a more permanent assignment.

This distinction was outlined by the Amarillo Court of Appeals. In re Marriage of Hess, 2009 WL 4824693 (Tex. App. – Amarillo 2009, no pet). There the military member father was stationed in North Carolina where he could have possession of and access to the child the subject of the suit. However, father claimed that it was a deployment under the Texas Family Code and the terms of the parties’ final divorce decree. The trial court rejected this argument, which was affirmed by the Amarillo Court, finding that father’s location in North Carolina was a duty station and not a deployment under the considerations of the Texas Family Code. Id.

Likewise, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals distinguished between a deployment and a duty station. In re Russell, 321 S.W.3d 846 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth, 2010, pet. denied). There, step-father was granted right of access to the child the subject of the suit following divorce from the child’ mother. After divorce, step-father relocated in the military to a duty station in California. He filed for modification of the order, seeking to substitute his parents for himself according to the Texas Family Code provisions regarding deployment of a military member. Following temporary orders hearing, the trial court granted step-father’s parents right to periods of possession of the child finding that father was “deployed” outside the state of Texas. Further dispute arose between mother and step-father’s parents over enforcement of the step-father’s parents’ right of possession, at which point the trial court removed mother as primary conservator of the child, awarded primary conservatorship to step-father’s parents and restricted mother’s access to the child. The trial court denied mother’s challenge to the step-father’s parents’ standing to intervene in the suit. Mother sough mandamus of the standing ruling. The Fort Worth Court of Appeals distinguished between a deployment and a duty station, holding that step-father was “stationed” in California but not “deployed”. Thus, his parents had no standing to intervene as if it were a deployment. Id.

A change of duty station (“PCS”) is different than a deployment such that special parenting provisions do not apply to a change of duty station.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.