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.