Military members make the ultimate sacrifice for our country by protecting our nation’s interests overseas, but many of us don’t realize the sacrifices that military members must make in terms of their relationships with their children back home.
When a member of the military is undergoing a military divorce, it’s inevitable that they’ll experience additional mental and emotional burdens as they dispute child custody back home. It’s crucial that service members have a thorough understanding of how their deployment can affect their child custody rights, and on this page, we’ll discuss the important considerations and legal rights all military parents should know about pertaining to child custody.
Our firm has helped countless military parents with an array of legal issues, and we’re proud to be one of California’s premier family law and divorce firms. We take pride in our ability to continuously provide favorable results for our clients, so it’s imperative that you contact us for a free consultation if you or a family member is undergoing a custody battle within a military divorce.
Once we’ve gained a thorough understanding of your circumstances, we’ll work with you to formulate the very best legal strategy possible
Important Child Custody Considerations for Military Members
Military service often plays a significant role in all types of child custody issues, including the disruption or changes to existing child custody arrangements. Deployment correlates directly with parental absences, which is something that every military parent must take seriously in terms of their visitation rights, as well as overall custody terms throughout the divorce process and the subsequent years afterward.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Rights
The SCRA is the legislation that essentially governs the overall legal rights of deployed service members, and this act applies to the following:
- Any active-duty members of every military branch
- National Guard members who have been called via federal orders to active duty
- Reserve members called to active duty
- Coast Guard members serving on active duty as a means to support the armed forces
The SCRA allows military members the following:
- The ability to postpone court proceedings if military deployment or general service affects the ability to proceed within a child custody case, and other family law matters.
- Legal grounds towards a 90-day stay in court proceedings when requested in writing
Any stay that goes beyond an initial 90-day stay will be granted based upon the overall discretion of the custody case’s specific judge or hearing officer.
California State Laws Pertaining to Military Child Custody
Many states across the country have enacted the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act, but California still utilizes other state laws to govern military child custody issues.
California utilizes section 3047 within the state’s Family Code, which essentially states that a military parent’s relocation or absence due to deployment or general service duties is not enough to justify any significant custody order modifications. This section also protects military members’ rights while they are deployed, as the SCRA does.
But it’s important to note that if deployment causes any kind of significant effect on the custodial parent, then the order may potentially be modified. Usually, these modifications are only temporary until the service member returns home, but a court will have the discretion to make certain changes permanent based upon the best interests of the child.
There are also countless instances in which a military parent can utilize a divorce attorney to properly file the paperwork that requests visitation rights to a grandparent, stepparent, or other family members while they are deployed. The court may grant these visitation rights when it’s clear there is a pre-existing relationship between the child and the family member(s), and if they deem these visitations:
- Are in the child’s best interest
- Help the child to be better in contact with the deployed parent
- Balances the rights of parents to utilize their parental authority and the child’s interest in having visitations
Other Child Custody Issues for Military Members
When a military parent relinquishes their custodial rights during their deployment to a family member or the child’s other parent, they won’t necessarily be able to instantly regain their custody rights once they return home. There are many instances in which the military parent must go to court again to modify their custody agreement once ending a tour of duty.
There are often issues that may arise when a military parent returns home, including:
- The child/children wanting to stay with their other parent or new legal custodian
- The other parent choosing to contest a custody change
- Arranging a joint custody agreement if the military parent must complete another tour/deployment
- Ensuring that the child’s other parent is willing and generally capable of arranging for visitations and speaking times during and after deployment
- Ensuring that the child is relatively available while the military parent is on leave
The Effects that Military Deployment have on Child Custody Rights Require an Experienced Military Divorce Advocate
Military deployment can be a contentious aspect of any child custody agreement, and there are countless familial circumstances that require an experienced military divorce attorney to assist you in terms of properly navigating California’s legal system.
Although California has specific legislation and guidelines to assist parents through these situations, the law can still be rather broad and put military parents at risk if they aren’t too careful. Having an experienced legal professional on your side can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your child custody rights, and obtaining a custody agreement that works for both parents.
We look forward to assisting you through this type of scenario and taking advantage of our years of experience to significantly ease this entire process. If you or a loved one is currently undergoing a military divorce and subsequent child custody dispute, it’s crucial that you contact our offices today for a free consultation; we can explain your rights to you, and help develop an effective plan for achieving your ideal custody arrangement.