Military Service & Child Custody Orders
Serving in the military overseas can be stressful for parents. For many it means they will be separated from their children for long periods of time. A typical scenario is that each parent has joint (50/50) custody. When one parent goes into active duty, the other parent gets primary custody even though no child custody modifications were made. Usually when the military parent returns, he or she will want to resume the previous custody and parenting arrangement. The problems arises when the other parent now wants sole custody or wants to modify custody and the visitation order by the family court.
Fortunately, the family court cannot make a modification to custody or visitation solely on a parent’s absence, relocation or failure to comply with the child custody and visitation order that resulted from active military service and deployment outside the State of California.
The important word here is “solely.” The absence of the military parent does not mean an automatic loss of joint custody and equal parenting time. An exception is if there are other reasons that affect a child’s best interest and the issues of custody and parenting time.
Temporary Child Custody and Visitation Modification
When a parent in the military needs to leave for military deployment, mobilization or temporary duty, a custody modification does need to be made (before the parent leaves). The order will usually be temporary. When the military parent returns, the family law judge will review it and potentially reconsider the temporary custody order.
Typically, there is even a presumption in effect that the order should go back to the way it was before deployment. But with that said, again, when it comes to California child custody law, the child’s best interest is of paramount importance when evaluating custody and visitation.
The best strategy for military parents is to have good communication with the other parent. Often service members don’t know exact or future deployment dates, but it’s important to give the other parent all the information that is available. Open communication lines will allow both parents to make contingency plans that will cover the child custody and visitation no matter what happens.
California’s child custody and visitation laws, both codes and cases, are protective of military personnel. In consideration of military service which often deprives military parents of physical custody, the law gives flexibility to the absent parent.
In the event a military parent and the other parent cannot reach an amicable agreement, the legal advice from a California child custody attorney may be needed. It is often the best way to ensure that the military parent’s rights are restored and protected.
To learn more about your child custody rights and implications of military service call our affordable Sacramento family law attorney at (916) 250-1610 to schedule your free consultation Monday through Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM.