Military Parent Custody Rights
Military deployment is a considerably stressful time for families. If you throw divorce or child custody battles into the mix, the time can become considerably more trying for everyone involved.
To support parents who serve in the military, California has passed legislation to mitigate the challenges these disputes may impose. In California, servicemen and servicewomen have additional rights that help to guarantee their children will be minimally affected by brewing custody battles in the midst of their deployment.
Federal Stay on Legal Action
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act – or SCRA – provides general legal protections for an active-duty member of the military. SCRA covers a broad range of legal issues, including custody. Under SCRA, a temporary stay is placed on legal proceedings – including custody battles – of which the service member is a part. The stay is mandatory for the first 90 days of deployment. After the first 90 days, the laws of California govern.
If a military parent is unable to attend a child custody hearing due to military obligations or deployment they may ask the court to grant one of two things.
First, they may request that the judge moves up the hearing to an earlier date so that the military parent can attend in person before deployment.
Alternatively, they may ask that the judge permits the military parent to participate in the meeting virtually through the use of videoconferencing or telephone.
California takes child custody matters seriously and wants to ensure courts find in the best interest of the child. Having both parents present – in one way or another – allows for a balanced approach. As a result, most courts will not disallow either of these requests, so long as the terms are fair to all parties involved. Check out https://www.cfli.com to know your options.
California Military Custody Laws
In California, members of the military cannot be penalized solely for a deployment or other mobilization. Section 3047 of California’s Family Code prohibits permanent changes to custody agreements for deployment, absent other information that may indicate a change to the agreement is in the best interest of the child.
However, there are certain times when a serviceman or servicewoman’s mobilization may warrant temporary alterations to custody or visitation agreements. A court may decide to alter an existing agreement if a parent’s military mobilization or deployment results in:
- Relocation to a place that is a significant distance from their home or that of the child, or
- The inability to adhere to custody and visitation agreements.
Any modifications made for these reasons will be temporary, and terms will revert to those of the original agreement upon the return of the military parent. However, if a court determines that reverting to the old contract would not be in the best interest of the child the temporary order may be instated in full effect.
Minimizing the Impact of a Deployed Parent
A deployed or mobilized military parent may instruct their family law attorney to file paperwork with the court to have visitation rights established for a step-parent, grandparent, or other close family members. A court may grant visitation if:
- There is a pre-existing bond between the child and individual for whom visitation is requested;
- Such visitation is in the child’s best interest; and
- The visitation would help to balance the military parent’s absence.
Military parents who are interested in establishing visitation rights for a close family member – or learning more about their parental rights – should contact an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney.
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