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  • Writer's pictureDimitry Erudaitius

13 Questions About Military Child Custody In California

Military service brings unique challenges while facing a divorce, especially regarding child custody. For active-duty personnel, deployments and relocations can complicate custody arrangements. California recognizes these difficulties and has laws in place to help military families manage custody issues. This post addresses some of the most common questions about military child custody in California.


How does military duty impact child custody in California?

Military duty can significantly impact child custody arrangements. Deployments and relocations often mean extended periods away from home, which can disrupt established custody schedules. California law takes these unique challenges into account. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides certain protections, allowing service members to request a stay or postponement of court proceedings if their military service affects their ability to participate.


Can a custody order be modified due to military deployment?

Yes, a custody order can be modified due to military deployment. Under California Family Code Section 3047, a parent's deployment or mobilization cannot be used as the sole reason to change a custody order. However, if the deployment significantly affects the parent's ability to fulfill their custodial duties, a temporary modification can be made.

This modification is reviewed upon the parent's return and typically reverts to the original order unless it’s determined that reverting is not in the best interest of the child.


What happens to custody arrangements when a military parent is deployed?

When a military parent is deployed, custody arrangements may need temporary adjustments. Courts can issue temporary custody orders to accommodate the deployment, ensuring the child maintains a stable environment. These temporary orders are without prejudice, meaning they do not permanently alter the custody arrangement.

Upon the parent’s return, the custody arrangement is reviewed, and the original order is likely reinstated unless it is not in the child’s best interest.


Can a military parent attend custody hearings if deployed?

Military parents can attend custody hearings even if deployed, thanks to technological solutions. California courts allow deployed parents to participate in hearings via telephone or video conferencing, provided it is fair to all parties involved. This ensures that military parents can have their voices heard and actively participate in custody decisions despite their physical absence.


Are there provisions for maintaining contact with children during deployment?

Yes, California law includes provisions to help maintain contact between deployed military parents and their children. Courts can issue orders to facilitate regular communication through phone calls, video chats, and other means. These provisions help ensure that the parent-child relationship remains strong despite the physical distance imposed by military service.


How does the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protect military parents in custody cases?

The SCRA provides significant protections for military parents involved in custody disputes. It allows for the postponement of court proceedings if military duties interfere with a parent's ability to participate. It also prevents courts from making permanent custody changes based solely on a parent's deployment. This act ensures that military parents are not disadvantaged in custody matters due to their service.


Can a military parent designate a family member for visitation rights?

Military parents can request the court to grant visitation rights to a family member, such as a grandparent or stepparent, during their deployment. This is particularly useful to ensure the child maintains continuity in their care and family connections. The court will consider the existing relationship between the child and the designated family member and whether such an arrangement is in the child’s best interest.


What are the steps for modifying custody orders due to deployment?

To modify a custody order due to deployment, the military parent must file a request with the court. This request should detail how the deployment affects their ability to comply with the current custody arrangement. The court will then consider issuing a temporary custody order.

Upon the parent's return, the custody order is revisited, with a presumption that it will revert to the pre-deployment arrangement unless the court finds that doing so is not in the child’s best interest.


How do courts handle high-conflict custody cases involving military parents?

High-conflict custody cases involving military parents require careful handling to ensure fairness and the child's best interests. Courts may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child's interests or order custody evaluations. In such cases, military parents must seek experienced legal representation to deal with the complexities and protect their rights.


What should military parents do to prepare for potential custody issues?

Military parents should proactively address potential custody issues by working with an experienced family law attorney. They should ensure all legal documents are updated to reflect their current situation and prepare for possible deployment by establishing clear, written custody agreements. Open communication with the other parent and the court can also help mitigate conflicts and ensure a smooth process.


How does relocation impact military child custody?

Relocation due to military orders can significantly impact child custody arrangements. When a military parent is required to move a considerable distance from their child’s residence, it can necessitate modifications to the custody order.

Courts generally view these modifications as temporary, effective only for the duration of the deployment. Upon the military parent’s return, the court reviews the situation, often reverting to the original custody arrangement unless it’s deemed not in the best interest of the child.


What legal steps should a military parent take if they need to relocate?

If a military parent needs to relocate, they should notify the court and the other parent as soon as possible. Filing a motion to modify the custody order is necessary, explaining how the relocation impacts their ability to comply with the existing custody agreement.

The court may grant a temporary modification, ensuring the military parent can maintain frequent and meaningful contact with their child through alternative means like video calls or extended visits during leave periods.


Can a military parent request expedited custody hearings?

Yes, a military parent can request expedited custody hearings, especially if deployment is imminent. By filing a motion to expedite, the parent can seek a quicker resolution to custody issues, ensuring that arrangements are in place before deployment. The court may grant such requests to accommodate the unique time constraints faced by military families.


Secure Your Custody Rights with Erudaitius Law

Military child custody in California involves complex legal and practical issues, but with the right information and resources, military parents can effectively manage their custody arrangements. At Erudaitius Law, PC, we offer trusted legal representation tailored to your unique needs.

Led by Dimitry F. Erudaitius, our San Diego-based firm handles all aspects of military child custody and visitation, ensuring your parental rights are protected while you serve. We specialize in managing the challenges of deployments, relocations, and custody modifications.

Our compassionate and thorough approach ensures fair support orders and stress-free resolutions. Contact us today for a free consultation and let Erudaitius Law guide you through this challenging time, safeguarding your future and your child's well-being.

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