Military Service, Divorce, and Child Custody / by Cassandra Hearn

Divorce and child custody cases present unique issues for each family. When one or both parents are active members of the military, these issues become even more complex. There are obviously many laws in place that govern a civilian divorce, but there are many extra laws, both federal and state, that will also come into play for a military divorce.

The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act provides a large variety of safeguards for those active military members who are deployed or called to active duty. The purpose of this law is to allow the military member to postpone certain types of civil litigation while he or she is not able to participate in the proceedings due to military service. Divorces and child custody cases are included in these cases.  This means that if a spouse or parent is deployed, the other spouse cannot use the military member’s absence as an opportunity to suddenly obtain a divorce or child custody by default, simply because the military member is unable to participate by virtue of being deployed.

California also has extra provisions to protect military service members in cases of child custody disputes. California Family Code §3047 addresses deployment of a parent and how custody and visitation orders will be impacted by the deployment. The statute states that a parent’s “absence, relocation, or failure to comply with custody and visitation orders” shall not be a reason to modify the orders if the reason behind the absence, relocation, or failure to comply was because of the parent’s deployment or mobilization into combat. The code goes on to say that when the military parent deploys, there will be a temporary order that goes into effect to ensure that the child’s needs and best interests are met while the parent is deployed. However, once the deployed parent returns, the parties shall revert to the original order that was in place before the deployment occurred. The law is clear: military members are protected from any manipulation of child custody during deployment. 

We have extensive experience in helping our clients with cases involving military service. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 for a consultation to discuss your case and how it will be impacted by military service.