Step-Parent Custody and Service Members Relief Act / by Cassandra Hearn

Military men and women provide invaluable service to our country, and this service sometimes comes at the cost of time with their children.  Deployments are typically a way of life for military families, but where the military member is engaged in a custody battle with the other parent, issues of custody become more complicated.  The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides a wide array of protections to military members who have been deployed but are also about to be involved in or in the middle of a custody case.  For example, the law provides that during the first ninety days of deployment the other parent cannot file a custody case and then get a default judgment because the military member obviously would not be able to return to California to respond to the suit.  California law also provides special rights for military members in terms of parental rights of deployed military parents.

 

California Family Code 3047 provides that if the military member is deployed and he or she has joint or sole custody of the child, that military parent can file a motion with the court to require provide that a step-parent will have visitation with the child during the deployment.  The statute provides that if the military parent seeks to have visitation established, he or she needs to prove that there is a pre-existing bond and relationship between the step-parent and child such that visitation is in the child’s best interest and also that visitation will help facility the continued contact between the child and the deployed parent.  The court will also need to balance the right of the remaining parent to make parental decisions about who has contact with the child against the interest of the child in having visitation.  The statute also provides that if the court does grant visitation, this will have no impact on the child support calculation.

 

As blended families are becoming increasingly common, this statute holds a lot of importance.  This statute allows a step-parent to continue to develop a bond with the child even in the deployed parent’s absence.  As step-parents often play an essential role in the life of a child, ensuring that the contact continues during the deployed parent’s absence can also help the child maintain a sense of stability and security during deployment.

 

We have extensive experience helping our clients understand their rights and responsibilities regarding military service and deployment.  Call us today for a consultation.