Here are the top 5 things you should keep in mind when you are contemplating or already going through a military divorce and are curious about child custody.
#1 – Child custody is determined in the best interest of the child. When preparing initial custody orders, those orders should contemplate future issues. Such as the deployment of the military parent, and the possibility of the relocation of that parent. This does not mean that the service member cannot be the primary parent of the child, if it’s in the best interest of the child to have the service member also be the primary custodial parent.
#2 – Child custody orders can include additional time with the service member, prior to their deployments. In some cases, the service member can have the child for an additional extended time period prior to being deployed, and they can also have additional time if there’s a leave granted during the deployment, and additional time immediately upon return from deployment. These orders must be included in the parenting plan, to avoid disputes during time-sensitive times.
#3 – During the deployment, the military parent can get additional visitations via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or some other means of electronic communication. These orders should be based on the time zone where the child resides, and there should be consequences included for the parent violating those orders.
#4 – California gives certain rights to military parents, so the child custody is not modified solely based on the deployment of a military parent. If that parent is unable to exercise so custodial time with the child, then the court may make a temporary modification in custody, so long as the children remain in the same school, and then custody orders would resume immediately upon the return of the military parent.
#5 – In some cases, a step-parent or grandparent may exercise custody of the minor children during the deployed service members’ custodial time, and in other cases, they may receive visitations during that time.
It is important to plan for deployments and moves prior to the time that they are occurring. The best time to do this is when preparing for orders at the time of judgment. We had a case where the mother had primary custody of the child, and she received orders to deploy. She informed the father of this deployment, and the intention to keep the child with the aunt during her employment. Father waited until after mother was deployed, and then filed his request to permanently modify those orders while mom was stationed overseas. We were able to get visitations for the aunt throughout the deployment, and to get a ruling that the custody would resume immediately on her return. We were also able to get orders that if the father did not facilitate the electronic visitations with the child and mother, then the aunt would have custody until the mom returned.
Any questions about the impact of your military status on your child custody? Shoot us over an email or give us a call.