Military Deployments and Child Custody in California

GrenadeThe stress of being a military member deployed overseas to a hostile environment can be compounded by worrying about children left behind in the care of others.  The joy of finally coming home can quickly turn into a nightmare if an ex-spouse refuses to return a child.  This subject was the basis for a recent ruling from a California Court of Appeal. In the case entitled In re Marriage of E.U. and J.E., both of the parents are military members.  When they divorced, the court awarded joint legal custody to both parents, with the father having primary physical custody.  Anticipating the possibility of deployments for both parents, the court included provisions in the final order that if one parent deployed, then the other parent would assume the role of primary parent.  The order further provided that when the deployment ended, custody would revert to pre-deployment status upon return of the deployed member. As fate would have it, the father deployed and while he was away the mother filed for and was granted a temporary custody order.  When the father returned, he commenced a long and arduous legal battle to regain primary custody of his child as originally ordered. Most recently, a California Court of Appeals found in the father’s favor and he regained custody of his child. Interestingly, during the course of the proceedings, the California Legislature passed a statute requiring the return of a child in a situation such as this to the primary custody holder.  Time will tell whether and to what extent this law will be challenged by those claiming a situation has changed and returning the child to a parent recently returned from deployment is contrary to the child’s best interest. If litigation is necessary to protect a child’s best interest, then it should be commenced immediately. At the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger, we will persistently pursue the best outcome possible for you in your divorce or custody proceedings.  Judy L. Burger is known for her aggressive representation of clients in high conflict cases in and around the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento areas.  If you are a parent facing a custody dispute, call us today to learn more about how we can help.  Call (415)293-8314 in the San Francisco Bay area or (916)631-1935 in the Sacramento area, or contact us online via our confidential inquiry form.