For any parent, going through a child custody battle is a headache. For parents in the military, these battles can be much worse. This is especially true if the parent is on an active deployment that makes it impossible for them to make it to all the hearings. While some California residents might not be aware of this, there is an act that helps to protect military members who are deployed from having to deal with issues like this.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act stipulates that while a servicemember is deployed, civil matters and administrative proceedings that could negatively affect the servicemember must be temporarily suspended. A recent case involving a sailor who was currently deployed on a submarine shows that not everyone is aware of this act.
The sailor has primary and legal custody of his daughter, who is cared for during his deployments by his current wife. The man has had custody of the child since 2010 when the child's mother pleaded no contest to an assault charge.
On June 2, there was a hearing pertaining to the child custody case, but the sailor wasn't present because he was on a submarine. At that hearing, the judge ordered him to appear before the court or "present the child" by June 16. Neither happened because he was deployed. The judge then said that she had no choice but to issue a bench warrant for the sailor. She also said that if the child wasn't in his care, the child should be in the biological mother's care.
In the most recent turn of events, the judge has realized that the man is covered by the SCRA, which grants a 90-day window for child custody cases for those who are on active deployment. The man's next court date is in October.
Servicemembers face unique challenges when it comes to child custody and service billets. Knowing about the specific laws and statues that help to protect military members from losing their children while on deployment can offer some comfort during an already stressful time.
Source: Army Times, "Custody case highlights a dilemma of deployment" Lance M. Bacon, Jul. 05, 2014