Child Custody: California Mandates Frequent and Continuing Contact
Noncustodial parents in California may have more rights than they realize. They are not simply stuck with the status quo regardless of other factors involved in their case. California custody laws are designed to provide both parents with “frequent and regular contact” with their kids as long as doing so is in the best interest of the child.
Two Common Exceptions to Status Quo Under California Child Custody Laws:
1. Temporary Absence or Relocation
2. Military Service
In some cases, there may be a temporary absence or relocation of a parent from the family residence. In these situations, it is crucial that reasonable efforts are made to maintain parenting time with the child. California child custody laws disallow the judge from considering a parent’s absence or relocation from the family home as long as it was of short duration, there was interest in maintaining custody or visitation, reasonable efforts were made to contact the child, and the parent showed no intention to abandon the child. Another exception to the status quo rule is if a parent was absent due to the other parent’s actual or threatened domestic violence. Temporary absences are also not allowed to be used against a parent when the absence is not an important factor in determining the child’s best interest.
When considering the effect of military service on California child custody orders, it is best to start with a hypothetical. Consider a father who has joint (50/50) custody and parenting time that enters active duty in the military service. The mother automatically receives primary care without any modifications to the court order because when actively serving, the father leaves the child with the mother. The father completes his service and returns home and immediately wants custody and parenting time to return to the 50/50 setup in place before his departure. The mother does not want to revert to the routine in place before his time on active duty and now wants sole custody.
In the above situation, the family court may not make a modification of custody or visitation based solely on the father’s absence, relocation or failure to comply with the order as a result of active military service and deployment outside the state. The court may consider other reasons that affect the child’s best interests and the overall issue of custody and parenting time, but the decision cannot rest solely on the absence. When a custody modification needs to be made before a parent’s departure for military deployment, temporary duty or mobilization, the order will typically be temporary, and the family law judge will review the temporary order when the soldier returns home. California state child custody laws are protective of military personnel and provide arguably provides more flexibility to an absent parent in this area over any other.
If you fear you may lose parenting time or custody due to a temporary absence or military service, don’t hesitate. Get in touch with one of the experienced family law attorneys at The Maggio Law Firm today.