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What Protections Do Deployed Parents Have In Their Child Custody Case?

| February 9, 2024

The sacrifices made by military personnel are immeasurable, and among the challenges they face, child custody battles can be one of the most emotionally daunting. While wanting to ensure their custody of their child- situations they face make it difficult, such as being deployed to a different city, state, or even country. 

Deployed parents find themselves torn between their duty to serve their country and the responsibilities they hold as parents, which is why it is important to know what types of protections deployed parents have. 

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

One of the primary protections for deployed parents in child custody cases is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Enacted to protect the rights of military personnel, the SCRA provides a range of benefits, including the suspension of certain civil proceedings, such as child custody cases, for the duration of the deployment.

Under the SCRA, deployed parents can request a stay or delay in the legal proceedings, recognizing the challenges they face in participating fully while serving their country overseas. This provision is crucial in preventing default judgments and ensuring that deployed parents have the opportunity to present their case when they can actively participate.

The SCRA also offers protection against changes in child custody orders during deployment. Courts are generally hesitant to modify custody arrangements solely based on a parent’s deployment status, ensuring stability for the child during the service member’s absence. It also prevents the non-deployed spouse from trying to permanently change the child custody order while the other parent is deployed.

Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act (UDPCVA)

The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation act was created to safeguard military parents who are either relocated or deployed elsewhere, but it is not binding legally until a state adopts it. Securing the child and its best interests is not solely determined by a service member’s past or future deployment. The parent’s “residence” is also not changed during deployment, nor does the kid’s “home state.”

In order for the act to apply, as mentioned, the state must have adopted it, and the court must have a “uniform child custody jurisdiction and enforcement act” over the child. It is usually for deployments that are between 90 days and 18 months. 

Deploy parents must inform the other in a span of 12 days of orders and must work together and exchange and come to a parenting proposal agreement regarding parenting during deployment. If the deploying parent is the only parent with responsibilities for the child, then they can designate somebody to look after the kid in the meantime using the power of a lawyer without the need to create an agreement with the other parent. 

If both parents have responsibilities, either might file a motion for the responsibilities of interim parenting at the the deployment period. After deployment is over, interim parenting also ends. 

California Protections

For military parents, California has set legal protections regarding child custody to protect them when they have to leave for deployment. In California, the courts can choose a parenting plan that is in the best interest of one or more kids and will take into consideration the child’s health, safety, welfare, relationship with parents, and any abuse. 

Family Code section 3047

  • In case the parent has failed or missed to adhere to visitation and custody orders due to a triggered military duty, mobilization, or military transfer, this failure or absence will not be an adequate reason to alter the custody orders. Commanded by Family Code §3047(a).
  • All kinds of changes made by the court to accommodate a parent’s mobilization or deployment is considered a “temporary order without prejudice.” Family Code §3047(b)(1) and relevant statements. 
  • Upon the return from deployment, the custody order is going to revert to the order placed right before the deployment. The only exception is unless the court considers it has got nothing to do with the child’s well-being. Family Code §3047(b)(2).
  • When giving temporary orders at the time of deployment, the authoritative body should consider orders. This will ensure that the deploying parent will be able to maintain continuing and frequent contact with the kids as per Family Code §3047(b)(3)(A).
  • On request raised by the relocating spouse, the court might grant justified visitation rights to a grandparent, stepparent, or other family member only under some circumstances.
  • If the parent cannot attend a scheduled hearing on both visitation and custody owing to mobilization and temporary duty of deployment, the court holds a session of expedited hearing. This helps in determining visitation and custody-related problems even before the parent takes off. On the other hand, it might even let the parent take part in hearing it all digitally, as well as child custody mediation. 

Family Care Plan

If you currently have custody over your children but are about to be deployed, your children will most likely be taken care of by their other parents by being granted custody when you are gone. Having a family care plan is advisable, but it is not bound legally, so you should file it with your service branch and the Department of Defense. While you are deployed, your ex can still petition for custody. 

It is best to see if you can talk with your ex and get them to negotiate on a family care plan. Even with their agreement, obtaining a court order consistent with the family care plan is wise to ensure clarity. Whether through court order or agreement, everything should be in writing, detailing the post-deployment arrangements.

While there could be changes to the custody agreement while you are deployed, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects you. As previously mentioned, it prevents your ex from being able to permanently change custody orders while you are deployed. 

Deployed parents facing child custody cases should seek legal representation familiar with the unique challenges posed by military service. Having a Newport Beach child custody attorney who understands the complexities of military life can be instrumental in navigating the legal system.

Legal advocates can assist deployed parents in presenting a compelling case, emphasizing the positive aspects of their military service and addressing any concerns raised by the other party. Additionally, legal professionals can ensure that all necessary documents, such as deployment orders and Military Family Care Plans, are appropriately filed with the court.


Child custody cases involving deployed parents present many challenges and concerns, but legal protections exist to ensure fairness and consideration for those in military service. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Military Family Care Plans, and state-specific protections collectively contribute to safeguarding the rights of deployed parents.

As we express our gratitude for the sacrifices made by our military personnel, it is essential to recognize and advocate for the legal protections that support them in their roles as parents. By understanding these protections, deployed parents can navigate the complexities of child custody cases with confidence, ensuring that their rights and the best interests of their children are upheld in the legal system.

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Ankita Tripathy
Ankita Tripathy

Ankita Tripathy loves to write about food and the Hallyu Wave in particular. During her free time, she enjoys looking at the sky or reading books while sipping a cup of hot coffee. Her favourite niches are food, music, lifestyle, travel, and Korean Pop music and drama.


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