Child Custody and The Military- The Case of E.U and J.E

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediators in Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsGoing through a divorce is definitely not one of the easiest experiences for many, and add issues of child custody to it and the marriage becomes even more stressful. Now add that stress to a parent who is in the military and on active duty, and the stress levels can go through the roof.

One of the landmark cases that has come to define the approach that the court must take when dealing with Orange County divorce cases with child custody issues involving military personnel is called the Marriage of E.U. and J.E. The greater emphasis of the court’s decision was with regard to parental rights enjoyed by members of service that are deployed for active duty.

This blog will outline what the courts decided and most importantly observed in this case.

A Brief Low Down on the Facts

The child between the married couple was born in the year 2000. A year after the birth of the child the parents filed for an Orange County divorce. The primary custody of the child was given to the father and the parental arrangements were formalized back in the year 2006 July. It was reaffirmed by the trial court as being in the best interest of the child.

However, there was a clause in the 2006 order which highlighted that in case a spouse was to be called for military duty, the other spouse would assume primary responsibility of the child. This would end when the deployed parent came back home and things would go back to the status quo decided.

The father was deployed from 2009 to 2012 in Afghanistan. Once the father returned, the mother refused to hand the primary custody back to the father arguing that it would damage the stability that the child had become accustomed to over the past few years.

What the Judges Thought

As a result of this development, the judge had to have a hearing on the 2006 order and ordered an Evidence Code section 730 child custody evaluation. The judge of the case accepted that there was to be a delay as a result of Family Code section 3047 being used, but placed some responsibility of the situation on the father. This was because the father had failed to provide information of his prospective deployment to the court back in October 2010 when they asked.

Once the 730 report came out, it suggested that the child should be left in the care of the mother because the age of the child was now 6 and he had become accustomed to the care and stability of his mother.  However, the parties couldn’t come to agreement on this fact. The father argued that Family Code section 3047 was designed to protect the parental rights of people that were deployed in service.

Importantly, the Court of Appeal on hearing the appeal, accepted the use of Family Code section 3047 and ordered for the custody to be returned to the father now that he was back from his service and that his deployment should not be used against him.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”