Articles Posted in Child Visitation

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THIS%20KID.jpgVirtual visitation is the latest custody-related family law fad. California family law courts are issuing virtual visitation orders in lieu of face-to-face visitations where face-to-face visitations are feasible, albeit inconvenient. This is not good. Virtual visitation orders should only be issued where in-person child visitations are not possible.

Admittedly, virtual visitation helps people like deployed military personnel who have no control over their deployments and work locations keep in touch with their families back home. In some cases it is the only medium through which a very young child is able to know the removed parent at all. In such cases, virtual visitation orders allow non-custodial parents and children to have a “virtual relationship”, which is better than none at all.

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Proposed federal legislation would require state family law judges, including California’s, to automatically re-establish, upon a servicemember’s return from deployment, the custody and visitation schedule in effect at the time the servicemember was deployed. Under current law, many servicemembers lose custody and visitation time when deployed because they cannot be present to defend against requests modifying child custody and visitation orders.

According to this March 19, 2012 “Washington Post” article, if, during specific qualifying types of deployment, custody is temporarily granted to another person, upon the servicemember’s return, the court would be required to re-establish the custody arrangement as it was prior to deployment. Essentially, the court could not consider the servicemember’s deployment in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Qualifying deployments would include such deployments as those that prohibit the accompaniment of family members (e.g., combat assignments)l Also, deployments must be between 60 days and 180 months in duration.

As the “Washington Post” article points out, similar bills have passed the House six times since 2008, but none has passed the Senate.

If enacted, this bill will modify the The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

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WARNING: Never attempt to litigate a “move-away” case on your own. As every divorce attorney in California who has filed or defended a “move away” case will tell you, this area of law is fraught with fatal technicalities and a single innocent mistep can cost you your relationship with your children.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) is the controlling law. This statute has been adopted, with some minor modifications, in every state. We have litigated a number of “move-away” cases with great success.

1209814_little_girl_with_pigeons.jpgOne recent case involved a Nigerian couple residing in New Jersey. (Foreign nationals living in the U.S. are subject to the UCCJEA. Custody disputes in which one parent resides in the United States and the other parent resides in foreign country may be covered by the Hague Convention.) They had one young child and Mother decided she wanted to move to California. Father had to stay in New Jersey. Mother moved without Father’s consent and Father retained us.

At the hearing on jurisdiction, the New Jersey court and the California court conferred with each other telephonically, which is what the law requires courts to do when determining which state has jurisdiction. We were present in Pasadena and were able to satisfy the court that New Jersey had jurisdiction. Producing this result “tipped” the case in Father’s favor and within a month, Father was able to secure substantial custody rights in New Jersey.

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