Custody and Visitation Arrangements if an Ex-Spouse is Relocated Due to the Military

What Happens to Custody and Visitation Arrangements if an Ex-Spouse is Relocated Due to the Military? Parents who are divorced work hard to develop workable visitation arrangements prior to their marriage dissolving. The court’s stance has always been what is in the best interest of the child or children of the marriage. Once a divorce is finalized, custody and visitation schedules are put in place to avoid disrupting the child’s life as much as possible.

Like other events, a military deployment can upend the best parenting plans. Joint custody is not uncommon in California, so when one spouse must move across the country, or even out of the country to serve, it often means the parents will have to work out a new plan for both parenting and visitation.

Temporary Modifications Are Possible For Military Families

Federal laws laid out in Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCFA) as well as California statutes are designed to protect the interests of those who serve in the military. This also applies to child custody arrangements which a parent may have with a former spouse.

Since no two arrangements for child custody and visitation are identical, it is important that parents understand the potential issues surrounding relocation when in the military:

  • Parent with sole physical custody relocating — when a military member is reassigned and has sole physical custody, the current non-custodial parent still has the right to visit their child. In many cases, the parents can work out an arrangement between themselves and present a modified plan to the court for the duration of the deployment.
  • Parents with joint physical custody — when the parents are sharing physical custody, it may be a valid option to consider a temporary modification of custody. Thankfully, California Cal.Fam.Code § 3047(b)(1) has specific guidelines for these types of temporary orders.
  • Parent without physical custody being deployed — when the custodial parent is not being relocated, it will be necessary to discuss how visitations between the child and non-custodial parent will be worked out. Again, these changes can be considered temporary.

Modifications of custody arrangements or visitation arrangements should always be completed before the military parent leaves their current station. The sooner the parents are in contact with an attorney who understands the military rules pertaining to deployments and reassignments, the easier it will be to get through the process.

When Parents Disagree on Visitation During Deployment

One of the challenges which will be faced is what happens when the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding visitation. Parents will be asked to participate in mediation to give each of them an opportunity to be heard and to make their position clear. Should mediation fail, however, the court will step in and the judge will make a determination about how these visits should be handled, including the financial aspects of getting the child to the deployed parent’s duty station.

When keeping the best interests of the child in mind, parents should consider the following:

  • Current schooling status — disrupting a child during the school year could have an adverse effect on their education and could potentially set them back. This should be a consideration of both parents as well as the court.
  • Length of deployment — if the deployment is short-term, the parents may opt to grant temporary full custody to the non-deploying parent. Per the statutes set down in California, these temporary changes would be revisited once the parent returns home.
  • Distance for visits — when determining how visitation modifications will be handled, the distance between the physical locations will have to be considered. This will also mean evaluating the child’s safety while traveling, the impact on the child’s relationship with other family members, and their current school break situations.

Parents who are accustomed to working together to make sure their child has access to both parents may already be working on how to deal with parenting time and summer vacation modifications so the challenges they face may be less than those who have a more contentious relationship.

Custody and Visitation Hearings and Deployments

Parents have a right to build a case for a parenting time modification in California which typically involves a court hearing. If the modification request comes while a parent is deployed, they may feel they are at a disadvantage. However, California law, as well as federal law, protects the interests of military members who may be involved in a dispute involving parenting time or custody.

Should it become necessary, hearings may be held without both parties physically in the building. In an ideal situation, resolutions for modifications of custody and visitation due to deployment or relocation would be reached prior to the change. When the parents can reach an agreement in a reasonable period of time, a family law attorney can help work out a suitable court date prior to the relocation or deployment.

When Relocation of a Duty Station is Long-Term

There may be more issues to consider if a duty station change is going to be for a long period of time, 12 months or more. When the servicemember has sole physical custody of a child, they will be required to get permission for the child to be relocated out of state. This could cause problems with the non-custodial parent, so the sooner plans are made, often the better.

Permanent changes will require the parents to revisit their existing parenting plans and work out arrangements that are not only suitable for the parents, but more importantly that are workable for their children. Since the original parenting plans were incorporated into the final divorce documents, there are court orders in place which protect the child and both parents, which means no changes can be made without court approval.

Contact a California Child Custody and Visitation Attorney

Change is never easy. If an original custody and visitation plan did not take into account the possibility of a deployment or change of duty station, parents need to work with a highly trained family law attorney to help navigate these challenging situations. Finding a workable solution to ensure the well-being of the child should be the basis for the discussions which will be required. 

How to Make Changes to Existing Child & Spousal Support Orders in California

There may come a time when the party paying child or spousal support, or the party receiving either payment may have an interest in modifying the existing order. While this is not impossible to do, the process can be complicated — particularly when the other party is opposed to having it changed.

The most cost-effective method for making these changes is to have the two parties agree to the change, have the proper documents drawn up by a qualified family law attorney and submit them to the court for approval. When an agreement is impossible to reach, the necessity of working with a modification attorney in California becomes critical.

Reasons for Modifications in Child Support Payments

When an existing court order is in place for child support payments in California, there must be a change in circumstances after the original order was put in place. In most cases, the party paying child support will be expected to continue making payments until such time the child is no longer a full-time student at age 18 or 19. However, the parents may request a modification if certain changes occur in their financial status. Some changes may include:

  • Change in income — when one of the parents has had an increase or a decrease in their income, this may provide the basis for a modification of child support in California.
  • Time changes — in some cases, the change is in the amount of time a parent is spending with a child. If one parent is spending more or less time with the child than was originally agreed to, there may be a reason to modify the current order.
  • Child’s needs — one of the primary reasons a person receiving child support payments may request a change is the child’s needs have changed. This could be health, education, or other changes which occurred after the initial child support order was put into place.
  • Disability or retirement — when one parent becomes disabled or retires, there may be a need to change the amount they are paying for child support.

There are other times when a change may be warranted, you should speak with an experienced child support attorney regarding any change in your overall financial circumstances to determine whether the reason would be acceptable to the courts.

Reasons for Modifications in Spousal Support

Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, modifications are handled in much the same way as a child support order. In some cases, the court may have ordered these payments to start and end on specific dates. Even when this is the case, there may come a time when one party requests a change in spousal support. Some common reasons a change may be requested include:

  • Income changes — when the income for either party involved in the order changes, the court may hear a motion to change the order. This may occur due to a change in jobs, a decrease or increase in self-employment income, or a job loss.
  • Cohabitation — if the receiving spouse remarries or begins living with a new partner, the paying partner may request a modification for spousal support payments. Remember, if the partner is living with a new partner, there must be definitive documentation supporting this argument, the court will not simply accept your word this is occurring.
  • Tax changes — in some instances, a change in one party’s tax status may impact child support payment requirements. Speak with your spousal support lawyer regarding those changes before deciding how to move forward.

Forms Required for Child Support Changes

As with anything which is handled by the court, there are forms which will have to be filled out to make changes to child support payments. The forms which must be filled out include:

You can determine which financial form must be used by reviewing another form which is available, (Form DV-570). Finally, you can the Information Sheet for Request for Order (Form FL-300-INFO) to learn how to fill out Form FL-300.

These forms can be confusing, and mistakes can cause time delays. Whether the parents agree on a change, or you are trying to make a modification request on your own, a family law lawyer should review these documents before they are filed with the courts.

Forms Required for Spousal Support Changes

While some forms for modification of alimony in California are the same as those used for modifications of child support, there are some which are different. For spousal support changes these forms are used:

  • Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (Form FL-157) – this form is optional but may help you prove the reasons why a modification is needed
  • Declaration(Form MC-030) or an Attached Declaration (Form MC-031) would be used if more information is necessary to support your request

The same rule applies as the rules for child support modification. Any mistakes can cost you time, and additional money. Taking the time to have these forms reviewed by a family law attorney should be your first step.

Once Request For Modifications Are Filed

Until you have received an authorization from the court approving the changes to spousal support or child support, there should be no change to the amounts you are paying. This is important because you can be held in contempt if you begin paying less.

Another important thing you should be aware of: Even if you believe the change may only be necessary for a short time, you should request a modification immediately. Remember, the court will only approve changes once they have seen the agreements you have reached, or there has been a hearing to approve the changes. Changes will only go into effect when the court issues a new order approving the modification.

If you are considering requesting a modification of child support or alimony, The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, CFLS can help you with the process. Call our office at (619) 299-9780 or send us an email to arrange your free telephone consultation with our experienced attorney.


Child Support Considerations for Same-Sex Couples

Child support and custody is always an issue when a couple is in the process of getting a divorce. Seldom do both partners agree on which parent should have custody, and there is seldom agreement about support matters.

In California, child support is calculated using a formula which includes the income of both parents including wages, disability payments, and unemployment benefits. Mandatory fees like retirement contributions and union dues are deducted from these amounts. Other deductions such as child support payments from other children, spousal support payments, and job-related expenses may also be deducted. While this may seem crystal clear in most divorces, there is often a question as to how these impact same-sex couples.

Same Sex Couples and Child Support in California

There are often questions regarding support payments and custody when it comes to same-sex couples. One parent generally is not biologically related to the child or children in question. However, same-sex couples in California have the same rights and the same financial obligations to their children as their non-same-sex peers.

This is largely in part due to a California Supreme Court ruling in which the court determined the children of a same-sex couple have the right to the care and attention of both parents, even when only one parent is biologically tied to the child.

This type of ruling means both parents, regardless of sex, have a financial obligation to the child until they reach the age of 18, or until the child reaches 19 if they are still full-time students.

How Child Support is Calculated in Same Sex Divorces

The courts have an obligation to ensure both parents are treated the same financially for purposes of establishing child support payments. As such, there is an elaborate calculation which determines how much support each parent is able to provide. The elements of this calculation are:

  • Total Income — the income of both parents will be calculated, and a formula will be used to determine their gross income. Mandatory deductions such as taxes, union dues and work-related expenses will be taken into consideration.
  • Health Care/Insurance Expenses — medical care or insurance premiums will also be taken into consideration. If a child has medical issues which are not covered by insurance, this will also be included in the formula.
  • Educational and Daycare Expenses — the costs associated with the child’s education and care while a parent works may also be included in the formula for determining support.
  • Prior Obligations for Support – if either parent is obligated to pay child support for other children this is also taken into consideration when determining how much support should be paid by one parent.
  • Amount of Time with Child — in general, child support payments are made to the custodial parent. In some cases, especially those involving joint custody, there will simply be a division of expenses incurred for each parent in raising the child.
  • Other Factors — the court may review other facts which are relevant including any special needs of the child, the parent’s physical condition and age, etc.

The general formula for child support payments looks like this: CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN))

  • CS means child support
  • K means combined income of both parents
  • HN means net disposable income (high net)
  • H% means time each parent spends with child
  • TN means total net monthly disposable income of parents

You should speak with your divorce attorney or the attorney dealing with support disputes about how much child support you may be entitled to receive or may be required to pay. These numbers may also be impacted by other factors per California Family Code Section 4057(a).

Modifying Support Orders in California

There are certain factors which may result in a change being requested in a California child support order. Keep in mind, the decision to request modification must be based on factors which directly impact the person paying support or the parent receiving support.

Some valid reasons for requesting a modification of a child support order include:

  • Changes in Income — either parent who has an income change of more than 10 percent higher or lower may request a modification for support. This includes a parent who has lost their job, or a promotion.
  • Changes in Expenses — expenses for children may change in regard to their needs for daycare, education, or health care. If there is a steep increase or decrease in these expenses, it may be worthwhile looking at a support modification.
  • Custodial or Visitation Changes — when the amount of time a child spends with one parent significantly changes, there may be a need to change the support order.
  • Additional Children — if one parent becomes a parent as a result of another relationship it may be necessary to request a modification.
  • Factors Changing from Original Order — when there are changes in any of the original factors used to set child support payments, a parent may request a modification.

It is important to remember a child support modification is not automatic. Requesting a modification of a child support order should be handled by a skilled family law attorney after a review of the facts.

Non-Payment of Court-Ordered Support

Under California laws, non-payment of child support is a serious offense. Those who fail to make payments as ordered in a final judgment can face serious fines, and potentially may face jail time. A contempt of court charge may be filed against any parent failing to make timely support payments.

In addition to contempt charges, a non-paying parent may also face other consequences. Some of these include suspension of driving rights, denying a passport renewal, liens against their homes, and wage garnishments. When you are entitled to receive child support payments, we can help you hold a non-paying parent accountable.

Parents who are facing any challenges regarding child support need to know what options are available to them. Contact Steven M. Bishop,  a specialist in family law, as certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization at 619-304-0418 or send an email to arrange your free telephone consultation.


How Can I Get the Costs of Private School Included in Child Support Payments?

Parents always want what’s best for their children. This is an admirable sentiment, but it’s subject to change when a family is going through a dissolution or a legal separation. That sounds a bit extreme, but it sometimes happens when one parent insists that the other parent pay their child’s private school costs. California’s family codes don’t automatically include private school expenses as a factor in support calculations. As a parent, you have two ways to have those costs included in your child support payments.

  • Establish a private school payment agreement with your spouse.
  • Present evidence seeking a court order in favor of your private school payment request.

Parents simplify the process when they agree that one or both parents should share their child’s private school costs. In some situations, financial concerns become a cooperation stumbling block, but you still have options. Even if an estranged spouse doesn’t willingly agree to the added expenses, the court has the discretion to designate tuition as a reasonable child support expense. Of course, you must present evidence to substantiate your request.

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Attorney Steven M. Bishop has helped many families resolve their child support issues before they become insurmountable. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop has helped couples negotiate support arrangements for private schooling and other additional costs. When necessary, he prepares and presents your supporting evidence in Family Court. Attorney Bishop provides compassionate guidance and assistance as he works to resolve your most pressing issues.

How Much Does Private School Cost in California?

California has a history of litigation over child support and private school tuition. Parents rarely object to their child receiving a better quality education. Disagreements usually focus on cost. Tuition is the primary reason why joint or non-custodial parents rebel against paying for private school. Of course, it’s in the best interests of the child, but it’s usually a high-dollar child support add-on.

The website Private School Review documents 2020/21 school year tuition costs throughout the state. They receive regular updates from schools that confirm their tuition costs. The current average annual cost for private school education in California is $14,718 per year. Tuition varies widely depending on the school and the grade.

  • Preschool: Ranges from a high of $47,000 to a low of $1,011
  • Elementary school: Average cost per year, $11,569 (Highest, $61,000, Lowest, $1,200)
  • High School: Average cost per year, $20,000 (Highest, $66,900, Lowest, $1,200)

What Does Child Support Pay For California?

California Family Law establishes specific child support goals under Statewide Uniform Guideline, §4050 – 4076. The provisions establish child support requirements that meet a child’s need for housing, food, clothing, extracurricular activities, and other expenses. The guidelines also ensure that children receive financial support that’s consistent with the state’s high standard of living and high child-raising costs. The law presumes that the parent with the most physical responsibility devotes a substantial amount of their resources to raising their child.

The guidelines include several additional child support standards.

  • A parent’s primary obligation is to support their children “…according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.”
  • Both parents are “mutually responsible” for support.
  • Support considers each parent’s income and responsibility for the child.
  • Each parent should pay according to his/her ability.
  • The child’s interests are the state’s top priority.
  • Children should share both parents’ standard of living.
  • Families should rely on private financial resources to meet their child’s needs.

Under §4062, family courts have discretion in issuing orders that may include these and other additional items.

  • Child care costs while a parent works or enters a training or educational program to develop new employment skills
  • Reasonable uninsured health care costs
  • Costs for educational or special needs
  • Visitation travel expenses

This discretion opens the door for a parent to receive child support that includes private school tuition costs. As with many court cases, the party requesting consideration has the burden of proving the need.

Presenting a Case for Private School Support

Many parents feel that private school is a choice, not a requirement. If you can’t convince your estranged spouse through sincere negotiation, you must persuade the court to find in your favor. You have several ways to plead your case. Your child’s school administrators and teachers should be able to provide evidence to help you substantiate your claims.

  • Educational Stability: If your child is already in private school, transferring him or her to public school could have an adverse impact on their education. When a child switches schools, they lose touch with their friends and teachers. Considering the variation in learning standards and class offerings, a transfer could erase a child’s educational and social progress.
  • Religious or Cultural Expectations: When your children attend a religious or culture-based school, it reinforces principles, traditions, and social behaviors they won’t learn in other schools. It can also be a requirement of certain religions.
  • Special or Gifted Learning Needs: In a traditional public school, your gifted or special-needs child won’t usually get the attention they require based on their learning capacity.
  • Your Active Involvement: As a parent, you interact with your child’s teachers. You take on special duties, and you attend school functions. You are actively involved in your child’s education. A move to a new school would alter that dynamic for both you and your child.
  • Family Tradition: If your older children had the benefit of attending a private school, a change in household status shouldn’t change that tradition. It could affect your younger child’s overall education as well as college prospects and future career possibilities.
  • Financial Means: When the other parent has the financial capability to pay private school costs, private school tuition won’t cause undue economic strain. This complies with child support guidelines which mandate that “Children should share in the standard of living of both parents.”

When you present a strong case, the court should accept your view that private school is a genuine obligation to your child. As both parents must share in the child’s support, the court may issue an order for one or both spouses to share the additional costs.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

If private schooling provides the best education for your child, you might be able to work out an agreement with your spouse. If you can’t agree, the court will consider your evidence and make a decision. Either way, you should have a legal professional working on your behalf. Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a Certified Specialist in Family Law. He’s helped clients resolve child support issues during negotiations and in court. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

Modifying Child Support Orders Retroactive Due to COVID-19 in California

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Californians conduct every aspect of their lives. These changes have affected all traditional interactions, including those involving the San Diego County Family Court system. In compliance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders and Superior Court General Orders, all courthouses and services are temporarily closed to the public. Except for “…certain time-sensitive and essential functions…,” affected parties must work within a schedule of court extensions or comply with interim rules. The courts have also suspended e-filings as a document submission alternative.

Fortunately, the situation is temporary. As life returns to some semblance of normalcy, the courts will eventually open their doors. That provides little consolation if you are struggling financially because of your current child support arrangement. If you are frustrated with your current support order and need a change, a legal representative can help you decide how best to proceed.

Discuss Your Concerns With an Attorney

Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a certified specialist in family law and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. He stays abreast of ongoing changes, so he understands how to navigate legal issues and court challenges.  That is important during these unprecedented times when a pandemic controls our day-to-day activities.

Attorney Bishop can provide critical answers to your questions about COVID-19-related support order modifications. With court systems on hold, legal processes are often complicated and tough to manage. Despite temporary court-closings, procedural changes, and delays, he can assist you in initiating a support order modification that takes advantage of a temporary retroactive provision.

Emergency Rules Related to COVID-19

When you need a child support modification order, a temporary delay causes significant hardship. Fortunately, the California Judicial Council recognizes this dilemma. Effective April 20, 2020, they added Rule 13 to its existing list of temporary procedures. Instead of waiting for the court to resume normal operations, you may initiate a child support order modification through an informal process.

Child Support Default: A COVID-19 Legacy

Child support will be a continuing element of concern even after the state’s “stay at home” order expires. The temporary business closings that helped minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 also generated record unemployment numbers. The Employment Development Department reports 99,500 lost non-farm jobs in the state from February through March 12, 2020. The numbers reflect California’s fourth-largest job-loss trend on record. It will likely continue when EDD publishes its updated figures on May 22, 2020.

Temporary job furloughs have left many workers with no source of regular income. The losses have created a situation where both custodial parents and non-custodial parents are caught up in COVID-19’s economic legacy. Some unemployed custodial parents need child support increases to provide food, shelter, and care for their children. Some unemployed parents who must pay child support have difficulty complying with existing agreements. Without some procedural relief, child support accounts will reflect unmanageable delinquencies that may subject non-paying parents to criminal penalties.

Child Support Modification

The San Diego child support system modification process helps ease financial distress for custodial and non-custodial parents. One or both parents may request a child support order modification when a situation changes:

  • Changed income
  • Lost job
  • Incarceration
  • Another child from a different relationship
  • Significant changes in time spent with the non-custodial parent
  • Changes in a child’s financial needs
  • Changes in custody calculation factors

As a custodial or non-custodial parent, you must request a child support modification through a formal court process, and it is best to consult an attorney for assistance.

Emergency Rule 13 Makes The Process More Flexible

With courthouse access restricted to emergency situations and e-filings suspended, the courthouse closings and procedure suspensions effectively shut parents out of the modification process. As the court bases modification dates on the date a request was filed, court services suspensions eliminate the potential for timely relief.  When the California Judicial Council issued Emergency Rule 13, it changed modification order effective dates. Parents must still file a formal request, but the emergency rule gives them some degree of flexibility.

Retroactive Support Orders

Child support orders were not considered in the Judicial Council’s original emergency rules dated April 6, 2020. The initial 11 procedural changes related to criminal and juvenile delinquency matters, foster care, foreclosures, and a few other issues. The emergency child support modification rule became effective on April 20, 2020. Under the temporary rule, a parent may file a modification request by following Emergency Rule 13 Guidelines. If approved, orders are retroactive to the date you started your modification process.

The emergency process allows you to “…start your case now…” and this provision applies only if you cannot file your request “…because of COVID-19…”

Do You Need an Attorney to Assist You With Your Modification Process?

Whether you are sick due to COVID-19 or unemployed because of a layoff, a modification order gives you relief until your financial situation improves. It is an important step. You need a legal professional to make the process go as smoothly as possible.  Attorney Steven M. Bishop, has handled divorce, custody, support, and estate planning challenges for over four decades. He is a Certified Specialist in Family Law who has always dedicated his time and energy to resolving his clients’ most pressing issues.

Attorney Bishop has assisted his clients with support modification orders and many other important legal processes. You can reach him at 619-304-0418 or by completing our Contact Form.

Contact Us Today


Discuss Your Case With An Experienced Family Law Specialist

To talk to our lawyer about your family law issue in a free telephone consultation, please call our office at 619-299-9780. You may also send us an email. We represent people throughout San Diego County in a host of different family law matters.

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