At Gower & Bluck, our attorneys regularly represent members of the armed forces stationed at Camp Pendleton, Miramar, and the local Naval bases – as well as military spouses. Although the California Family Code applies in all military divorce cases in California, there are a number of issues that only pertain to members of the military and their family.
Child Custody During Deployment:
California Courts are generally prohibited from weighing periods of deployment heavily against an active duty spouse during child custody proceedings. In short, the Court cannot “punish” members of the armed forces for serving their country by reducing their custody time. If you are concerned that your spouse is trying to unfairly increase their parenting time due to your military obligations, do not hesitate to contact Gower & Bluck. Our attorneys will ensure that you do not have to choose between your child and your country. We will also ensure that adequate and continuing long-distance contact is maintained with your child during deployment.
That being said, deployments certainly create logistical concerns – both for the service member and for his or her spouse. Custody orders will need to be modified temporarily to reflect the circumstances, should a spouse deploy. Also, absentee parents should not be allowed to hide behind these deployment-related protections. Gower & Bluck will make sure that, in all circumstances, the best interests of the children are maintained.
Determination of Child Support and Spousal Support:
Military service also creates unique issues in child and spousal support determinations. Servicemembers typically receive base pay, a basic allowance for housing (BAH), and a basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) on a monthly basis. Some members of the military also receive special duty pay.
“Income available for support” is defined broadly in California. As such, BAH, BAS, and special duty pay should factor into support calculations – even if a servicemember lives in base housing or the barracks. Additionally, as this pay is not taxed, it carries more weight in a support calculation. At Gower & Bluck, our attorneys can make sure that child and spousal support awards, for military members or their spouses, are always fair and within California guidelines.
Relocation and its Effects on Child Custody:
Military service frequently requires relocation. As such, our attorneys are well-versed in the effects of such relocation on child custody. With a proven history of practicing military divorce in Encinitas, Gower & Bluck can help you either negotiate, or litigate such “move-away” cases. These cases typically require an “evidentiary hearing” – a formal proceeding where live testimony is elicited before a judge, with the judge ultimately making a determination as to which parent shall provide the child’s primary residence. As you can imagine, such a proceeding can prove quite stressful, and it is frequently very adversarial in nature.
As the stakes are often high in such matters, it is imperative that your are represented zealously and effectively. Do not hesitate to contact Gower & Bluck should you be facing relocation.
Military Retirement, Thrift Savings Plan Division, and Tricare Coverage:
Military divorces initiated in the State of California create complicated, overlapping issues regarding federal and state law. A servicemember’s retirement pay vests after twenty (20) years of service. If the servicemember was married for any portion of those twenty (20) years, and that spouse initiates a divorce case in California, the spouse may be entitled to a portion of that retirement pay. If you are a member of the armed forces, or a spouse of a servicemember, it is imperative that you seek out representation as it (1) needs to be determined whether or not California has jurisdiction to divide the military pay; (2) it needs to be determined whether the spouse qualifies for a percentage of the retirement pay; and (3) the amount paid needs to be determined accurately. Furthermore, if a portion (or all) of the retirement pay is ultimately received as disability pay upon retirement, this creates unique issues that must be addressed.
Members of the military also often contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) during their service. If the servicemember contributed during his or her marriage, the spouse may be entitled to a portion of this plan. Our attorneys can ensure that TSP plans are divided fairly, and in a manner that avoids unnecessary penalties.
Finally, the spouse of a servicemember may also be entitled to continued Tricare coverage – even after the divorce is finalized. Gower & Bluck will make sure that you receive all benefits to which you are entitled.
Please contact our Encinitas office for a free consultation regarding these issues and your divorce or custody case. Our office is conveniently located and within a short drive of Carlsbad and Oceanside.