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In the News

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Governor Signs Bipartisan Bill to Protect Deployed Military Parents

For Immediate Release
Contact: Donald Wilson
September 6, 2005
Phone: (916) 651-1503

Governor Signs Bipartisan Bill to Protect Deployed Military Parents

Military deployment no longer a weapon against soldiers in California courts

Sacramento - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law Senate Bill 1082, a measure which will help protect parents serving in the military reserves. The bill closes a loophole in federal family law that has made national guardsmen and other reserve parents vulnerable to legal problems such as spousal kidnapping of their children.

Jointly authored by the bipartisan team of Senators Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside) and Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), SB 1082 establishes a procedure for managing child support proceedings prior to the actual deployment of reserve component personnel. The measure requires that the court either accommodate a soldier with deployment orders – or mark the case to denote that the reservist made an effort prior to deployment to update support orders and therefore should not be unduly penalized for noncompliance caused by the deployment.

“Because federal law prohibits the retroactive modification of child support orders for reasons relating to military deployment, activated National Guard troops have actually returned home as criminals,” stated Senator Bill Morrow. “It is important to me to help protect those who are protecting us and bring them some peace of mind.”

Due to their inability to finance expensive child support payments on suddenly reduced incomes, many military men and women would not only be criminalized when they returned, but also find their children had been taken away by court order. SB 1082’s passage will ensure that no reservist or national guardsman will have to endure this injustice again in California.

“SB 1082 is a victory for military parents across the state. This legislation ensures that servicemen and women will be able to concentrate on the duty of serving their country while ensuring that they are able to meet their parental responsibilities at home,” commented Senator Ducheny.

A former Marine Corps officer, Morrow represents a north San Diego County district that includes Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Ducheny’s district includes portions of the U.S. Navy’s multiple installations in the city of San Diego.
Despite attempts in several other states, SB 1082 is the first state-level bill in the nation making such provisions to be signed into law.

Fact sheet on SB 1082 (Morrow/Ducheny-2005)
Senate Bill 1082 helps military members avoid certain problems they face in state family law courts. For example, the bill addresses child support modifications that affect activated Reservists and National Guard members as many leave higher paying civilian jobs when mobilized to their military position. SB 1082 includes an urgency clause, allowing it to take effect immediately upon enactment. The bill provides:

· That complications caused by a servicemember’s relocation, activation and deployment shall not, by themselves, be sufficient to justify modifying existing custody or visitation orders.
· A more simplified process to modify support orders using a new form that the California Judicial Counsel will develop specifically for activated Reservists and Guard members affected.
· That courts give priority to mobilized military members. If not possible, the new law guarantees a court stay (in accordance with Title 50, U.S. Code), pending the servicemember’s return from active duty and deployment.
· That a member has 90 days to address their family law matters once they return home from active service.
· Relief from interest and penalties on any arrears of child support if those interest and penalties result from activation and deployment. In cases where the support payments are to repay Cal Works, arrears directly caused by activation and deployment may be forgiven.
· That the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) give priority to child support cases that are currently handled by the department. SB 1082 includes provisions that allow DCSS and the courts to consider affected parties whose lives may have been impacted before the act was signed into law.

Following are descriptions of two real-life examples provided by servicemembers:

I too became a victim of the system. My support shot up three times the former amount, to include all my combat pay and BAH etc. When I returned from Iraq, I was found in arrears and guilty of contempt. When I left, all visitations was suspended, my current wife was unable to see my son. We are still fighting this issue.
Command Sergeant Major Timothy XXXXX
U.S.Army Reserve

My husband and I are currently on active duty at Fort Riley, KS. His ex-wife filed for child support in Missouri years ago. He must pay support until the children are 21 years old. He has two daughters with this woman. One daughter left home Feb 04, was married by June 04 and now is pregnant. She turned 21 in Feb 05. We asked for a modification last year. Child Support Enforcement told us that we cannot receive a modification because we are in Kansas and the custodial parent is in California. (My husband was stationed in Missouri at the time the case was conducted.) They knew then that he was a soldier and not a resident of the state. My husband retires next year. Our monies will be limited. The State continues taking the whole amount of the support even though one child left home over a year ago. We may have to take the custodial parent to court for the overpayment. But why? We notified the state and the state had the burden to modify due to one of the children turning 21. My husband's check is garnished, so he can't just stop the payment. Please Help!!!!!
Thank You in Advance,
Mrs. Cynthia XXXX