Child Custody Military Style: a different kind of battle

military child custodyAn active-duty military serviceman recently approached us with an inquiry regarding his wish to gain custody of his two sons, as the other siblings are over 18 years old and living independently. He and his wife had divorced in early 2013; at the time, both parents agreed it was in the children’s best interest to live with their mother. Since that time, he was stationed across the country in Virginia. On a visit back to California to see his newborn grandchild, it came to our potential client’s attention that his sons were living under unstable conditions. His ex-wife had been evicted, and since had taken the two younger children to live with a friend. Her driver’s license was suspended, her vehicle registration expired, and her car uninsured. These realities were very concerning to this man, hence why he came looking for a “quick resolution” to gain custody of the two boys.

The first thing this man needs to accept is that a quick resolution is highly unlikely. California has jurisdiction over the two children, and they won’t be able to move with him to Virginia without a successful motion in the San Diego Family Court for sole physical custody. The man’s ex-wife will presumably put up a fight, with or without the help of an attorney. He must also take into consideration what his sons want, as judges are supposed to listen to the feelings of children regarding child custody if they’re over the age of 14. This man needs to look at this situation holistically and see that the process for gaining custody after almost three years will be an uphill battle. Of course, nothing is impossible, and a military man equipped with perseverance most likely has the skill set to see this type of battle through. We wish him good luck!

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Veterans Administration Update

Veterans Administration UpdateIn response to the VA scandal that broke in May, 2014, you might have expected that heads would roll and the VA would shape up.  You’d be disappointed.  Only 60 people in the vast VA bureaucracy actually lost their jobs because of their involvement in manipulating wait time numbers.

Sharon Helman, the chief administrator of the Phoenix facility, was among them, but her termination was upheld in court not because of the wait time scandal, but because she took gifts from lobbyists!  VA bonuses also increased in the face of Congressional outrage.  Helman lost hers initially, but got it back when she successfully sued.  The VA Secretary during 2014 still managed to hang on until the spring of this year.

In the meantime, the number of veterans waiting for care didn’t shrink.  Instead it grew by 50 percent.  The VA says the growing wait times are attributable to soaring demand for medical services, brought on by the aging of Viet Nam veterans, the opening of new treatment centers, and a combination of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and exploding demand for costly new Hepatitis-C drugs.

Hepatitis-C is a liver disease which can lead to HIV, cancer, and death.  A 12 week course of treatment with one of the new drugs can cost $84,000.  In case you haven’t heard, the country is experiencing a Hepatitis-C epidemic, not only among veterans but also among the general population, particularly in Appalachia.  Some 60% of Viet Nam veterans test positive for the disease, acquired from transfusions and blood contact in combat or training. Overall, one in ten veterans are infected.

The wait time crisis was supposed to be partially solved by a supplemental appropriation last summer of over $16 billion for the VA, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act.  The Act created a Choice Care program, with Choice Cards veterans could use to obtain private care.   However, implementing the program included setting up panels to ration treatment, which caused an uproar within the VA itself.  A relatively small amount of the money has been used for Choice Cards, and the VA wants to take a big chunk of it to offset its operating deficit.

Representative Mike Coffman (R – Colorado), a vocal critic of the new VA Secretary, said, “This is an organization that is so incompetently led that they can’t even tell us how much any given procedure costs, so it doesn’t surprise me that they can’t manage their existing resources to better serve veterans.”  The crisis in veterans’ care continues.

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By Stan Prowse


DepressionI’m a lawyer in Carlsbad, California.  A large part of my practice is family law, and many of my clients  are Marines from Camp Pendleton.  Once a service member has been diagnosed with PTSD, the diagnosis sticks like glue, having seriously adverse effects when there is a conflict regarding custody of small children.  Judges and minor’s counsel are disposed to believe all service members with PTSD are sooner or later bound to “snap” and hurt their kids. Convincing anyone otherwise is a tall order.  If anyone is aware of any studies regarding the correlation of unpredictable personal violence with  a diagnosis of PTSD, I would be much obliged for a citation.

Stan Prowse

Military Families in Crisis

iStock_000006148116SmallMilitary families in crisis have a choice between military and civil protective orders.


Military protective orders can be obtained quickly and easily by an abused spouse by going to the other spouse’s command. The drawback is that they are usually all encompassing, preventing any contact at all between the offending spouse on one hand and the abused spouse and any minor children on the other.  A civil protective order, on the other hand, can be tailored to fit the particular situation.  For example, where there are minor children the offending spouse will usually be allowed to have  and to communicate with the abused spouse about the children, although often by email only.  If the situation is salvagable, a civil protective order is like to be the better alternative.

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Stan Prowse

PTSD and Child Custody

DepressionPTSD is a major obstacle in child custody disputes.


PTSD characterized in part by sudden aggressive outbursts or sudden violence will be a major obstacle to a current or former service member’s chances of obtaining unsupervised visitation with his minor children, much less joint physical custody.  The courts, as well as minor’s counsel, will put the children’s safety and freedom from emotional trauma ahead of all other considerations if they believe there is a risk that the member will “snap.”  Once there has been a diagnosis of PTSD, the member must accept the diagnosis, however unfair it may seem, rather than go into denial.  The way forward is to undergo all available psychotherapy and drug therapy, so that a solid mass of professional evidence is available that treatment has been willingly sought and successful.  In short, any member with PTSD in his record must be prepared to prove to a skeptical judge that he or she is not going to harm children or anyone else.


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Stan Prowse