House supports stronger custody rights for deployed military members

Representative Mike Turner, R-Ohio, touts pro-military legislation that he says “would ensure that being deployed, or the possibility of being deployed, is not used against them [service members] when child custody decisions are made by the courts.” Turner looks forward to passage of a strong new bill that would protect military members’ child custody and visitation rights while they are serving away from their children.

The issue is far from academic and is invoking intense interest in Congress. In Georgia for instance, there are more than 60,000 active-duty service members, coupled with over 40,000 reservists, with installations housing every branch of the military. Divorce is not uncommon in the military, and many families have custody issues

The outcome of custody disputes has often gone against service members solely because of their deployment status, with some courts deeming deployment as a factor in their custody determinations.

Turner and many others in Congress want that changed, with a parent’s deployment status being deemed irrelevant in a custody matter. They say that a child’s best interests — not a parent’s work location — should always be the sole determinant in that outcome.

Turner is co-sponsor — along with Rob Andrews, D-N.J. — of a new House bill that has unanimous endorsement in that body’s Armed Services Committee. Similar bills have been passed that suffered defeat in the Senate, but supporters are hopeful of a different result this time, given that all 63 members of the committee have signed off, evidencing the legislation’s strong bipartisan support.

The committee expects the bill to pass in May and go to the Senate for consideration.

Source: Washington Post, “Proposal would protect custody rights during deployments,” Timothy R. Smith, March 19, 2012

Air Force Times, “Bill would strengthen child custody protections,” Rick Maze, April 2, 2012

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