Each day in America, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines – are placing themselves in danger. Serious danger. They do this so that we and the citizens of other countries may have a better life and future.
Often overlooked in these daily fights is the reality that for some, their lives are falling apart thousands of miles away and there is very little that they can do to protect themselves from the damage. In many cases, divorce and custody proceedings are started while these people are deployed to fight war in far away lands. If deployed in the midst of a high-conflict divorce and custody situation, they’ve lost what little footing and control that they have in obtaining the best possible outcome.
While there are federal laws in place which protect our armed forces personnel from a variety of legal intrusions that could adversely affect their lives while deployed, the arena of family law is a glaring omission from such protections. Active-duty military parents simply do not have any meaningful parental/custodial rights, even while deployed.
Apparently, the absence of child-custody protections for our military parents is by design. It seems that our Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates, is opposed to federal child-custody protections because the Pentagon views them as “a matter of state law concern.”
From Representative Michael R. Turner – OHIO
Rather than working to implement a federal protection that would not infringe upon state law, which I am currently advocating in Congress, the secretary is blocking any such effort, opting to pursue a lengthy and unlikely course of urging each state to change its own laws. Mr. Gates refuses to meet with me to discuss this.
Representative Turner makes no bones about the recent passage of the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which included language expanding military-personnel protections in terminating pay television services, internet services providers, and telephone services without the service member suffering a penalty. There are no such protections when it comes to protecting a service member’s child custody or parenting arrangements.
We agree with Representative Turner that, “It’s a disservice to our military personnel to think their leadership does not value their commitment enough to provide needed federal child-custody protection while on active duty.”
Representative Turner as teamed up with House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Representative Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat. They’ve offered language in the House-passed fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent courts from permanently altering an existing custody agreement while a military parent is deployed. Upon the return of the service member from deployment, any temporary change in custody would be immediately reversed, unless the reinstatement of custody is not in the best interest of the child. The amendment would prohibit courts from considering the military parent’s past deployment or possible deployment as a basis for determining the best interests of the child in custody court cases. This legislation would not shift custody authority to federal courts, but rather it would ensure that active-duty parents’ rights are protected.
To read the full article and plans for such legislation, click here: Military Parents Shouldn’t Be Punished for Deployment