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Protecting the rights of military parents in child custody cases

With recent figures suggesting that military divorce rates may be rising, and service members actively deployed around the world, child custody is often a concern. Many residents of New Orleans are currently on active military deployments, and many more are subject to be called up in the future in the event of a crisis. A congressional committee is exploring a proposal which would help protect and enhance the child custody rights of parents in the armed forces.

The proposed Servicemember Family Protection Act would prohibit a court's use of a service members current or future active military deployment as the sole basis for ruling against him or her in a child custody contest. Military parents can be suddenly ordered to the furthest corner of a globe and have little or no control over when that occurs or how long they will be away.

The proponents of the legislation say that serving their country in this way should not subject them to being the automatic loser in a contest for the primary custody of their children. Rather than give military members an advantage in such court proceedings, as advocates contend, it merely removes a disadvantage.

The same proposal has previously been passed in the last four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, but each time failed to be endorsed by the U.S. Senate. The current version of the bill defines military deployment to include unaccompanied overseas tours and humanitarian missions, such as aiding the victims of natural disasters, as well as military combat zone deployments or support operations.

Sometimes, even when a member of the military desires to keep primary physical custody of their children, they are sent to locations where it is not practical or safe to bring family members along. In some instances, they may have someone else, such as a grandparent, temporarily care for their child. Working out an arrangement that most benefits a child and preserves parent-child relationships is often the best solution.

Source: Military.com, "Law Would Strengthen Troops' Child Custody Rights," Charlie Reed, April 10, 2012

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