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New bill upsets National Military Family Association

Couples in New Orleans that have a spouse serving in the United States military and those involved in a military divorce may want to take notice of a new bill passed recently by the U.S. House.

The Servicemember Family Protection Act was created by Ohio State Representative Mike Turner. It states that men and women who are actively serving the county on deployment should not have to worry about losing custody of their children. While this sounds acceptable, some critics of the bill, including the American Bar Associating and the National Military Family Association are claiming the act unfairly favors members of the military before the children's interest.

In addition, they said the bill not only brings up cases before judges who do not specialize in family law, but also has the potential to increase legal fees for the families involved. The bill has even upset Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said the priority of custody cases should focus on the well-being of the child.

Turner, however, maintains that the act is a positive one because it aims to protect the parenting rights of members in the military. His claim is that the bill would prevent a judge from taking a service member's deployment into consideration when deciding on child custody. However positive the intent of the bill is, detractors say that without some minor - but crucial - revisions, the rights of military members would outweigh the best interests of a child.

Although the House passed the bill, the Senate has yet to do the same. Still, warnings are coming from all sides. One of the spokespeople with the NMFA said she feels the bill may take other reform efforts backwards, as states already have created laws regarding military divorces and child custody cases. Creating this layer of federal involvement, she says, will only hurt those efforts.

If couples going through a divorce need more assistance with understanding the Servicemember Family Protection Act, consulting an attorney can be an important step.

Source: HeraldNet, "Military child custody bill has its detractors," Tom Philpott, June 11, 2012

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