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Child custody and military service: changes coming?

For military service members in Florida and throughout the United States, sharing child custody can be more difficult than with non-military couples. Work hours are often longer and the jobs may require extended deployments, limiting the time service members can spend with their children. Legislation is being considered again in Congress, the crux of which is designed to strengthen military parents' child custody protection.

The bill is being backed by 63 members of the House Armed Services Committee, and while the bill has had some success in making its way through the halls of Congress, it has never been formally passed into law. The provisions would prevent courts from making permanent changes to child custody agreements for a deployed military member or from making the decision to deem a parent unfit solely due to their military service. The bill has been approved six times by the House, five times as a provision that was tagged on to the annual defense policy and once as an individual measure.

However, each time the Senate Armed Services Committee has failed to pass the legislation. Supporters of the bill are hopeful that having the support of all members of the House Armed Services Committee will influence others to change their mind in passing the measure in this legislative session. If the bill is passed, the only way the courts could modify or amend an existing child custody order would be if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. The bill would also prevent courts from making custody decisions based upon current deployment status or possible future deployments.

If passed, this child custody bill may alleviate the fears of military members serving from Florida throughout the world. Making a decision to defend the United States is a courageous one. Many feel that limiting the ability of a military parent to see their child due to decisions over which they have no control degrades the sacrifices that parent has made in order to make the country a better place.

Source: Air Force Times, "Bill would strengthen child custody protections," Rick Maze, April 2, 2012

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