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Federal proposal could bring custody relief to deployed soldiers

Active military members have plenty on their mind, especially those that are serving their country on overseas deployment. We have talked about divorce rates for military members before on this blog, and the numbers are high. One of the last things a military member needs to be thinking about is potential family litigation while they are deployed, such as child custody arrangements.

In any divorce where a child's well-being is at stake, the best interests of that child are always on the mind of the parents and the court. But military service does complicate the issue. Federal officials are looking to help alleviate some of these military issues pertaining to divorce with a new bill that would expand the impact of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The bill would ensure that military members faced with deployment are not unfairly punished for their service with child custody arrangements that leave them without much recourse. One aspect of the bill eliminates potential deployments as part of a judge's consideration of the best interests of a child.

For example, say a military member were to be sent to Germany for one year and was enduring a child custody dispute prior to his deployment. A judge may award special arrangements (or even sole custody) to the other spouse because the lack of presence by the military spouse could be deemed detrimental to the child's best interests. This bill would protect a military member from this treatment.

In addition, the bill would reestablish pre-deployment custody arrangements if temporary orders were put in place for the child. To be considered "deployed" under the bill's wording, a military member would have to be out of accompaniment of family members for at least two months, and for no more than 18 months.

Source: Washington Post, "Proposal would protect custody rights during deployments," Timothy R. Smith, Mar. 19, 2012

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