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Bill could protect Ohio military members facing custody disputes

Solid child custody arrangements can be difficult to develop and sustain. When a member of the family has to leave for an extended period of time, these arrangements only become more difficult and tenuous.

A new federal bill introduced by House Representative Michael Turner of Ohio would protect the child custody rights of military service members. As it stands, courts may use military deployments against service members when determining the best interests of the child. This bill would prohibit family court judges and magistrates from considering military deployments and service when considering the best interests of the child. Additionally, the bill provides for custody arrangements to return to pre-deployment status upon the return of the service member.

The proposed legislation has received mixed reviews in Congress. Since 2008 the legislation has passed the House of Representatives six times but continuously gets caught up in the Senate. The bill has now once again been introduced in the House of Representatives and referred to the Veterans Affairs committee for review. If passed, the bill would be added as a provision to the 2003 Service members Civil Relief Act.

One caveat is that military members qualifying for the legislative protection must be actively deployed for at least 60 days and up to 18 months. The military orders for deployment must also explicitly prohibit the accompaniment of family members while the service member is on active deployment. The future of this legislation is still unknown but Turner is reportedly optimistic that the legislation will eventually pass both the House and Senate.

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

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