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Child custody bill affecting military members moves through House

Service members in Arizona may be interested in a piece of legislation currently making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would strengthen the child custody rights of members of the military. So far, 63 members of the House Armed Services Committee have endorsed the bill.

In child custody disputes, a family law judge in Arizona and elsewhere will often take into account several factors in deciding what is in the best interests of the child. Currently, one of the factors a judge may use is active-duty deployment. For example, if a service member is about to be deployed overseas, then that could impact their child custody hearing negatively.

Under the bill, introduced by a Representative from Ohio, judges would be prohibited from making permanent changes in child custody while the service member is serving overseas. Additionally, a state court would be prevented from using a person's military service to determine that they are an unfit parent. This could prove tremendously helpful to many members of the military who may be put at a disadvantage because of a military deployment.

The bill has received unanimous backing from the House Armed Services Committee, and it has passed the full House in the past. Nonetheless, in order for a bill to become law, it must first pass both the House and the Senate. Thus far, the Senate has never voted on the piece of legislation. Yet, as the bill gains steam, perhaps that will change. In the meantime, members of the military may feel assured by knowing that a judge will take into account many things in a child custody dispute and a deployment is just one factor among many.

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

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