Service members face many challenges, especially service members that are also parents. One issue in particular arises when the parents are separate…the issue of custody. There have been several news articles about service members that initially had custody of their child(ren), but after they were deployed, have lost custody or must now fight to maintain custody.
It blows my mind that you can do the honorable thing of serving your country, but then you may have to worry about whether or not you will lose your child(ren). I feel like if you are willing to make that sacrifice, the then non-custodial parent should not be able to unilaterally (so it seems) be able to take custody from you. And it appears I am not the only one. Co-sponsors Republican Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio and Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews of New Jersey introduced H.R. 1898 to provide some protection to deployed service members.
If the bill is made a law, if a court temporarily changes custody from the service member parent, to the then non-custodial parent based solely on deployment or anticipated deployment, once that service member returns from deployment, the custody order that was in place before should be reinstated. The only reason that the previous custody order should not be reinstated is if it would not be in the best interest of the child (which is generally the standard courts use to determine custody issues). In regards to the best interests of the child, the court will be able to use the service member’s deployment or potential deployment as one factor to permanently modify custody, but that cannot be the sole determining factor.
The bill goes on to speak on federal jurisdiction issues, preemption issues, definition of deployment, and the clerical amendment for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Now, being a future attorney, I must play devil’s advocate lol. I can understand why a deployed service member having custody may not be in the child’s best interest; especially, if that service member is deployed repeatedly. With the custodial parent being deployed repeatedly, that child might have to be uprooted and go to another home, another school, and potentially have to make all new friends. Now I know you may be thinking any military brat will have to face these issues, but when a parent is deployed, the child could face these issues several times within one year.
All that being said, I still think this bill is a great idea. I really hope this becomes a law. I do not think any person should have to choose between serving his/her country or keeping custody of his/her child(ren).
What do y’all think? Should deployment be a sole factor in permanently modifying a custody order?