For many fathers in Missouri who are in the military, being away from their children is difficult. And with soldiers still being sent to fight in Afghanistan, an extended deployment is possible. This situation is made even harder for divorced military fathers. Several members of Congress and other groups are fighting to make child custody determinations more fair for military members.
One group, the Uniform Law Commission, is working to standardize custody protections for military members in every state. The group met recently to approve its Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which the group hopes will be enacted by state legislatures.
An attorney who helped write the proposed law said that it will ensure that a state does not cede jurisdiction over a child custody matter just because a military parent is not in the state.
For an example, a father in the Navy who was deployed in 2007 returned to find his wife had taken the couple's daughter and fled to another state and was refusing to allow him to visit. The man asked a court to order the return of his daughter, but the judge said he didn't have jurisdiction because of the sailor's military orders to leave his state of residence.
There has also been a law proposed in Congress that would prevent judges from using a deployment against a parent when making a custody determination. Indeed, a parent shouldn't be punished for serving his or her custody by never being able to see their children.
The Uniform Law Commission opposes the proposed federal law, because it believes family law matters are a state issue. But a federal minimum might be helpful in preventing military fathers from being unfairly ruled against.
Source: Associated Press, "US panel: Improve child custody rules for military," July 18, 2012