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Focus: Military members' child custody rights during deployments

Diverse sources indicate that Florida is home to more than two dozen major military installations, with over 100,000 military members at work in the state. Many of those service members are obviously married or divorced, and a number of them have been on past deployments overseas and will continue to be deployed in the future.

The following story may be of close interest to them, along with hundreds of thousands of other airmen, soldiers and sailors who are serving domestically and in foreign locations.

Deployment is often made an in issue in child custody disputes involving a military member. Courts have made permanent modifications in custody arrangements when a service member is deployed far away from his or her child. Some judges have looked at a likely future deployment as a factor in a custody dispute.

A congressional House bill seeks to change that, and not for the first time. In fact, the House has approved child custody legislation pertaining to deployments on six other occasions, with the bill stalling each time following its consideration by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The outcome could be different this time. All 63 members of the House Armed Services Committee -- every Republican and Democratic member -- have backed new legislation that protects the custody rights of service members while deployed, and they have asked for the strong endorsement of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in getting the legislation passed.

Military members should "not have to live with the constant fear that their custody rights as parents could be in jeopardy due to their service," says Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), one of the House sponsors.

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

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