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Florida, other states to consider uniform military custody rules

Military service members who face child custody issues would benefit from standardized national laws that protect members who are deployed, according to the Uniform Law Commission, a national panel whose mission is to standardize state laws.

Complex custody issues arise when a single parent is deployed on duty in another state. For example, if a Texas resident is on duty in Florida, which court has jurisdiction over time-sharing issues? Can the spouse or parents of a deployed service member participate in visitation with the member's child during the member's absence? Can the spouse of an individual deployed overseas move to another state and sue the service member for divorce in the new state?

Under the current system, state laws dictate the answers to these questions, and a service member from Washington can end up with a different result than a service member from Florida. A service member could be subjected to the laws of a state that he or she would never have moved to absent a military deployment.

The Uniform Law Commission advises against the enactment of federal legislation regarding child custody. Family law is the province of state lawmakers and state judges, so the commission works instead with state legislators, encouraging individual state legislatures to adopt its recommendations and incorporate them into their state family law statutes to establish a national minimum standard.

Once a minimum standard is in place, each state would have the option to add more pro-military child custody laws to its books.

Source: ABC News, "US panel: Improve child custody rules for military," Kristin M. Hall, July 18, 2012

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