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Deployed Miltary Servicemembers: Bill Preserves Custody Rights

Proposed federal legislation would require state family law judges, including California’s, to automatically re-establish, upon a servicemember’s return from deployment, the custody and visitation schedule in effect at the time the servicemember was deployed. Under current law, many servicemembers lose custody and visitation time when deployed because they cannot be present to defend against requests modifying child custody and visitation orders.

According to this March 19, 2012 “Washington Post” article, if, during specific qualifying types of deployment, custody is temporarily granted to another person, upon the servicemember’s return, the court would be required to re-establish the custody arrangement as it was prior to deployment. Essentially, the court could not consider the servicemember’s deployment in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Qualifying deployments would include such deployments as those that prohibit the accompaniment of family members (e.g., combat assignments)l Also, deployments must be between 60 days and 180 months in duration.

As the “Washington Post” article points out, similar bills have passed the House six times since 2008, but none has passed the Senate.

If enacted, this bill will modify the The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.