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Uniform child custody laws for military members on the agenda

Although family courts in Florida and other states work hard to remain unbiased, in practice there are real issues for absent parents in child custody cases -- even when the reason for their absence is that they are actively serving our country in the military. Are the courts fair for the deployed parents? Many argue that the answer is no.

Military personnel are generally protected from judicial proceedings during service by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. However, this federal law does not apply to child custody cases. In order to correct this omission, federal legislation has been introduced in order ensure minimum protections for military parents, but without success.

Despite the federal proposals, the Uniform Law Commission would rather see changes made at the state level as they believe that child custody should remain a state matter.

Recently, a group of national representatives for the Uniform Law Commission met to try to protect the interests of absent military personnel. They have drafted and approved a set of rules in this regard entitled the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act.

This set of uniform codes is intended to standardize and simplify state child custody laws for military service members throughout the country. On one point both federal and state law agree, that parents who are absent from their children's lives solely because they are serving in the military should not lose custody jurisdiction in that state.

Once the uniform code reaches final approval, then hopefully it can start being introduced into state legislatures beginning next year.

As this area of law remains in a state of flux, it is very important for service members and their spouses to reach out for help in order to resolve their child custody and visitation issues.

Source: The Miami Herald, "US panel; Improve child custody rules for military," Kristin M. Hall, July 18, 2012

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