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Military child custody proposal gains momentum in Nashville

Two questions: First, should men and women who serve in the U.S. military be penalized in child custody cases because of deployments that are beyond their control? Second, should a servicemember from Tennessee have the same basic rights and protections in a child custody case as a servicemember in any other state?

If we could ask every American these two questions regarding the military divorce issue of child custody, we feel confident that most people would answer the first question with a "no" and the second question with a "yes." The problem is, those answers don't reflect the reality of our current system of laws.

Back in April, we wrote a blog post about a new congressional bill that would prohibit family court judges from ruling against military parents in child custody cases solely on the basis of past or future deployments. Last week, a national legal panel met in Nashville to approve an alternative solution to the same basic problems.

The panel, known as the Uniform Law Commission, has voiced opposition to the bill arguing that family law should remain a states' rights issue and that the enactment of a federal law would only create confusion.

For readers who aren't familiar with the ULC, it is comprised of more than 300 attorneys appointed by states and has been drafting consistent state laws for more than a century. The ULC's previous successes include the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act of 1997, which has since been adopted and enacted into law by 49 states.

The ULC's solution to the military divorce-child custody conundrum is called the "Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act." The act itself, however, is not a law and has no legal effect. It is simply a set of recommendations for uniform codes that state legislatures across the country can choose to adopt in order to standardize child custody rights for parents who are deployed. The commission hopes to be able to push for the code to be introduced in state legislatures beginning next year.

Source: Associated Press, "US Panel: Improve child custody rules for military," Kristin M. Hall, July 18, 2012

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