Service in the armed forces is a noble and honorable calling. Yet a quick look at the steady rise in the military divorce rate over the past decade suggests just how hard military life can be on marriages. What those numbers don’t begin to show, however, is just how hard (and sometimes unfair) the Tennessee divorce process can be on service members.
Believe it or not, members of the military who have been divorced or who are going through the divorce process can (and do!) have their susceptibility to deployment used against them in child custody decisions. The good news is that that may be about to change.
A bill that would strengthen the child custody rights of military members is currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed by both houses of Congress, the Servicemember Family Protection Act would prohibit family court judges from ruling against military parents in child custody cases solely on the basis of past or future deployments.
Rep. Mike Turner, the bill’s sponsor, feels that deployments alone shouldn’t disqualify parents from being granted primary custody and says that the proposed law “does not provide an advantage to service members in a custody case, it just takes away the disadvantage” that enables judges to permanently deny primary custody rights to service members solely because of their line of work.
We are going to continue tracking this bill as it makes its way through Congress and will provide updates as new developments warrant. In the meantime, Tennessee parents who are concerned about being denied custody rights in a military divorce or post-divorce proceeding can do themselves a favor by keeping their Ex or soon to be Ex informed about deployments and alternative custody arrangements.
Source: Stars and Stripes, “Law Would Strengthen Troops’ Child Custody Rights,” Charlie Reed, April 10, 2012