Service members should not be penalized during divorce, says Pentagon

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Child Custody on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In a recent statement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asserted his commitment to protecting the child custody rights of military men and women. Gates spoke out in support of a new federal law which would prevent a military person’s service to their country from being used against them during a military divorce proceeding.

In the past, the Defense Department has opposed addressing this issue through federal legislation, but Gates and other Pentagon officials believe time has proven that the only way to effectively protect the child custody rights of all US servicemembers is through federal regulation. Gates claims that the Pentagon will begin collaborating with the House Armed Services Committee and other members of Congress as soon possible to draft a bill and, if all goes well, have it ready for a congressional vote in just a few short months.

This move by the Pentagon reflects concerns that men and women in uniform are losing custody of their children during a divorce due to their active and occasionally unpredictable deployment schedule. Some non-military spouses are claiming that their military husband or wife cannot provide the kind of stable environment which will be best for the couple’s children.

Robert Gates and other proponents of the legislation believe that such claims represent bias against active servicemembers and punish them for their service to the country. Currently, only 16 states have laws which the Defense Department considers adequate to protect servicemembers from this alleged discrimination, which Gates deemed unacceptable. The proposed federal legislation will prevent judges across all 50 states from allowing a military parent’s deployment schedule to affect their stance in a child custody battle.

What is your stance on this issue? Should military parents receive federal protection during the divorce process, or do you feel deployment and other aspects of a military lifestyle should be taken into consideration when deciding custody? Would you want your congressmen and women to support this legislation?

Source: Stars and Stripes. “Pentagon to support bill to protect troops’ child custody rights.” Charlie Reed, 17 February 2011

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