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New standards recommended for military child custody cases

Single-parent military service members who are deployed have frequently had difficulties in family court over a variety of issues, particularly child custody. The Uniform Law Commission, a national organization whose mandate it is to recommend standard state laws, has made some suggestions for how states, including Texas, could improve their laws to improve fairness and uniform results for military parents in child custody and visitation disputes.

Military parents frequently encounter issues that can affect their child custody status. For example, what should happen when a parent in the military is deployed to a base in another state? Should temporary custody determinations continue on permanently at the end of a military parent's deployment? What about visitation rights for either a grandparent or stepparent during the military parent's deployment? These issues are exacerbated by the fact that states don't follow the same rules. The Uniform Law Commission has sought to provide answers all states can adhere to, clarifying the rules for military parents and making their child custody issues less of a struggle.

Among the key provisions of the proposed uniform standards recommended by the panel is one preventing a military parent's mere physical absence from the state from being used against him or her. Members of the military, after all, when deployed must go to another state, or even overseas, including to combat zones, and have not voluntarily moved out of state. Unfortunately, sometimes this absence is treated the same as a voluntary move and used against the parent in child custody decisions. Such an involuntary absence should not result in an inability to use the state's courts to resolve child custody or visitation issues.

The standards proposed are merely recommendations, and may be adopted in whole or in part, or rejected by each individual state. The panel making the recommendations has been proposing various uniform state laws on different subjects for more than 100 years. It previously proposed general uniform laws on child custody jurisdiction and enforcement of child custody orders, which were successfully adopted by 49 states.

Source: Newsday, "U.S. panel: Improve child custody rules for military," July 18, 2012

· Our firm handles a wide variety of child custody cases and other family law issues. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Dallas child custody page.

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