It is not uncommon for family law judges to take one's military service into consideration when making child custody decisions. If a parent is deployed, or has a chance of being deployed, it is sometimes enough to sway a judge's opinion of what is in the best interest of a child. Ohio's third district U.S. Representative Mike Turner has again introduced legislation that would protect the child custody rights of military members.
The Servicemember Family Protection Act would amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act creating a national family law protecting child custody arrangements of deployed parents. If a child custody motion is filed while the military parent is deployed, the new law would not allow any modification to a previous custody judgment until that parent gets home. The bill would also prohibit family court judges from taking into account the past absence of a parent because of deployment or possible future deployment when deciding custody and placement disputes.
Bill H.R. 4201 has been introduced on Capitol Hill six previous times and has handily passed the House. But, pushback from the Department of Defense has always squashed the bill on the Senate side. The Pentagon reportedly does not want to create a federal rule for an issue that is usually handled by individual state laws and better left up to the discretion of a judge.
Last month, Turner's proposal was supported by several other lawmakers from the House Armed Services Committee who sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking for his support of the bill. Last year, Panetta's predecessor supported the bill. With the DOD on board, it has a better chance of passing in the Senate this year.
Source: turner.house.gov, "Turner and Andrews Joined by Full House Armed Services Committee in Calling for Action on Military Child Custody," April 2, 2012