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House bill would protect child custody rights of military members

Members of the Armed Forces sacrifice a great deal to protect our nation, even in times of peace. Deployed in an increasingly hostile world, however, they are asked to risk even more. Yet despite the great sacrifices and dangers that our service members make and face every day, military deployments are frequently used against them in child custody rulings issued by courts in Nevada and nationwide.

This is a shameful situation, but it may soon change — thanks to a bill now being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Currently, judges can and do use military deployments as a factor in determining what type of child custody arrangement would be in the best interest of children. Because deployments usually last for at least several months (12 months is normal for the Army, for example), service members facing deployment don’t often receive primary custody.

The new bill would bar judges from considering military deployments of 60 days to 18 months in length when trying to determine what is in the best interest of a child. The bill would also protect service members who are forced to transfer child custody to another person due because of a deployment by requiring pre-deployment custody arrangements to be reinstituted after a service member returns.

While this is good news for Nevada parents who serve in the military, it should be noted that bills with similar child custody protections and language have been passed by the House six times since 2008. Each previous time, however, the bills died in the Senate.

Source: The Washington Post, “Proposal would protect custody rights during deployments,” Timothy R. Smith, March 19, 2012

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