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States, Feds Debate Military Child Custody Issues

New moves are afoot in Congress as well as in some states to safeguard the child custody rights of military parents. In California, and throughout the nation, long – and sometimes repeated – military deployments can become issues in child custody disputes. Typical of the horror stories generated by this issue is the case of a National Guard soldier from Vermont who returned from a tour of duty in Iraq to find “to find that his ex-partner had been granted full custody of their child in his absence,” according to a recent newspaper report on the issue.

The fact that the laws governing these disputes vary significantly from state to state only serves to complicate matters further. According to the California Alliance for Families and Children, our state is in better shape than most on this score. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation in 2005 designed to protect and clarify the California child custody rights of parents serving in the military. Other states, such as Vermont, are still debating such legislation.

As a newspaper in Ohio recently reported, however, some members of Congress are pushing to establish national standards. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently agreed to meet with Ohio Congressman Michael Turner to discuss the issue. Turner, who has introduced legislation on the topic four times since 2007, is seeking the military’s support for a federal bill designed to remove state-by-state uncertainty over deployments and their impact on child custody questions in California and around the country.

Even with legislation designed to protect soldier-parents in place, California child custody cases can be made more complex when the military service of one (or both) parents becomes an issue. This may especially be the case if one of the parents lives in another state where the laws may be more favorable to their circumstances.

Situations such as these highlight the importance of having an experienced California child custody lawyer on your side throughout any Los Angeles or Orange County divorce and child custody proceeding. Protecting all of the rights you enjoy as a parent is a central element of your California custody attorney’s job. You should expect your attorney to keep up on changes in California’s custody laws as well as those of other states that might have a bearing on your case.

Centerville-Bellbrook Times: Turner to meet with Defense Secretary Gates

Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus: Vt. Guard Backs Bill on Child Custody

California Alliance for Families & Children: Details of SB1082

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