A national legal panel that works to standardize state laws wants to simplify child custody rules for military service members, whose frequent deployments can leave them without clear legal recourse when family disputes erupt.
The Uniform Law Commission, an influential group of some 350 attorneys appointed by all the states, met in Nashville on Wednesday and gave final approval to the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. It is a set of uniform codes that state legislatures can adopt to standardize custody rights for parents who are deployed.
With deployments on the rise from the first Gulf War through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, especially for National Guard and Reserve members, a majority of the states have implemented a patchwork of laws designed to protect service members in child custody and visitation cases. But the rules aren’t consistent across the country, says Eric Fish, legal counsel for the Uniform Law Commission.
Some of the issues state courts have struggled with include how to determine jurisdiction when a military member is assigned to a base in another state, whether a stepparent or grandparent can have visitation rights when a parent is deployed, and whether a temporary custody arrangement should be made permanent when a parent returns from assignment.
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