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Commission Seeks Uniformity in Child Custody Laws for Military Families

Under Texas law, child custody determinations cannot be made solely on the gender of the parents. For example, mothers should not automatically get custody just because they are the mothers. However, when it comes to parents in the military - which is often the father - family courts throughout the nation are often biased against absent parents when making child custody determinations, even if their absence is the result of military deployment.

However, the Uniform Law Commission - a group of 350 state-appointed lawyers who draft uniform laws - is now considering changes to child custody rules that may provide additional protections to military service members. Specifically, the commission is now finalizing the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act.

Currently, many states are attempting to deal with military deployments by enacting their own distinct child custody laws in order to protect the rights of service members. Unfortunately, these laws tend to be inconsistent throughout the country, meaning questions of child custody can change greatly from state to state.

So, if one parent decides to move when the other parent is deployed, various problems ensue when the military parent returns and seeks custody or for the other parent to return to their home state. These many jurisdictional problems merely illustrate the great need for uniform rules.

It is important to note, however, that these uniform laws are merely suggested laws that do not actually have force of law until each individual state enacts them. For example, various versions of another set of child custody laws drafted by the Commission - the Uniform Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act - have been enacted by 49 states.

Hopefully states will see the merits of these newly drafted laws and eventually enact them - after all, just because someone chooses to fight for their country doesn't mean they should be at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to fighting for custody of their children.

Source: USA Today, "Panel: Improve child custody rules for military," Associated Press, July 18, 2012

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