Defense Bill Recognizes Custodial Rights of Military Parents
January 31, 2008 – Washington, DC – A bill signed into effect this week by President Bush provides protection for child custody arrangements of deployed military parents. Its implementation reaffirms the rights of military parents and acknowledges the government’s support of these families.
The 2008 Defense Authorization Bill amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to prohibit courts from permanently modifying the custody arrangement for a child that existed upon the date of the service member’s deployment. While temporary arrangements may be made for the period of deployment, no court may consider the absence of the service member by reason of that deployment in determining the best interest of the child.
“With more of our service men and women deploying for their second or third tours overseas, this act provides the protection and government backing necessary for them to focus on the task at hand,” said Greg T. Rinckey, a former Army JAG Attorney who concentrates his practice in military and family law at Tully Rinckey PLLC. “The amendment could mark a significant turning point in the cases involving military personnel who have lost their children as a result of serving our country.”
One such case involves Tanya Towne, a member of the New York Army National Guard who was stripped of custody of her son after deploying to Iraq in 2004.
“While the bill may not affect the outcome of Ms. Towne’s case, the attention which she and others with cases like hers have generated caused a positive rippling effect, resulting in the inclusion of this amendment,” said Rinckey. “Future military parents who face deployment will be able to rest easy knowing their children will not be taken away because of their service.”