36 States Have Now Passed Child Custody Bills to Protect Military Parents

MA Action Alert

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Fathers and Families

36 States Have Now Passed Child Custody Bills to 
Protect Military Parents; MA Action Alert
July 14, 2010
Top Stories
36 States Have Now Passed Child Custody Bills to Protect Military Parents—It All Started With Our 2005 California Bill


Above is a section of a new document which details the progress Fathers and Families and our allies have been making in addressing the child custody/family law problems faced by deployed servicemembers. This chart was originally done by the University of Pennsylvania but was recently revised and updated by our legislative representative Michael Robinson.

Because of problems in the family court system, divorced or never-married military parents deployed overseas often face the possibility of losing their custodial arrangement and their relationship with their children. Fathers and Families and its legislative representative Michael Robinson have been at the forefront of this issue, successfully working to pass military parent legislation in dozens of states.

In 2003, Fathers and Families publicized the heartbreaking case of Lt. Gary S., a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL who had his child permanently moved from California to the Middle East against his will while he was deployed in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The first success on this issue occurred in 2005 under Robinson's leadership with the passage of California SB 1082. SB 1082 addressed the way parents who serve are often taken advantage of in custody and family law matters while they are deployed, and helped resolve the child support nightmare many mobilized reservists face.

Fathers and Families organized a campaign in support of the bill, and the Senate Judiciary Committee Analysis of SB 1082 made specific note of your calls and letters. The bill was sponsored by Senators Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego) and Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside). According to Robinson, Senator Morrow was first inspired to take up this cause after Morrow read my column The Betrayal of the Military Parent (Los Angeles Daily News, 5/4/03) about Gary S.

Since then Robinson has worked with legislators and staffers in dozens of other states on military parent legislation, and many states have passed bills modeled in part on SB 1082.

There are now 36 states which have passed military parent child custody legislation, including Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, and numerous others. Four other states have legislation pending, including Massachusetts and California. To see a chart of the progress on military parent legislation, click here or click on the image above.

One major problem faced by servicemembers is that their spouse decides to divorce them after they've deployed and then is able to win sole custody. Some military parent bills address this issue by barring courts from issuing permanent child custody orders while the servicemember is deployed.

Another common problem is that a servicemember might have joint custody of his or her children before deployment, and then upon deployment the stateside spouse gets a temporary order of sole custody or sole timeshare. When the servicemember returns, he or she is unable to get the courts to revert back to the original child custody arrangement. Some of these military parent bills allow or urge courts to make the custody order revert back to the original order.

Some of the legislation bars courts from using deployment as a factor in making child custody determinations or provides for expedited and/or electronic hearings for deployed parents.

Our California bill, AB 2416, is one of the strongest in the nation, and F & F's Robinson is currently working with the Department of Defense in promoting legislation similar to AB 2416 in other states.

AB 2416

AB 2416 has passed the California Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committee, and awaits a Senate floor vote before going to Governor Schwarzenegger. (One of our bills, SB 580, a child support reform bill, is on Schwarzenegger's desk, and three others, including AB 2416, are awaiting final legislative approval, which has been temporarily stalled by California's budget crisis.)

Many parents serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, or other distant locales are anguished that custodial parents have impeded or completely eliminated their contact with their children. When the deployed soldier calls his children at the court-specified time, nobody answers. Letters are written, but they never reach the children.  Needless to say, it is extremely difficult for a deployed servicemember to effectively overcome this visitation interference. Given the length and frequency of current deployments, many soldiers lose all contact and sometimes even their relationships with their children, particularly if the children are young.

Other servicemembers return from serving to find that while they once had a custody arrangement which allowed them to play a meaningful role in their children's lives, a new custody arrangement allows them only a marginal role, if any role at all. To regain their previous custody arrangement they must engage in costly, time-consuming litigation, which increases conflict and dissipates much of the time and money that they would otherwise be spending on their children.

AB 2416 will address these problems in several ways:
AB 2416 authorizes courts to issue orders granting grandparents, stepparents and extended families the ability to exercise a deployed soldier's normal parenting time. By encouraging courts to issue such orders, we allow children to preserve their loving bonds with their deployed parents, and also protect the important relationships children share with their grandparents, stepparents, and other extended family. AB 2416 will substantially reduce the current problem of deployed servicemembers being unable to enforce visitation/contact orders.

AB 2416 creates a rebuttable presumption that when a military parent is deployed, upon his or her return, child custody and visitation orders will revert to the original order. This protects the crucial role these parents play in their children's lives, and helps prevent a military parent from having to re-litigate their case.
PictureAmerica was greatly moved by deployed sailor Bill Hawes' tearful reunion with his little son and little Siri Jordan's reunion with her divorced father Dan Jordan.Fathers and Families'legislative work has and will continue to help protect precious relationships like these.

Passing is a time-consuming and painstaking labor which usually requires fulltime, professional legislative representation, such as Robinson's. F & F is creating real, tangible family court reform today, but our deep, professional involvement requires money—contribute to the organization which fights for you by clicking here.

Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers and Families

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers and Families

F & F Helps Pass Child Support Reform Bill SB 580

California Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles) has long been a leader in working for a balanced family law system, and has three child support reform bills pending this year. Fathers and Families, in cooperation with the Department of Child Support Services, the Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar, the Public Defenders Association, and others, has been instrumental in introducing and working for the passage of child support reform bills in the California 2009-2010 legislative session.

The first of these bills to make it to the Governor Schwarzenegger's desk is SB 580, a bill to ensure that noncustodial parents aren't saddled with an unreasonably high percentage of their children's medical care costs.

Join Fathers and Families
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Massachusetts Legislative Alert
MA Action Alert: Call House Speaker, Senate President in Support of HB 1400

Please call Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo's office (617-722-2500) and Senate President Therese Murray's office (617-722-1500) and ask them to
 grant HB 1400, F & F's Shared Parenting Bill, another extension.

From various indications, it is clear that DeLeo and Murray are seeing that there is considerable support behind HB 1400—we want to make that message even more clear. Please be polite and stay on message. To learn more about the bill, click here.

We have been successful in getting HB 1400 extended, while many other bills have died. We have also been getting major and often favorable media coverage on HB 1400. Examples include:
Last week the Boston Globe published a detailed and favorable news story about the bill.

The week before that, ABC's Boston affiliate WCVB did a sympathetic piece on the bill—to watch, click here.

The week before that, Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S., Chair of the Board of Fathers and Families, debated the bill on NPR's Boston affiliate WBUR–to listen to that debate, click here.

Over the past two months both the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Massachusetts' 3rd largest newspaper, have published editorials on HB 1400.

In April, Holstein's newspaper column Time for shared parenting appeared in theTelegram.
Through Fathers and Families' efforts, over one-quarter of the Massachusetts Legislature has expressed clear, public support for our shared parenting bill, many of them signing on as co-sponsors. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the Legislature that if they pass our shared parenting bill, he will sign it, and F & F has met with Patrick. We gathered thousands of signatures to place shared parenting on the 2004 Massachusetts ballot and led a successful campaign for its passage, winning 86% of the vote.

It is late in the legislative session and progress will be difficult, but if the leadership grants an extension then it will still be possible to have a vote on Shared Parenting this year. We urge you to let the leadership of the Massachusetts legislature know that there is considerable support for HB 1400/Shared Parenting. Please call:
House Speaker DeLeo's office. 617-722-2500

Senate President Murray's office. 617-722-1500
Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Chair of the Board

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Alimony Reform: F & F Helps Introduce SB 1482, Provisions Protect Alimony Obligors 

Some alimony obligors assert that their exes are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or are artificially lowering their earning capacity because they'd rather keep collecting alimony. SB 1482, a bill recently introduced by Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles), helps solve this problem by allowing obligors to request vocational examinations for the recipients of alimony payments, and requiring judges to follow the examiner's estimate of the recipient's earning ability when calculating alimony.

The Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar is the sponsor of the bill. Fathers and Families' legislative representative, Michael Robinson, helped draft the bill's protections for parents who pay alimony, and was also responsible for securing a sponsor for the bill.

If you are an alimony and/or child support obligor, we want to hear from you—please fill out our form here. To learn more about the bill and to read our full SB 1482 Support Letter to Assemblymember Mike Feuer, Chair, Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, please click here.

Dads Matter
"My father was the love of my life."

--Gwyneth Paltrow
magazine, 7/9/10


© 2010. Fathers and Families. All Rights Reserved.

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Volunteer Testimonial

"I have been a step-parent for over 20 years and now am a doting grandmother to two beautiful granddaughters. By spending time with my step-children through the years, I have seen first-hand the wants and needs of children whose parents are divorced or separated. I believe children deserve the opportunity to love and to spend time with both of their parents equally through shared parenting."

By Susan Takach, Member, Ohio