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Panel of attorneys seeks to standardize military child custody

In Washington, as in every other state, family law questions rest firmly within the jurisdiction of state law. Readers of the Spokane Family Law Blog will recall a recent post discussing an effort in the House of Representatives to provide federal protection for military service members in child custody battles.

The major criticism of that child custody effort focused on the fact that it would involve the federal government assuming authority over family law, which is under state jurisdiction.

An entirely different effort, spearheaded by a national panel of attorneys from all 50 states, is centered in standardizing state child custody laws across the United States.

The Uniform Law Commission consists of about 350 attorneys who were appointed from the states in which they practice. Last Wednesday, they met in Nashville and approved the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. If passed, it will serve as a model code that can be enacted by state legislatures, providing consistency in resolving custody disputes involving military personnel.

Unlike the efforts in the House, the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act would leave jurisdiction over child custody and other family law matters in the hands of the states.

Problems can arise for deployed service members in child custody disputes when a parent moves a child across state lines against the deployed parent's wishes. Deployed parents are not generally permitted to choose where they live. The question of which state has jurisdiction can be complicated by a deployed parent's military orders to move from one state to the next and it can be difficult to determine which state has authority over the child's placement.

Supporters of the model code say that one of the most important provisions allows states to retain jurisdiction over a child even when a parent is deployed outside of that state.

The commission intends to start encouraging states to adopt the model code next year.

Source: NPR, "US Panel: Improve Child Custody Rules For Military," July 18, 2012

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