Washington, D.C. - For the second time in two years, the U.S. House has passed Congressman Michael Turner’s (OH-03) provision to protect the custody rights of military parents.
In May of 2007, the U.S. House passed, as part of the Defense Authorization Bill, a provision Rep. Turner introduced to restrict courts from changing the custody of a service member’s child while they are deployed and unable to participate in the proceeding. Today, the House expanded on Rep. Turner’s custody provision by unanimously passing H.R. 6048.
“No parent, courageous and honorable enough to volunteer to serve in the U.S. military, should have their time spent overseas in defense of our nation used against them in their custody disputes. These brave men and women are heroes and deserve every measure of our support while they are deployed and when they return home to their families.”
H.R. 6048 amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to provide for the protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation. H.R. 6048 includes three main conditions that:
1) No court may permanently alter an existing custody agreement while a military parent is deployed;
2) Upon the return of the servicemember from deployment, any temporary change in custody shall be immediately reversed; and
3) No court may consider a military parent’s deployment or possible deployment as a basis for terminating permanent custody.
In 2007, Rep. Turner met Lt. Eva Slusher who lost custody of her daughter because of her 18-month mobilization with the Kentucky National Guard. Lt. Slusher was only able to regain custody of her daughter after a two-year, $25,000 battle.
As recently as January of this year, National Guard Specialist Tanya Towne was stripped of custody of her son because of her deployment to Iraq, demonstrating a need for Rep. Turner’s custody provision.
“Unfortunately, these cases are not isolated incidents. In some cases, courts are overturning established custody arrangements while the custodial parent is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Rep. Turner said. “To use a person’s service to our nation against them as a parent is indefensible, and something that the bill I sponsored will correct. This bill protects our service members and it protects their children.”