Provision authored by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) ends year-long battle
Washington, D.C. - Since first learning that some judges used deployed military service as grounds to reverse the custody arrangements of service member parents, Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) has fought to end what he calls “undue judicial intervention.” Monday, Turner’s nearly year-long fight to protect the custody rights of deployed service members ended favorably with the President’s signature of the Defense Authorization Bill.
“When I first learned of the fight our service members had to go through to regain custody of their children when they returned home from serving our country abroad, I was struck by the lack of fairness in our judicial system,” said Rep. Turner. “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 our deepest gratitude.”
Turner’s compromise includes two main conditions: 1) the provision restricts courts from changing the custody of a service member’s child while they are deployed and unable to participate in the proceeding; and 2) courts are also advised against using a military parent’s deployment as the sole reason that custody of a child is taken away. The provision amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act which eases the legal and economic burdens on military personnel called to active duty.
Rep. Turner met one parent who successfully fought to regain custody of her daughter, but at a high personal cost. Lt. Eva Crouch-Slusher served an 18 month mobilization with the Kentucky National Guard. Her service was later used as the basis to strip her of custody of her daughter Sara. After a two-year, $25,000 battle to regain custody – that was ultimately successful – Lt. Slusher has joined Rep. Turner to advocate for the protection of custody rights. (Source, AP May 6, 2007: www.house.gov/miketurner/custody.shtml, AP January 31, 2008: www.house.gov/miketurner/custodyresolved.shtml)
“Unfortunately, Eva’s story is not an isolated incident. Family courts have chosen to use the time our men and women serve away in active military duty against the service members in custody decisions. In some cases, courts are overturning established custody arrangements while the custodial parent is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Rep. Turner said. “To use that service against them as a parent is inexcusable, and something that the provision I offered corrects legislatively. The provision protects our service members and it protects their children.”