In 2004, Lt. Eva Slusher, of Frankfort, was deployed as a member of the Kentucky National Guard when she lost custody of her daughter, Sara. After a two-year, $25,000 court battle, Lt. Slusher was ultimately successful in regaining custody of her child, but at great cost.
Lt. Slusher explained her frustration and that of many military parents in similar circumstances: “Soldiers are protected under the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, or so I thought; an employer has to give me my job back after I return from a deployment, but they don’t have to give me my child back.”
“Many military parents don’t expect to find themselves having to fight to keep custody of their children while also fighting for their country,” Congressman Turner said. “Unfortunately, the case of Lt. Slusher is typical for many military parents who have answered the call of duty only to learn later that they’ve lost custody rights over their children due to their service to their country,” said Turner, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This is an unconscionable situation that should never occur, yet a failure in current law allows state courts to rule against military parents based on their deployment.”
On four occasions since 2007 the U.S. House has passed provisions Congressman Turner has authored to add custody protections for military parents. Regrettably, the Department of Defense continues to oppose them all. This year, Congressman Turner has included provisions in the 2010 Defense Authorization Act, which passed the U.S. House on June 25, 2009, to enhance military parents’ custody rights. The defense bill is now headed to conference with the U.S. Senate.
“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 child custody disputes. It’s time to finally afford the protectors of our freedom equal protection under the law,” Congressman Turner added.