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Child custody and service members

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Presently, in Maryland and elsewhere, in determining the best interest of the child as it pertains to child custody, some military deployments can work against service members. However, a bill that would be a provision to the Service Members Civil Relief Act was recently reintroduced to the House almost two weeks ago. This bill would maintain child custody agreements for service members that get deployed.

To qualify to maintain a custody order, the military order would need to be at least 60 days and no more than 18 months. In addition, the order must not allow the accompaniment of family members.

If this bill is passed into law, and a custody arrangement is subsequently temporarily shifted to another guardian during the military member's fulfillment of the order, the pre-deployment arrangement would be reinstated upon the service member's return.

All of these decisions are weighed in according to what is "in the best interest of the child." In Maryland, custody disputes can become very emotionally-driven in the court room, as children are often an individual's most important legacy and most beloved treasure. Whether parents are in the military or not, they may have opposing views regarding the best custody agreement for their children.

If this bill passes, no longer could military parents be prevented from gaining custody of their children due to certain military deployments. To date, this bill has passed the house six times since 2008, but has failed to pass in the Senate. Time will tell the Senate's decision this time around.

Source: Washington Post, "Proposal would protect custody rights during deployments," Timothy R. Smith, Mar. 19, 2012

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