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Child custody often leads to dispute in military divorces

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With so many military bases in Maryland, it's not uncommon for many divorces in the state to involve a spouse in the armed forces. A military divorce is a battle that most servicemen and women are not prepared for, especially when it comes to child custody. If there are children involved in a military divorce, judges tend to be unsympathetic and instead lean toward the parent who is not deployed and away from the children for months at a time.

Even though these brave men and women are away from their children for long periods of time in order to serve their country, they are considered absentee parents in the court of law. Even if they are exceptional parents when they are home with their children, judges fail to take this into consideration. This is complicated by the fact that military life means frequent relocation across the country. This can not only make life challenging for any children involved, but it can complicate things in the courtroom as well, since laws vary by state and each child needs a "home state."

In order to make child custody fairer for military families, a new act, the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, is underway. This law will make it so that a service member's past or future deployment is not used against him or her in a child custody case. It is currently enforced in two states, with five others testing it out. It has not made its way to Maryland yet.

Child custody is based on the best interests of the child. Deployed parents risking their lives to serve their country should not be forced to give up their right to be a custodial parent. Unless there is a strong reason to keep a parent out of a child's life, all parents should have an equal opportunity to remain a primary force in their child's life.

Source: ABC 10, "Military divorces pose special challenges," Kristi Tousignant, Aug. 30, 2014

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