Pennsylvania Advances Bill to Protect Custody Rights for Deployed Military Parents

Pennsylvania CapitolCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — On Monday, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved House Bill 82, a measure aimed at updating and standardizing custody and visitation rights for deployed military parents. Introduced by Rep. Craig Williams (R-Delaware/Chester), the bill, known as the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, now moves to the full House for consideration.

The legislation amends Titles 23 (Domestic Relations) and 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. It enacts the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, making necessary repeals and editorial changes. This alignment brings Pennsylvania in line with 16 other states that have enacted similar measures.

Rep. Craig Williams, a retired Marine Corps Colonel, has long advocated for military personnel rights, recognizing the unique challenges service members and their families face, particularly during deployments.

“Military parents make countless sacrifices for our nation, and it is paramount that we safeguard their family rights, even when they are overseas protecting us,” said Rep. Williams. “The passage of House Bill 82 out of the Judiciary Committee is a significant step in extending legal clarity and fairness for our military families. This bill not only supports our service members but also serves the best interests of their children, ensuring the parent-child bond remains strong for parents away serving our country.”

House Bill 82 addresses several critical issues faced by deployed military parents concerning custody and visitation. One of its main provisions prevents any permanent custody changes during a parent’s deployment. Additionally, the bill ensures that deployment cannot be used against parents in custody decisions, safeguarding their rights despite their temporary absence.

The bill also facilitates consistent contact between deployed parents and their children through modern communication methods such as video calls and phone calls. This provision aims to maintain the parent-child bond even when physical presence is not possible.

The legislation has garnered widespread support, reflecting a broad consensus for these measures. Endorsements from the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and the American Bar Association highlight the importance of this bill. The Uniform Law Commission has been instrumental in standardizing this law across various states.

House Bill 82: Championing Military Families’ Rights

This development is significant for several reasons. First, it acknowledges the sacrifices made by military families and seeks to mitigate the additional personal hardships caused by deployment. By ensuring that custody arrangements remain stable and fair, the bill provides much-needed peace of mind to service members, allowing them to focus on their duties without fearing adverse impacts on their family lives.

Second, the legislation enhances the well-being of children in military families. Consistent and meaningful contact with both parents, even through virtual means, supports emotional stability and growth. The bill’s provisions help preserve important family bonds despite the physical separation caused by deployment.

Third, the support from esteemed legal organizations and the broad legislative backing underscore the bill’s potential to set a precedent for other states. As more states adopt similar measures, a unified approach to the custody rights of deployed military parents can emerge, providing uniform protections nationwide.

In summary, House Bill 82 marks a crucial step towards ensuring fairness and stability for military families in Pennsylvania. It reflects a commitment to supporting those who serve our country by protecting their most cherished relationships. As the bill moves to the full House for consideration, it carries the promise of bringing significant positive change to the lives of deployed service members and their families.

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