HARRISBURG, PA — The House Judiciary Committee yesterday passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chester/Delaware) to provide a new chapter to the state’s custody and visitation laws on behalf of parents on military deployment.
“Leaving one’s family to serve others is difficult enough,” Williams said. “In some instances that deployment is used against servicemembers for child custody and visitation determinations. Further, should a former spouse change states of residence in the middle of a military deployment, there begins another court battle over child custody jurisdiction. For the deployed parent, regaining fair custody or even visitation can be a nightmare.”Williams’ legislation would, among other things, prevent any permanent custody changes while a servicemember is deployed for longer than 30 days. It will also ensure visitation rights are protected during the deployment.
House Bill 2287 would also allow video and phone calls to be part of any temporary custody order, so deployed military parents are able to see and hear their children while away.
This legislation was developed in cooperation with the United States Department of Defense and the Uniform Law Commission and is supported by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Family Law Section. While many states have passed laws that address some aspects of deployed military members fighting for custody of their children, 16 states have adopted the specific language in Williams’ bill.
“My legislation will ensure the parental rights of mothers and fathers serving our country in uniform are kept safe while they are keeping us safe,” said Williams, who is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps having retired as a Colonel after nearly three decades of service.
The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
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