PENNSYLVANIA — The House unanimously passed legislation yesterday offered by Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chester/Delaware) to update the state’s custody and visitation laws on behalf of deployed military parents.
“As a Marine Colonel who retired after 28 years of service, I’ve witnessed the trauma military families face during deployment, which often includes struggles with divorce and child custody,” Williams said. “When I was a Marine Major, I was the Director of the largest legal assistance center in the Marine Corps. Family-law issues dominated our caseloads, and in too many instances the fact of deployment was used against servicemembers in court to make adverse child custody and visitation determinations.”
Compounding the situation, should a former spouse change states of residence in the middle of a military deployment, another court battle begins over child-custody jurisdiction.
“For the deployed parent, regaining fair custody or even visitation while deployed or when they return home can be a nightmare,” Williams said.
Williams’ legislation, House Bill 2287, would 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 also allows video and phone calls to be part of any temporary custody order, so children of deployed military parents can see and hear their parents while they are away serving our country.
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 safeguard the parental rights of mothers and fathers serving in uniform while they are keeping us safe,” said Williams.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.