TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach (D – Camden) that would protect the custody and parenting rights of deployed service members has cleared the full Senate.
“The burdens on our deployed servicemen and women are already great enough. We don’t need to add to that burden by having them wonder if they are going to be able to see their children when they return from serving their country. Protecting their ability to stay in communication with their kids and not have their custody status changed is simply the right thing to do,” said Beach, chair of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
The bill, S1051, would prohibit a court from considering the absence or potential absence of a service member parent or caretaker because of deployment as a factor in making custody determinations. It would also restrict a court’s authority to modify any judgment or order that includes custody or parenting time, or issue a new order that changes the custody arrangement that existed as of the date of the deployment of the service member, unless the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child.
The legislation also calls for deployed service members to have greater ability for visitation of their children when on leave and would require a parent or caretaker to create opportunities for a deployed member to communicate with their children while on leave.
Thirty-six states have adopted legislation to assist divorced or separated military service members maintain parent-child relationships with their children during and after deployments. These laws are intended to restore to service members returning from a deployment the relationships that existed prior to deployment.
The bill now heads to the Assembly.