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Safeguarding parental rights of deployed military members wins Pa. House support

Patriot-News - 9/21/2022

A bill intended to safeguard parental rights of deployed military members in child custody and visitation cases won unanimous passage in state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The legislation, if it becomes law, would put Pennsylvania’s child custody laws as they relate to military deployment in line with 16 other states, said Rep. Craig Williams, R-Delaware County.

The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration in the waning days of the current legislative session that ends Nov. 30.

“As a United States Marine colonel who served for nearly three decades, I can tell you deployment is very hard on families,” Williams said. “Today’s service members can go on five, six, seven different deployments in the course of his or her career. The toll on the family is unimaginable.”

Speaking from his experience in the Marine Corps running a legal assistance center, he said family law issues dominated the center’s work. There, he saw the bias against deployed military members when it came to child custody and visitation arrangements.

His bill would ensure that when a deployment is imminent, past or future deployments cannot be used as a negative factor in determining what’s in a child’s best interest during a custody proceeding.

It further bars a permanent custody order from being entered before or during deployment without the military member’s consent. And it ensures visitation rights are protected during deployment by allowing video or phone calls as part of a temporary custody order, among other provisions.

Williams said the legislation was developed in concert with the Department of Defense and has the support of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

He added his bill “is necessary to ensure that parental rights of our fighting men and women are safeguarded while they’re keeping us safe.”

Jan Murphy may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.

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