AK House Majority
The 26th Alaska State Legislature, 2009 - 2010  
Press Release: Rep. Bill Thomas

House OKs Military Child Custody Bill

Thomas’ HB 334 ensures courts have clear directives when dealing with deploying family member in custody
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Rep. Bill Thomas R-5
Ak House Majority

Rep. Bill Thomas (R-5)
Ak Majority Organization

Ak Majority Organization

Posted: March 25, 2010
Contact: Kaci Hotch, 465-3732, Chief of Staff

(Juneau) - The Alaska State House today unanimously passed House Bill 334, legislation providing new directives and restrictions for the court system to follow in child custody cases when one parent or family member is, or will be, deployed. House Finance Committee Vice-Chair Bill Thomas, R-Haines, sponsored the bill.

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Ak St Legislature MajorityOur men and women are sacrificing enough for our country; their military service should not be a reason in itself for them to lose custody of their children.Ak St Legislature Majority

“A deploying family member should not have to prepare for a battle on two fronts, one in theater and the other at home,” Thomas said. “The court system is finding it difficult to balance deployment with the child’s best interest, so HB 334 provides them with clear directives and definitions. The pressures of military life and deployment already put a strain on our servicemen and women, not to mention the children and family support involved. The bill is a priority of the Veterans Caucus that I and Senator Charlie Huggins co-chair, and we’re thankful my peers in the House passed it out.”

HB 334 includes the following items and restrictions:

  • A definition of military absence
  • Assurance that military duties cannot be considered when determining child custody
  • Allowance of expedited hearings, with some restrictions
  • The right to delegate visitation to another family member
  • Allowance for electronic testimony
  • Limitations on temporary custody orders

“Most importantly, HB 334 requires that a court not consider deployment when determining child custody; the Best Interest of the Child is the prevailing guideline, nothing will happen unless it is in the best interest of the child,” Thomas said. “Our men and women are sacrificing enough for our country; their military service should not be a reason in itself for them to lose custody of their children. My personal priority, as a veteran, is also on the mental stability of the soldier – we don’t want someone in theater or service having to deal with the mental and physical strain, we want them to be fully-engaged and prepared.”

The bill has been heralded by military family rights advocates as model legislation for other states to follow. The American Bar Association also supports states passing similar laws, approving a resolution urging states to enact legislation prohibiting denial of child custody to a service member based solely on absence due to military deployment.

HB 334 now heads to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

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2010-03-25 : 00:35 : [AUDIO] Rep. Thomas comments on the passage of HB 334
 Download Audio  [MP3:356KB]

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