“Establishing child custody, modification, and visitation standards for a military parent; amending Rules 77 and 99, Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure; and providing for an effective date.”
Posted: February 22, 2010
Bill Version: CSHB 334(RLS)(EFD ADD S)
Status: Chapter 44 SLA 10 : 2010-06-04
For nearly a decade, the War on Terror has required Alaska to frequently deploy our active military, reserve, and National Guard troops. This high deployment tempo is putting even more pressure on our already strained military families. Children who are already in unusual circumstances due to their parents' military careers are being put in the situation of having to deal with a deployed parent. It is no wonder that the divorce rate for members in the military has been steadily rising for the past decade.
However, while the travesty of divorce is hard enough on all members of a family, the court system is also finding it difficult to balance the issues of deployment with child custody issues. A deploying family member now must fight a battle on two fronts, the one in the Middle East, and the one at home. HB 334 ensures that the court system has clear directive as to how it should deal with a deploying military member if they should find themselves in the midst of a child custody battle. It affords them the right to an expedited hearing so that matters can be taken care of before deployment, if necessary, and it also allows the member to delegate their visitation rights to another family member in order for the child to maintain all familial connections. Most importantly, HB 334 requires that a court not use deployment as the sole reason for a change in a child custody order. 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.
In 2009, because of the potential for conflict with current states child custody laws, congress deemed military child custody to be the responsibility of individual states.
HB 334 includes the following items and restrictions:
- A definition of a military absence.
- Assurance that military duties cannot be the sole reason for a permanent change of custody.
- Allowance of expedited hearings with restrictions.
- The right to delegate visitation to another family member.
- Allowance of electronic testimony.
- Limitations on temporary custody orders.
In recognizing that the federal government should not legislate a Military Child Custody statute, that Alaska has many service-members, that the United States military currently has a high rate of deployment, and that military divorce rates continue to rise, now is a good time for the Alaska Legislature to address military child custody.