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Navy servicemember threatened with child custody loss

It stands to reason that a U.S. servicemember who is deployed should receive special considerations during child custody negotiations. One Michigan man is fighting against a rule, however, that would cause him to lose custody of his daughter to his ex-wife. The reason? He cannot attend custody hearings because he is deployed on a nuclear-powered submarine overseas. The woman in this case lost physical custody of her child in 2010 after being investigated for child abuse and neglect. That woman eventually pleaded no contest to assault, and the child was removed from her care. In the interim, she has reportedly failed to make several child support payments

The Naval servicemember followed the procedures contained within the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which mandates that court provide 90-day stays in civil matters if military service limits availability. After completing that documentation, the man expected that the child custody hearings would be postponed according to civil mandate. However, the hearings were held anyway, as the man continued to serve his country abroad.

The case has understandably sparked outrage among legislators and residents throughout the area. State lawmakers say they intend to introduce legislation that would prevent such egregious abuse of the child custody system. One state senator called the judge's decision "a slap in the face" to all military members who have full child custody rights.

Military members who are actively serving their country should not be penalized in family court because of their career choices. In this case, the child had been living with her father and stepmother. Many activists are shocked that the court would consider sending the child back to a mother with a history of abuse simply because of the man's military deployment. Ultimately, the best interests of the child should be honored, no matter whether the father is sometimes absent because of his job.

Source: Lansing State Journal, "Adrian sailor could lose custody of daughter for missing custody case while deployed" Robert Allen, Gannett Michigan, Jun. 21, 2014

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