Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Servicemember Family Protection Act (H.R. 4201) by a vote of 390-2. The bill, which protects the child custody rights of our deployed men and women in uniform, was introduced by Congressman Mike Turner. This is the seventh occasion that legislative language addressing this issue has passed the House. The bill is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 72 House Members.
"With every deployment, our men and women in uniform live with the constant fear that their custody rights as parents could be in jeopardy due to their service. This legislation would ensure that being deployed, or the possibility of deployment is not used against them when child custody decisions are made by the courts," said Turner.
"Deployments are tough on families. And when things are not right at home, it adds to the stress of the servicemember stationed overseas. This legislation would alleviate some of that stress by ensuring child custody decisions cannot be influenced by a current, or future, deployment. Servicemembers should be assured that their chosen career in the military will not impact their relationship with their children, and this bill is a step in the right direction," said Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Miller's Committee, which has jurisdiction over Turner's legislation, had passed the bill on to the full House unanimously.
This past month, Turner was joined by Congressman Rob Andrews (NJ-1) in sending a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, requesting his support for protecting the child custody rights of our men and women in uniform. The lawmakers were joined by every member of the House Armed Services Committee in supporting the request. In 2011 both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, provided letters of support for the legislation.
"I urge the Senate to act on this important legislation for our nation's war fighters. They have seen some of the longest and toughest deployments our military has ever undertaken. The least we can do is to ensure that their children aren't taken away from them, while they are defending us overseas," added Turner.