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How one state enhanced protection of military parents' custody rights

The reality for those brave men and women who serve in our nation's armed forces is that they often face considerable challenges not just on a professional level, but on a personal level.

This is particularly true for divorced service members, as their need to relocate frequently, work odd hours or even be deployed for months at a time can have a very real impact on their custody arrangements and, as demonstrated by a recent case, sometimes wreak havoc from a legal perspective.

Last year, a judge in Michigan made headlines after finding a petty officer in the U.S. Navy to be in contempt of court for failing to attend a child custody hearing and ordering his arrest.

Here, the headlines came not from the fact that a naval officer was the subject of an arrest warrant, but rather from the fact that he was on a submarine in the Pacific Ocean at the time of the hearing.

While the judge eventually relented and lifted the orders, she then ordered the naval officer's six-year-old daughter to be removed from the care of his second wife and placed in the care of her biological mother for the duration of his deployment.

This order came despite the fact that child protective services in Michigan had removed the daughter from the biological mother's home four years earlier over reports of both abuse and neglect.

As disturbing as this case was, recent developments in the state of Michigan have ensured that this won't happen again.

Earlier this week, Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of bills into law that are designed to protect the rights of military personnel otherwise unable to attend child custody hearings due to deployment.

Here, these new laws specifically state that courts cannot modify current custody orders if one of the parties to the hearing files a motion of stay via the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and doing so would not jeopardize the best interests of the child.

It's truly encouraging to see state lawmakers take such definitive action to protect those parents serving in our nation's armed forces.

If you have questions or concerns about any aspect of a military divorce, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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