Legislation Aims to Protect Due Process Rights of Parents in Armed Forces
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Wayne DeAngelo, Pamela Lampitt and Joseph Danielsen sponsored to prohibit permanent changes to child custody agreements while a military parent is away on active duty was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.
“Stability within the family structure is critical for children with a parent in the military,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “If a change to a custody arrangement ultimately is necessary, the decision ought to be made when both parents are present, not when the mother or father is focused on serving the country.”
The bill (A-3009) would prohibit the court from changing the custody arrangement in place on the date a parent was called into active military duty if a motion for a change of custody is filed while a parent is on active duty. Under the bill, the court may enter a temporary custody order if there is clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child.
The bill also provides that if a motion for a change of custody is filed after a parent returns from active military duty, the court shall not consider a parent’s absence due to military duty, by itself, to be sufficient to justify a modification of a child custody or visitation order.
“An active duty service member’s devotion to the country never should be mistaken as a lack of devotion to his or her children,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The urgent demands of the military may make it impossible for someone on active duty to be present when there’s a concern regarding custody. Unless the child is in danger, it’s only right to hold off on a permanent change of child custody until the parent returns.”
“Changing a custody arrangement while the child’s parent is away on active duty is unfair to both the parent and the child,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. “No one should feel that their military service puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to decisions about their relationship with their children.”
“Each parent has a right to due process when it comes to child custody. Prohibiting changes to custody arrangements while a parent is on active duty is about protecting that right,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset).
The measure was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which DeAngelo is vice-chair.