The Assembly Judiciary Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove that concerns custody arrangements for military personnel.
The 9th District Legislators’ legislation (S-1051/A-634) would provide that the court, whenever making a determination concerning child custody or parenting time, would not consider the absence or potential absence of a servicemember parent by reason of deployment with the U.S. Military as a factor in determining the best interest of the child.
Additionally, the Delegation’s legislation would prohibit a court from modifying or amending any judgment or order concerning child custody or parenting time, or issuing a new order changing a custody arrangement while the servicemember parent is deployed, unless it is in the best interest of the child.
“This legislative initiative seeks to comprehensively address the complications that are created or compounded for veterans and their families by the inflexibility inherent in current State law regarding child custody,” stated Senator Connors, who serves on the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “In light of the tremendous demands on their time that arise in connection with their military service, veterans are entitled to broader protections under the law that preserve their basic parental rights. Our Delegation would also like to point out the steadfast efforts of Senator James Beach, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who has been instrumental in advancing this important legislation.”
The 9th District Delegation first introduced their legislative initiative in September of 2007. On June 28 of this year, the Senate unanimously passed the Delegation’s legislation.
Assemblyman Rumpf remarked, “By design, our legislation stipulates that New Jersey would retain exclusive, continuing jurisdiction in child custody cases during the period of the deployment and the 90 days following the day of deployment. To be consistent with federal law, our legislation would preserve all rights and protections servicemembers are afforded under the federal ‘Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the “New Jersey Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1979 which protect the civil rights of persons serving in the Armed Forces.”
“Corrective action is desperately needed to amend existing law that prevents servicemembers’ overseas deployment or treatment for sustained injuries to be permitted to be used, by themselves, as justification or reason for changing custody arrangements,” said Assemblywoman Gove who serves as a member of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Having been thoroughly vetted in the Committee process as well as being passed unanimously by the Senate, we are confident the provisions of our bipartisan legislation carefully balance respecting the parental rights of servicemembers while at the same time protecting the best interests of the child or children involved.”