Connors, Rumpf & Gove Bill to Prohibit Permanent Changes in Custody Arrangements for Deployed Military Personnel Advances
The Senate Judiciary Committee today advanced legislation (S-1051) 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 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.
The 9th District Delegation first introduced this legislative initiative in September of 2007. Assemblyman Rumpf and Assemblywoman Gove are prime sponsors of the identical companion bill (A-634), which is currently lodged in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
“A servicemember’s overseas deployment or treatment for sustained injuries should not, by itself, be permitted to be used as justification or reason for changing custody arrangements. Our veterans put too much on the line to not have ample protections afforded to them under the law supportive of their parental rights.
“This is an important issue for New Jersey’s Armed Forces community as there are currently seven military bases in the state, and 64 National Guard armories in 42 communities, with a significant number of New Jersey citizens serving in the military.
“Currently, servicemembers can be denied their parental rights when child custody hearings are conducted in their absence when they are deployed. State law guiding custody decisions should reflect that a servicemember’s loss of custodial arrangements and the disruption of family contact does not, in the end, serve the best interest of the children involved.
“Our legislation would also require that the parenting time arrangements that were in effect prior to the servicemember’s deployment resume once they return. Additionally, protections would be put in place to prevent changes in custody orders until at least 90 days after the servicemember returns, unless such action is necessary to protect the child’s health or safety.”
“This legislation is necessary to address serious family issues in what can be an extremely difficult transition when a parent is deployed. Since these brave men and women sacrifice so much to protect our families, we have an obligation to ensure that servicemembers’ parental rights are respected.”
Two key amendments were adopted in Committee to strengthen the 9th District Delegation’s measure. Under the amended bill, New Jersey shall retain exclusive, continuing jurisdiction in child custody cases during the period of the deployment and the 90 days following the day the deployment or treatment ends. Additionally, the bill would preserve all rights and protections servicemembers are afforded under the federal “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.”