Legislation sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove that concerns custody arrangements for military personnel was passed unanimously by the State Senate.
The 9th District Legislators’ legislation (S-1051) 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 Delegation offered the following remarks on the Senate’s passage of their veterans’ legislation:
“It has become obvious that State law is too rigid and doesn’t take into account serious underlying issues in child cases involving servicemembers, given the length of what can be multiple deployments and other complicating factors that can be associated with military service.
“In serving the interests of active military personnel, our Delegation has introduced legislation to take corrective action to amend existing law that allows for servicemembers to be denied their parental rights when child custody cases are conducted while they are deployed. We are acting to prevent servicemembers’ overseas deployment or treatment for sustained injuries to be permitted to be used, by themselves, as justification or reason for changing custody arrangements.
“To avoid complicating the process, under our legislation New Jersey would 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. Lastly, our legislation would preserve all rights and protections servicemembers are afforded under the federal ‘Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.’
“State law must reflect the hardships and stress for military families that in some cases can be caused by a servicemember’s deployment. In all, the provisions of our legislation carefully balance respecting the parental rights of servicemembers while at the same time protecting the best interests of the child or children involved.”
The 9th District Delegation first introduced their legislative initiative in September of 2007. Assemblyman Rumpf and Assemblywoman Gove are prime sponsors of the identical companion bill (A-634), which is currently awaiting action by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.