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military fathers rightsBy Tara N. Brewer

Special to DadsDivorce.com

A deployed soldier already has to deal with the stress of family separation. Possible changes in child custody and threats to fathers rights during deployment only compound the issue.

A new Pennsylvania bill protects the deployed soldier by stating that no changes in a child custody arrangement can occur with the child of an active-duty military servicemember, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The only exception in changing the child custody arrangement would be for the best interest of the child.  

The new law indicates that a deployed soldier can petition the court for a temporary order to assign child custody rights to family members. Also, the law permits deployed parents to testify via phone, videoconference, or other electronic means if need be.

Originally, during World War II, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) was passed, protecting servicemembers during deployment. This act protects them against outstanding credit card debt, mortgage payments, pending trials, taxes, and terminations of leases.

The SSCRA’s intentions were to allow servicemembers to devote their full attention to duty and relieve stress. However, this law didn’t protect servicemembers from alterations in child custody agreements during their deployment.

Currently, servicemembers are protected by The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA) when deployed. It possesses the same SSCRA benefits with additions.

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The latest amendment passed in every state challenges the "best interest" language. This revision includes specific language regarding child custody proceedings.

SCRA allows only temporary child custody modifications because the custodial parent is deployed. This temporary modification expires when the custodial parent returns from military duty.

If a default judgment is filed during a service member’s deployment, he can submit an application to re-open the issue, proving his deployment.

If you are facing deployment and would like to discuss military rights for fathers and child custody, please contact Cordell & Cordell.


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