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Military Child Custody Reform Bill Enacted - Rep. Thomas's & Sen. Huggins's HB 334

Thomas’s and Huggins’s HB 334 protects deployed service members

Friday, June 04, 2010, Eagle River, Alaska – Representative Bill Thomas, R-Haines, released the following statement today regarding the enactment of his and Senator Charlie Huggins’s House Bill 334. The governor signed the bill into law this morning at a ceremony in Eagle River. HB 334, the top priority of the Joint Legislative Veterans Caucus, includes the following changes to equalize a deployed military member’s standing in child custody and divorce proceedings: defining a military absence; assuring that military duties cannot be considered when determining child custody; allowing for expedited hearings, with some restrictions; granting the right of a deploying service member to designate visitation to another family member; allowing electronic testimony; and, placing limitations on temporary custody orders. The Act takes effect immediately.

Statement

“Senator Huggins and I, along with the support of the Veterans Caucus and our staff, are proud to see this bill become law. We hope our new standards for child custody proceedings involving deploying or deployed servicemen and women can be used as a template for other states to follow. We’re now leading the way in terms of protecting the rights to fair access and flexibility when these events overlap with a deployment. Those protecting and serving our country overseas and at home don’t need another significant stress on their lives as they prepare or work; they don’t deserve to have their voice in the custody proceedings silenced due to their job. We worked hard to ensure that the best interests of the child was still the major determining factor in these proceedings while explicitly stating that a deployment or assignment cannot be used against a party to deny custody. Our soldiers should not have to fight a battle on two fronts. They deserve to know that, while serving our country, they will still be afforded equal access to our justice system at home and that their service is appreciated, not seen as a deterrent when it comes to child custody matters.  HB 334 will provide some much-needed relief.”

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