Deployed Soldiers losing their kids??
Some time back I read about a soldier who lost his kids while he was deployed. His wife divorced him and in fact cleaned house” so to speak. The soldier was unable to get the courts to issue temporary orders until he could could be present for hearings. I don’t recall all the specifics or the soldier’s name. But, I wondered as I made up my new support forum, was this an isolated situation? Or, did it occur more often than we realize. So, I did a Google search.
I found a site, RachelsTavern.com. There is a post there, Soldiers Losing Custody of their Children Due to Deployment, that was first posted in May. Originally, that post was about Lt. Eva Crouch and her fight to stop her kids from being taken away from her during her deployment to Iraq. But, in the comments section, story after story was posted about different soldiers who also lost their kids during deployment!
This is a tragedy that is befalling countless single parents who have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other duty stations, including Germany. One judge considered duty in Germany not a fit environment for kids and granted custody to the partitioner to keep custody of a soldier’s kids when he deployed to Germany, where the family would allowed live also. While he went and made arrangements for his family to follow, his kids were taken away.
Soldiers who have remarried are also losing their kids by previous marriage when they deploy. In many cases, no consideration is given regarding the stability of the home environment, the kids’ wishes, or the fitness of the partitioning party. One man was given custody of his kids because the mother’s live-in boyfriend, and later husband was physically abusive to the mother. Still, she partitioned the courts after the soldier deployed and was granted custody of the kids.
The kids in question had received counseling to adjust to the new home life, new half-siblings, and were doing very well in a happy, stable home. His present wife, their kids, and the kids by his former wife all lived together and when he deployed, his new wife was continuing to provide a stable home environment.
There are laws protecting active members of the U.S. military from being distracted by lawsuits over bad debts while they are serving their country in wartime, and to prevent spouses back home in the U.S. from being summarily evicted for falling behind on the rent. But when it comes to custody of their children, that’s a different story.
“The minute these guys are getting deployed, the other parent is going, ‘I can do whatever I want now,'” says Jean Ann Uvodich, a lawyer who represented Marine Cpl. Levi Bradley in a Kansas family court battle over the custody of his son. His former wife now has custody, after the judge ruled held that the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that would have helped protect him during his absence from a collection over a bad debt didn’t apply to his child.
It isn’t only parental rights that are at issue, though; in most states, laws call for judges to take into account the best interest of the child, says Dale Koch, an Oregon judge who is president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. “You don’t want to penalize a parent because they’ve served their country. On the other hand … you don’t want to penalize the child.”
Crouch and an unknown number of others among the 140,000-plus single parents in uniform fight a war on two fronts: For the nation they are sworn to defend, and for the children they are losing because of that duty.
A federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is meant to protect them by staying civil court actions and administrative proceedings during military activation. They can’t be evicted. Creditors can’t seize their property. Civilian health benefits, if suspended during deployment, must be reinstated.
Understanding Military Legal Matters
And yet servicemembers’ children can be – and are being – taken from them after they are deployed.
Some family court judges say that determining what’s best for a child in a custody case is simply not comparable to deciding civil property disputes and the like; they have ruled that family law trumps the federal law protecting servicemembers. And so, in many cases when a soldier deploys, the ex-spouse seeks custody, and temporary changes become lasting.
Military mothers and fathers, meanwhile, speak of birthdays missed. Bonds, once strong, weakened. Returning from duty not to joyful reunions but to endless hearings.
They are people like Marine Cpl. Levi Bradley, helping to fight the insurgency in Fallujah, Iraq, at the same time he battles for custody of his son in a Kansas family court.
Like Sgt. Mike Grantham of the Iowa National Guard, whose two kids lived with him until he was mobilized to train troops after 9/11.
Like Army Reserve Capt. Brad Carlson, fighting for custody of his American-born children in a foreign land after his marriage crumbled while he was deployed to the Middle East and his European wife refused to return to the States.
And like Eva Crouch, who spent two years and some $25,000 pushing her case through the Kentucky courts.
“I’d have spent a million,” she says. “My child was my life … I go serve my country, and I come back and have to go through hell and high water.”
In the midst of World War II, back in 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the soldiers’ relief law should be “liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation.”
Shielding soldiers, after all, would allow them “to devote their entire energy” to the nation’s defense, as the law itself states.
But in child custody cases, the opposite often happens.
The article at Military.com has information about how you can help soldiers who are deployed to defend our nation fight to keep their kids. Please read their article. Take the time to help protect the integrity of the “family rights” of our soldiers.
Our soldiers risk their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere every day. Yet our country takes away their children to repay them for their sacrifices. I don’t know about anyone else; but, I believe this is criminal. Our soldiers deserve better than this! Please help them keep their kids!! Please help them preserve their families!
~ by devildog6771 on August 29, 2007.