Panetta Urged to Support Parental Custody Rights

House lawmakers sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calling on him to throw his support behind legislation that would protect the custody rights of deployed military personnel. In the past, some parents—mostly mothers—have sought to use the courts to strip or amend the child custody rights of their military ex-spouses—predominantly fathers—while the latter were deployed. “Our men and women in uniform sacrifice much in the service of our nation. They shouldn’t also have to live with the constant fear that their custody rights as parents could be in jeopardy due to their service,” stated Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) in a release Monday. Turner and Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) penned the letter to Panetta urging him to support the Service Member Family Protection Act (H.R. 4201). Every House Armed Services Committee member co-signed the missive. “This legislation would ensure that being deployed, or the possibility of deployed, is not used against [service members] when child custody decisions are made by the courts,” said Turner. “The parental rights of our men and women in uniform should not be jeopardized simply because they made the meaningful and courageous decision to protect our freedoms,” said Andrews.