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Delay ordered until father returns in Navy child custody case

Military parents in Maryland and elsewhere can face unusual challenges to their parental rights. For these moms and dads, it is especially important to mount an aggressive defense of their child custody rights, and to take every possible step to protect the best interest of their children. Many politicians across the country have taken up this cause, and feel strongly that serving one’s country should not be used as grounds to remove a servicemember’s child from his or her care.

One case has led to large-scale debate about the child custody rights of the men and women within the armed forces. A father who is currently deployed on a submarine in the Pacific Ocean was ordered to appear in court or have another person bring his 6-year-old daughter to court, with the potential of having the child turned over to her mother. The mother lost custody of the girl four years ago, but has had some level of contact with the child through visitation.

The little girl has been living with her stepmother while her father is deployed. The stepmother, in response to the recent order, took action to raise media awareness of the story, which led to multiple politicians speaking out about the case. In a recent hearing, the judge delayed the matter until the father is able to appear and argue for his child custody rights. In doing so, the judge cited a federal law stating that servicemembers should have court proceedings delayed when they are on deployment or otherwise unable to attend due to their service obligations.

Had the stepmother not taken this action, a young child could have been uprooted from her home and family, simply because her father was serving on a submarine and could not be there to fight to keep her. The case speaks not only to the unique difficulties that military parents can face, but also to the need to take an aggressive stance in child custody matters. Many in Maryland will continue to follow the case as it moves forward, and will watch to see what role, if any, the father’s military service will play in the ultimate outcome.

Source:, "Judge orders break in sailor's child custody case", Keith Eldridge, June 23, 2014

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