At Fathers and Families we receive many letters from divorced or separated military servicemembers with painful but preventable family law problems. Currently, Georgia is one of the few remaining states that has no protections in statute.
To address these problems, Department of Defense Liaisons Office legislative representatives and Fathers and Families legislative representative Michael Robinson worked to introduce Georgia’s SB 112 and HB 282. Both bills largely mirror Fathers and Families’ California AB 2416, which was passed into law last fall. Many months in the making, the bills will help protect military parents’ child custody rights during and after deployments.
Because of the rapid progress of SB 112, a decision was made to focus on that bill rather than additionally moving HB 282 and risk bills having competing amendments. This week Governor Nathan Deal signed SB 112. We applaud the Governor, and also Representative John Yates and Senator Joshua McKoon for sponsoring the bills.
SB 112 will address servicemembers’ child custody issues in several ways. For one, they will authorize courts to issue orders granting grandparents, stepparents and extended families the ability to exercise a deployed soldier’s normal parenting time. By encouraging courts to issue such orders, we allow children to preserve their loving bonds with their deployed parents, and also protect the important relationships children share with their grandparents, stepparents, and other extended family. These bills will substantially reduce the current problem of deployed servicemembers being unable to enforce visitation/contact orders.
SB 112 creates a rebuttable presumption that upon a servicemember’s return from deployment, child custody and visitation orders will revert to the original order. This protects the crucial role these parents play in their children’s lives, and helps prevent military parents from having to re-litigate their cases.