Victory: AZ Gov. Signs F & F-Inspired Child Custody Bill

Army Reserve Captain Brad Carlson's children were moved out of the U.S. against his will while he was deployed in Iraq.

Update, 5/2/11SB 1283 Governor Jan Brewer has signed the bill.

Update, 4/18/11SB 1283 passed the Arizona legislature and has gone to Governor Jan Brewer for her signature.

Update, 4/12/11SB 1283 passed out of committee and now goes to the full Arizona House of Representatives for a vote.

Fathers and Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson has been working with representatives for the Department of Defense (DoD) on military parents’ issues since passage of SB 1082 in California in 2005. Since SB 1082, 37 states have passed military parent legislation.

Arizona passed its first statute (HB 2635) in 2007, partly inspired by the Brad Carlson case. According to the Cronkite News Service (3/23/07):

When Army Reserve Capt. Brad Carlson left Phoenix in 2003 to serve in Iraq and Kuwait, he and his wife agreed that she should take their three children to her native Luxembourg during his deployment.

After Carlson filed for divorce nine months later while still overseas, a court in Luxembourg instead of Arizona decided who would have custody of the children.

The reason: His children were away long enough under Arizona law for the authority over custody rights to transfer to Luxembourg…

The Luxembourg court allows Carlson to visit his two sons, now ages 8 and 7, and daughter, age 5, three
times a year under his ex-wife”s supervision. His children, who now speak French and German instead
of English, cannot come to the U.S., even though they are citizens, Carlson said.

“I don”t know anything about my kids other than when I speak to them on the phone about once a
month,’ Carlson said. “I had to accept that my kids are not going to be a part of my life.’

This year Fathers and Families and Major Mark Beres, USAF (ret) of the American Retirees Association will be assisting the Department of Defense on SB 1283, which will amend Arizona legislation to better protect the child custody rights of deployed servicemembers.

SB 1283 will limit courts from issuing temporary child custody modifications while a servicemember is deployed. In addition, like AB 2416 which we helped pass in California in 2010, SB 1283 creates a rebuttable presumption that upon a servicemember”s return from deployment, child custody and visitation orders will revert to the original order.

Here are the specific provisions of SB 1283 according the Arizona legislative Fact Sheet:

1.      Prohibits a court from entering a final order modifying parental rights, responsibilities and contact in an existing order until 90 days after deployment for a parent, whose child lives with them the majority of the time, who receives temporary orders that involve moving a substantial distance away.

2.      Prohibits the court from considering a parent”s absence caused by deployment, mobilization, potential for future deployment or mobilization as the sole factor supporting a change in circumstances.

3.      Requires a court, on motion of a deploying or nondeploying parent, to enter a temporary order modifying parental rights and responsibilities or parent-child contact during the period of deployment if:

a)      a military parent who has custody or parenting time pursuant to an existing court order has received notice of deployment or mobilization in the near future; and

b)      the deployment or mobilization would have a material effect on the military parent”s ability to exercise parental right and responsibilities or parent-child contact.

4.      Requires the court to hear motions for modifications due to deployment as expeditiously as possible.

5.      Requires all temporary modification orders to include a specific transition schedule to facilitate a return to the predeployment order over the shortest reasonable time period after the deployment ends and to set a date certain for the end of deployment and the start of the transition period.

6.      Stipulates that temporary orders are to remain in effect during an extended deployment and for the transition schedule to take effect at the end of that deployment.

7.      Requires the nondeployed parent to notify the court of the extended deployment.

8.      Stipulates a nondeployed parent”s failure to notify the court does not prejudice the deployed parent”s right to return to the prior order once the temporary order expires.

9.      Makes technical and conforming changes.

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