P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2009
AUSTIN — The Senate Committee on Jurisprudence today unanimously approved SB 279 by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, protecting the parental rights of military personnel deployed overseas. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
"When our service men and women deploy, they are not abandoning their children. They are serving our country. That service should be honored -- not used against them in family court," Senator Nelson said.
SB 279 amends Section 156 of the Family Code to prohibit a parent's military service from being used as the sole factor in modifying a custody order. Current law states that if a parent relinquishes custody for more than 6 months, courts can modify his or her custody order. The intent was to deal with situations of abandonment.
There are more than 140,000 single parents in the military at risk of having their custody rights altered while they are deployed overseas. The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects soldiers from creditors, eviction, and property seizures while they are deployed. However, there is no protection under custody laws, prompting states such as Michigan, California, and Kentucky to enact protections similar to those in SB 279.
Testifying at today's hearing in support in support of SB 279 were the American Legion and advocates for military parents who have returned from duty to find their custody rights have been abridged.