April 18, 2005



(Individual letters sent to each of the following addressees)

The Honorable Larry E. Craig
The Honorable Daniel K. Akaka

The Honorable Steve Buyer
The Honorable Lane Evans,

The Honorable John W. Warner
The Honorable Carl Levin

Hon. Lindsey O. Graham
Hon. Ben Nelson

The Honorable Duncan Hunter
The Honorable Ike Skelton

The Honorable John McHugh
The Honorable Vic Snyder

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld


Dear ___________:

It was absolutely appalling to read in the March 28, 2005, edition of Marine Corps Times, that our uniformed men (and perhaps women) serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or deployed throughout the world, could have their children taken from them and even jailed on their return to the United States. The culprit appears to be the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Under this Act, if a military spouse moves to another state with the children, who are a part of the marriage union with the service member, and resides there for more than six months the children become presumptive residents of that state. While the service member is deployed, the spouse may file for and obtain a divorce in the new state and most likely gain custody of the children.

The Times article cites a few examples of what can happen to service members whose spouses, without permission from the service member, have taken advantage of the Act to win custody of the children and seek exorbitant support payments based on civilian pay that is generally higher than active duty pay. The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) agrees with the author of the article who writes: "Given service members' limited ability to travel, the cost of legal representation and travel, and the financial hardships crested by child-support and spousal-support obligations, it is difficult for fathers to fight for parental rights in the new state. For many, their meaningful role in their children's lives ends - often permanently - the day they are deployed."

The Act cited above, coupled with the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA), is a double threat that can play havoc with the finances of our active duty and reserve fathers serving in the Armed Forces. While many U. S. citizens are working hard to support the troops, our government appears to be finding more ways to do just the opposite. Our elected lawmakers must do more than provide enhanced compensation packages to show support for the troops. They must offer greater equity in structuring laws that will equally provide for the future security for the service member as well as the spouse and children.

Currently, there is much to do about unscrupulous commercial lenders who take unfair advantage of our men and women in uniform. Yet, there is little if any objection in Congress against civil courts that use the law to favor the spouses of service members, even when the courts violate the law by allowing judges to divide veterans service-connected disability payments with a former spouse. Now there is an additional concern for another method for spouses to gain further financial support from service members; the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

FRA urges your early action in reviewing and correcting this glaring inequity as soon as possible. An amendment to the Servicemembers Civil Service Act of 2003, as recommended by the author, would solve the problem. You and your colleagues are doing a most appreciative task in providing financial and material programs benefiting the troops, now it's time to assure there is equity in the treatment of our service members in civil courts.

FRA will appreciate your views on this issue.

National Executive Secretary