Skip to comments.War Veterans Return Home To Custody Battles
Posted on 03/17/2006 9:54:54 AM PST by Abathar
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two Kansas City-area women are fighting to get their children back after serving their country overseas.
When Dena Stephenson went off to war, her 6-year-old daughter, Kristina, went to stay with her father. Stephenson followed the military's Family Care Plan, which gave temporary power of attorney and guardianship of her child to the father.
"Once I came back from deployment, naturally, my child wanted to be with me nonstop," Stephenson said.
Stephenson said she was supposed to get Kristina back when she returned home, but now the girl's father is asking for 50-50 custody.
"I don't agree with that as a parenting plan. I don't think it's healthy for the child and I've already missed a year of her life," Stephenson said. "It hurts me that he's trying to do this, and in the long run, I think it's going to hurt her, too."
Regina Ellis is going through a similar experience. She was deployed overseas for a year, and she also followed the Family Care Plan. Now that she's back, Ellis has lost custody of her son, Trevor.
This month, her ex-husband gained full-time custody, and Ellis said she sees Trevor only every other weekend.
"It's not just us and it's not just the Army and it's not just females -- this is military-wide, and it hurts," Ellis said.
Both Ellis and Stephenson are fighting their cases in court this spring.
KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo., reported that a law passed in 2003 is supposed to protect soldiers in war zones from civil lawsuits until they return. But now that law is being challenged in Kansas courts.
There is also a case pending before the Kansas Supreme Court about a Marine who lost custody of his son while he was in Iraq.
"If I'd never been deployed to Iraq, I don't think we'd be going through this," Stephenson said.
A spokeswoman at Fort Riley said returning soldiers are offered re-entry counseling, but no legal assistance in civil matters.
He's probably paying 100% child support, but it's wrong for him to have 50% custody.
Sounds like a one-way street to me.
welcome to a dude's world. you've come a long way baby.
"If I'd never been deployed to Iraq, I don't think we'd be going through this," Stephenson said.
So none of the things you did prior to that had any effect on your life, huh?
My thoughts exactly.
No lady, it's won't hurt her to spend time with her father on a regular basis...
This is an interesting issue on a number of levels, but what I find so intriguing is that it basically involves a conflict between Federal law (under the military's Family Care Plan) and state law (under Kansas rules regarding child custody).
It's happening and it sucks. IMNSHO
but now the girl's father is asking for 50-50 custody.
Agree totally. I bet she still wants that 100% child support and for him to just go away and mail the check each month.
If I'd never been deployed to Iraq, I don't think we'd be going through this," Stephenson said.
I think that it is probably healthier for the child to not suddenly have to go from living with her father to living with her mother via joint custody. The article doesn't say how long she was away, but the child I'm sure has grown used to living with her father.
This is the only - ONLY - time I have ever heard of the mother being denied custody. ALWAYS, the man has his kids taken from him by some Judge Judy-type activist lawyer.
I agree with you. Equality sucks for the people who use the word as a cudgel.
Funny noone ever had a problem with men having every other weekend visitation. I think if both parents are willing, 50/50 parenting is fine and fair. Both parents must agree to live near each other, but most want to pretend their previous life didn't exist and act like they have no obligation to their ex-spouse and child. They do. Lesson, make damn sure before you go having kids with someone.
Oh, how sinister!
The women are fighting in war, what kind of men are these guys?
Maybe they are fathers, that due to the system that works against men, never had a fighting chance to have their kids live with them and to experience the joy of parenthood. After getting the chance, they might not only love their kids even more for having actually spending a lot of time with them, but see an opening to be a larger part of their kids' lives.
I don't know but I sure wouldn't show my face in public if my wife was deployed and I was the stay-at-home dad.
How about when the tables are turned and fathers lose their rights because they serve?? It's happened and it's not funny either way.
compare how many guys got drafted and killed to the number of women.
compare ratios of male/females killed now in Iraq/Afghanistan.
compare the number of men who get custoday to women.
compare PT test score requirements.
then we'll have a good place to start the "fairness" baseline.
What about the children? Should they be taken out of school midyear and from where they have been living for sometimes more than a year. Keep in mind the children aren't living with strangers: we are talking about the other parent here. The interests of the children should come first, they are not property.
That's right. Funny you should put it that way.
The kind who don't run out on their kids. The kind who have as much right to custody as the mothers - who volunteered for jobs which they knew might take them away from their children for months at a time.
I have sympathy for every guy who was drafted who has had that happen in the last 10 years.
As to the volunteers, everyone has to choose between career and family.
I listen to Dr. Laura almost every day during lunch. I'm not sure what kind of society we're in now, I hear both good and bad, but the bad seems to be really bad.
IMO that's a cop out. Sorry. Try again.
Now that being said. The service member's election to place a child in the custody of the other parent during deployment should not be looked upon by the courts as a voluntary surrender of custody. I also think they will probably find legal protections from having custody decisions made in their absence.
Is the child best served by being with a parent who is there for them, and can give a stable environment, or by the parent who wants an on call babysitter in another city where they can dump the child when their job takes them out of the country for a few months?
So the only people serving in our military should be single?
Agreed. But on the other hand, a stable environment for the child should be part of the 'best interests' inquiry.
I also think they will probably find legal protections from having custody decisions made in their absence.
I also agree that that is the current law, and a good one, but it appears that that law is being challenged. "KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo., reported that a law passed in 2003 is supposed to protect soldiers in war zones from civil lawsuits until they return. But now that law is being challenged in Kansas courts."
If you don't want to share custody, DON'T GET DIVORCED.
I didn't say that. Long overseas deployments, however, may not be in the best interests of the child.
A similar issue is beginning to appear on the civilian side as well. Yuppie parents get divorced; one takes a job across the country. Courts are starting to give custody to the parent who stays in town as being less disruptive to the child.
You didn't have to say it: it's inherent in your argument that military service, if it involves deployment - which in today's world we must assume it does - is incongruent with having a family.
One more reason why women don't belong in the military.
It's not incongruent if one parent is deployed while the other remains at home with kids--that is a reasonable sacrifice people have made for ages. But if parents are divorced, and one leaves for an extended period, it should be expected that the other one will gain (and continue to have, in the interest of stability) a larger role in the children's lives.
Fighting? I doubt it. Besides, I don't see you on the front lines, what's your excuse?
Except we aren't talking about all military, are we? We are talking about military folks who were either 1)never married (which is detrimental to having a healthy family) or 2) divorced (which means the family that they had wasn't very healthy).
So I'll agree that a person with an unhealty family situation, who happens to be in the military, may not be the ideal parent.
And now I'm out of here for a good while, but if you want to continue, I'll be happy to pick it back up when I return to the computer.
So, for the sake of argument, the man who leaves the US in service to his country, in good faith, and has a wife left at home who decides for whatever reason, that she's had enough and files for divorce, should then be penalized BY the goevernment which he serves for his choice to serve our country by losing custody of his kids as well??
So, you prefer the alternative, which is being raised by one parent and excluding the other?
And which branch were you in?
I was never in the military and I'm too old to go in now (if they would even want me).
Actually it is the ex-wife.
Be sure to work to keep that judge from being re-elected.
Thanks for the discussion. FRegards.
If the divorce happens after he's already deployed (or committed), that's certainly a reasonable exception to that I said. But if he's already separated and still goes off for an extended time, he should expect less of a relationship. I respect his sacrifice, and he certainly shouldn't lose all his time with his kids, but it's probably in the best interest of the kids to remain with their mother if they've been with her full-time for a year.