Albany, N.Y. – 02/26/2014 – Senator Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson), Chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, has announce that S3507A, legislation to protect active duty military service members from losing permanent child custody due to deployment, has passed the New York State Senate.
“Our active duty military service members shouldn’t have to jeopardize the custody of their children for serving our nation. The last thing our troops should be concerned about is losing their children while they serve overseas protecting our county,” said Senator Greg Ball. “I am delighted that the New York State Senate has again passed this legislation, now it’s now time for the Assembly to do the right thing and follow the Senate’s lead in finally passing this bill.”
In 2011, Senator Greg Ball held a hearing on the current status, quality of life and health of veterans and military service members in the State of New York. The most startling and emotional testimony came from Mr. Harold Cooney Northeast Region Liaison from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Ms. Tanya Towne, a veteran of the National Guard, on the current custody issues facing our military service men and women.
In 2004, Ms. Towne’s National Guard unit was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq. A temporary order was issued for her son to stay with his father, Ms. Towne’s ex-husband. Shortly before Ms. Towne was expected to return home, her ex-husband filed, and was granted permanent custody of their son.
When returning home from an 18 month tour guarding conveys in Iraq, away from her home and family, Ms. Towne was not greeted by her son. Her husband refused to let him attend her homecoming. Ten days later Ms. Towne appeared in court to attempt to regain custody, which was denied. A custody trial was scheduled for February 2006, in the meantime her son would stay with his father.
In August of 2006 a Judge ruled the Ms. Towne’s ex-husband provided a more stable environment and awarded him primary custody of their son.
Regardless of the financial burden, Ms. Towne fought on. Her appeal came before the Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department of New York State Supreme Court in October of 2007. Ms. Towne’s attorney vehemently argued it was inappropriate for the family court to use her deployment as grounds to contest a custody arrangement. On January 3, 2008 after a two year custody battle, the Judges ruled that the “consequences of her extended absence” had to be considered in awarding custody of her son, and it wasn’t in the best interest to move him again. Ms. Towne’s ex-husband was granted permanent custody.
In Ms. Towne’s emotional testimony she stated the obvious, soldiers should not have to chose between serving between their country and losing their family. If she knew she was going to lose her child she would have done anything to avoid going overseas.
The legislation first passed the Senate in May of 2013. The bill has been sent to the Assembly.
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