The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that forbids courts from altering the child custody agreements of Iowa soldiers while they’re on active duty. Senator Steve Warnstadt, a Democrat from Sioux City who is a member of the Iowa National Guard, says it’s a matter of fairness to those soldiers. "This measure is a tremendous stride in helping ensure that while they are serving us, we are protecting them," Warnstadt says.
The bill must also pass the House and be signed by the governor before it becomes law. It was drafted in response to a case involving Michael Grantham of Clarksville, an Iowa National Guardsman. Grantham had primary physical custody of his two kids when he was called to active duty in 2002. He arranged to have his daughter, who was eight, and his son, who was 13, live with his mother while he was on active duty.
But while Grantham was away, his ex-wife asked a judge to grant her custody of the kids and won. When Grantham returned from active duty, the court’s ruling prevented him from stepping back into his previous role as the primary parent for his children and he lost an appeal of the case. Similar cases across the country have prompted a few states to amend their laws to stipulate that a soldier’s deployment cannot be used against them in a child custody dispute.