"States are all across the board on those issues, so the impetus for the uniform act was to provide states with a well-conceived piece of legislation that takes the best practices from all the states that we have seen and give them some guidance," Mr. Fish said.
The commission has been crafting uniform state laws for over a century, including the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is used in 49 states as a standard for establishing jurisdiction and child support orders between states. Its drafts are recommendations and need to be enacted by state legislatures.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Moreno deployed in 2007 while his wife was pregnant with his daughter, Vanessa, at their home in Virginia. But when he returned he found his wife had moved to Arizona and refused to let him see his daughter.
"She had fled from Virginia, where my daughter was born, to Arizona along with everything I owned and my daughter," he said. "She was seven months old."
He petitioned a judge in Virginia to order her to return his daughter, but he said the judge claimed that he didn't have jurisdiction in the case because Moreno had been given military orders to leave Virginia.
"The state of Virginia had jurisdiction and had every right to bring her back," Moreno said.
He's gone through a string of attorneys, but never had any legal success. He said he feels like he has fewer rights in the custody case because he is a service member and the courts don't know what rights he is afforded under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which offers legal protections to service members during their military service, such as suspending certain judicial proceedings.