Seattle, Wash. (CBS SEATTLE) — A U.S. Navy sailor from Washington State is currently serving on a submarine thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean, but a judge has ordered him into an impossible custody scenario: Appear in a Michigan courtroom Monday or risk losing custody of his 6-year-old daughter.
Navy submariner Matthew Hindes was given permanent custody of his daughter Kaylee in 2010, after she was reportedly removed from the home of his ex-wife, Angela, by child protective services. But now a judge has ordered him to appear in court Monday, or risk losing his daughter to his ex-wife in addition to a bench warrant being issued for his arrest, ABC News reports.
Hindes’ lawyers argue he should be protected by the Service Members Civil Relief Act, which states courts in custody cases may “grant a stay of proceedings for a minimum period of 90 days to defendants serving their country.”
But the Michigan judge hearing the case, circuit court judge Margaret Noe, disagrees, stating: “If the child is not in the care and custody of the father, the child should be in the care and custody of the mother.”
The judge reiterated that regardless of Hindes’ assignment under the Pacific Ocean, he will appear in court or face contempt of court.
Judge Noe denied the motion for a stay under the Service Members Relief Act, ruling that he could have arranged for his wife to bring the child to her mother, saying, “At this point, I don’t think I have any alternative but to enter a bench warrant for his arrest,” Noe said.
Hindes is not allowed to appear by Skype or phone, and as with most custody cases, not being present in the courtroom often has a large impact on the outcome of the custody ruling.
Hindes’ young daughter Kaylee is currently living with her step-mother in Washington State.
“He’s protecting the rights of others, but who is protecting his rights?” said Hindes’ current wife and the child’s step-mother, Benita-Lynn. Six-year-old Kaylee has been living with Benita-Lynn in Washington State while Hindes is deployed aboard the nuclear submarine.
“I’m just trying my best, to keep everything together,” a weeping Benita-Lynn told ABC News. “It’s just hard.”
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