Sailor could lose custody of daughter because he’s deployed; this should never happen

An American sailor on duty aboard a submarine could lose custody of his daughter because he can’t make it to court.

And a Michigan congressman is trying to get a federal law passed that will force courts to take service deployments into account when they’re deciding custody cases.

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A “Fox and Friends” story that aired Saturday spotlighted the case of Petty Office Matthew Hindes and his wife who are battling Hindes’ former wife for custody of the 6-year-old girl.

Hindes and his new wife currently have custody of the girl at their home near Seattle, Wash., but his ex-wife is seeking custody from a court in southern Michigan, where the couple lived before divorcing in 2009, according to the Detroit Free Press.

While Hindes’ first wife was originally granted custody, she lost it in 2010 after an abuse-and-neglect case that eventually resulted in a 10-day jail sentence, the Free Press reported. Matthew Hindes took leave from the Navy to retrieve the girl from Michigan authorities and has had her since.

The biological mother, who failed to make child support payments after losing custody of the girl, now lives in a mobile home in northern Ohio, according to the paper. She has since had another child.

The case has become the subject of numerous news reports and an intense social media campaign, including a petition on Change.org and the Facebook page Justice for the Hindes Family.

The case was originally scheduled for June 16, and Hindes’ attorney told the Free Press she expected it to be postponed until after Hindes’ deployment ends. Instead, the judge rescheduled it for Monday, when Hindes will still be on classified duty.

After one postponement June 16 because of Hindes’ service obligation, the case is scheduled for a Monday in a Michigan courthouse, while Hindes is still on deployment.

So, a man willing to raise his child from a broken marriage might end up losing custody of the girl to his ex-wife who had already been granted custody, lost it and since had another child, according to the Free Press.

And the decision could be made while he’s not able to attend a hearing because he’s serving his country abroad. And only his physical presence will do. According to numerous reports, Hindes is not allowed to attend the hearing by Skype or by phone.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Mich., told “Fox and Friends” Saturday he’s proposed a federal law that would require courts that take custody away from parents while the parents are on duty in the service to reinstate their custody when they return.

“Our service members should not be penalized for serving their country,” Turner said. “Unfortunately, family law courts use the time away of deployment against our service members.”

UPDATE:

The judge in the case, Lenawee County Judge Margaret Noe, issued an order on Sunday putting off a decision until Oct. 22, according to the Associated Press.

In the order, Noe cited a federal law that defers action in civil cases while a service member is on duty. According to the AP, she said she didn’t know until June 16 that Matthew Hindes is aboard a Navy submarine and unable to attend custody hearings.

Noe has received a barrage of criticism for her handling of the case, but said “sensational stories” were being written that sacrificed facts, according to AP.

Check out Turner’s appearance on “Fox and Friends” here.

 

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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