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Deployed sailor faces child custody battle

There are many people who strive to protect this country by joining the military. Most people in Florida describe these people as brave heroes. Unfortunately, one sailor has found himself embroiled in a child custody battle while unable to attend a hearing scheduled during his deployment.

The man, father to a now 6-year-old daughter, was married to the girl’s mother for approximately three years when she filed for divorce. Approximately a year later, the mother lost custody of the daughter, then 2, after she was accused of neglect and child abuse. As a result of the accusations, she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 10 days in prison followed by a period of probation. In August 2013, she filed papers requesting custody of her daughter.

Despite the fact that the man is stationed on a submarine at a classified location, in early June, the judge ordered him to appear or present the child at a hearing scheduled approximately two weeks later. Although he immediately filed papers explaining his military service and requested a 90-day stay as allowed by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act — a federal act protecting deployed military members during civil proceedings — the judge held the hearing without him. A decision on the case has been postponed over the weekend, but the father will still be unable to be in court due to his military service. The case has caught the attention of Michigan state legislatures who have been working on legislation to prevent similar actions in the future. As of now, the girl, who currently lives in Washington with her stepmother, could be ordered to move to Ohio with her biological mother.

While the sailor has a large number of supporters, friends of the mother argue that the child should be with her mother, instead of her stepmother, while her ex-husband is deployed. There is no doubt that the issues raised in this child custody case are complicated. In all cases, judges must carefully weigh the best interests of the child with the legal rights of the child’s parents. As parents in Florida know, decisions regarding the best interest of their children can sometimes be difficult.

Source: Detroit Free Press, “Sailor’s duty to country puts him at risk of losing daughter in Adrian custody battle“, Robert Allen, June 21, 2014