A Michigan judge ordered that Matthew Hindes appear in court Monday for a custody hearing. The fact that this dad is a sailor currently serving in the U.S. Navy on a submarine in the Pacific Ocean is irrelevant.
Obviously he failed to appear, because he is currently in an underwater vessel beneath the largest body of water on the planet. Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe stated, “At this point, I don’t think I have any alternative but to enter a bench warrant for his arrest,” according to the Daily Telegram.
Michigan’s Child Protective Services removed Kaylee, now age 6, from the care of her mother Angela Hindes in 2010 on charges of neglect. According to a YouTube video posted by the father’s family, Kaylee’s dad, Matthew, received a midnight call that no parent ever wants to hear. The findings were that Kaylee had been abused by her mother’s boyfriend, abuse that resulted in bruises all over Kaylee’s tiny body.
Matthew was awarded permanent custody in an October 2010 divorce judgment. He later remarried. Kaylee was the flower girl in her daddy’s wedding. Now Kaylee resides in Washington state with her step-mother, Benita-Lynn Hindes, who says she loves Kaylee and adores being her mommy.
Last August, Angela Hindes petitioned the court for a change in the custody decree. On June 2, a Pre-Trial for Change of Custody was held, in which Judge Noe ordered that Matthew Hindes be present for the next hearing scheduled last Monday, June 16.
Matthew’s attorney told the judge that he was deployed on a mission, and invoked the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law that requires that there be a stay of proceedings for a minimum of 90 days in cases such as child custody cases when a servicemember is deployed. They simply need time for him to come home.
Judge Margaret Noe has denied that request.
Oddly enough, sailor Matthew Hindes was unable to persuade his commanding officers and the United States government to bring his submarine up for air to allow him to comply with Judge Noe’s order. This type scenario was the very reason that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was written. But all of this means nothing to this local judge.
In her ruling, Noe stated, “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.” What is more, she is holding Hindes in contempt of court, because neither he, nor the child, who lives in Washington, were present for the June 16 hearing. She has delayed the bench warrant for his arrest until Friday, “to allow the wife to bring the child” to Michigan.
The next hearing is scheduled for Monday, June 23.
Step-mother Benita made plans to fly with little Kaylee to Michigan, turning over the child to her mother, to satisfy the judge’s order.
Their story has rapidly garnered attention through social media. Two Facebook groups were set up to tell their story of injustice being done to a man who is sacrificing himself for the rights of people back home.
The media has picked up on the story, including local KOMO and Good Morning America.
Now people here are stepping up to fight for his family’s rights. There is now a team of attorneys working on the case, including JAG.
Benita reports on the Justice for the Hindes Family Facebook page that the attorneys “have filed a motion an emergency motion of exparte.” That document clearly “breaks down the Service members Civil relief act (SCRA) and how that there is no evidence that she isn’t getting the proper care.”
There has been an outcry from many followers that Mrs. Hindes does not need to take Kaylee to Michigan, because it would be too risky. Their attorneys have agreed that she does not need to take Kaylee out of Washington state, thus the flight has been cancelled.
There are now online petitions and a fundraising campaign to offset legal expenses. One petition requests action from Tim Walberg, U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 7th congressional district, to grant the stay of proceedings. Another calls for the resignation of Judge Margaret Noe.
People across the country have expressed outrage that this situation could happen. How is it, some have asked, that Matthew Hindes service to his country can negate the previous findings of the mother being unfit? Does his deployment magically make her become considered fit?
All this sailor dad is asking for is the federal law to be followed that allows the court proceedings to be delayed until he is able to return home. The Naval petty officer is not permitted to appear at the hearing via Skype or telephone, but his physical presence is an impossibility right now.
When a parent does not appear in court for custody hearings, no matter what the reason, that record can carry a negative impact for years down the road on any future custody battles. The SCRA was designed to prevent such occurrences from happening to service men and women.
Sometimes social media has the power to make a huge impact for good in people’s lives, as happened recently in the Justina Pelletier case. The Inquisitr broke the story of birth parents being reunited with their daughter after a letter went viral.
Matthew Hindes, sailor dad, deserves to have his day in court. Social media is crying out for justice. His young daughter Kaylee deserves that much.
[images via bing and YouTube screenshot]