Deployed Sailor in Child-Custody Fight Ordered to Appear in Court - Law and Daily Life
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Deployed Sailor in Child-Custody Fight Ordered to Appear in Court

A deployed U.S. sailor serving on a submarine has been ordered to appear in court in a child custody battle over his daughter, but he's not likely to make it.

Matthew Hindes, a Navy submariner serving in the Pacific, has been ordered to appear in Michigan to fight his ex-wife's bid for custody of their 6-year-old daughter Kaylee. ABC's "Good Morning America" reports that Hindes was initially awarded permanent custody of his little girl in 2010, but now his legal status is in jeopardy.

If the active Navy member can't make it to court, will the judge hold him in contempt?

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Not Allowed to Appear Remotely

While Hindes is stuck on a submarine somewhere in the Pacific, a Michigan family court judge is demanding that he appear by Monday -- in the flesh. Circuit court judge Margaret Noe is presiding over Hindes' case, and the sailor won't be allowed to appear remotely -- neither via Skype nor phone.

Often courts will allow witnesses or even parties to a case to appear remotely when there are extreme or limiting circumstances preventing them from appearing in person. Skype has become a popular tool for accomplishing this remote appearance, even if it is vulnerable to pranksters. In the event that a judge won't allow a remote appearance, attorneys often ask to reschedule or stall a hearing to a later date (i.e., a continuance.)

Hindes' attorneys tried something similar: They argued that the hearing should be stayed for at least 90 days under the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Intended to stall legal burdens of military service members who are actively deployed, the SCRA would allow Hindes' lawyers to pause his custody case for at least 90 days, allowing Hindes some time to arrange a flight back.

Unfortunately for Hindes, Judge Noe disagreed, noting that she would award custody of Kaylee to her mother if she wasn't in her father's care.

Potential Consequences of Missing Appearance

If Monday comes and Hindes isn't in that Michigan courtroom, a couple of consequences may follow:

  • Judge Noe could find Hindes in contempt of court;
  • Hindes' current wife (who is currently caring for Kaylee in Washington state) could have to hand over custody to Hindes' ex-wife; and/or
  • Hindes' attorneys may not be allowed to present arguments in favor of the sailor retaining custody.

Whatever the outcome, we hope it is in the best interests of little Kaylee Hindes.

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