A Michigan judge has delayed court proceedings in a child custody case involving a Navy serviceman who is currently deployed aboard a U.S. submarine.
Judge Margaret Noe of Lenawee County Circuit Court signed the order Sunday. The hearing, which was originally scheduled for Monday, will be rescheduled for a date in October, according to The Detroit News.
The case gained national attention last week after Noe ruled that Matthew Hindes’ daughter, Kaylee, should be in the custody of her mother if her father was deployed.
“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 said, according to The Daily Telegram, a newspaper in Adrian, Michigan.
KOMO News of Seattle reports that Kaylee was removed from the custody of her mother, Angela Hindes, in 2010 for neglect. In the interim, the young girl had lived with her father and his new wife, Benita-Lynn Hindes, in Bremerton, Washington. When Matthew Hindes was deployed, the girl’s stepmother took care for her.
Angela Hindes appealed the custody arrangement earlier this year. Noe had scheduled the case to proceed despite a federal law known as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. That law states that a court shall grant a stay in proceedings for a “minimum period of 90 days” should a soldier be unable to attend court because of his or her duties.
Interestingly, that was the very law the judge cited in her ruling Sunday.
“This court would not cause Mr. Hindes or any other person in military service to suffer prejudice as a result of their military duty while away in service to our nation,” Noe wrote.
Michigan state Senator Rick Jones told KOMO News in a later story that he planned to draft legislation to help other members of the armed forces who find themselves in Matthew Hindes’ situation.
"The actions of this judge are a slap in the face to all servicemen and women, who put their lives on the line protecting America," Jones said.
The judge will still hear arguments about a temporary modification of the custody arrangement Monday, but the main issue of permanent custody will be heard in October.
Noe, who has been widely criticized for her handling of the case, told The Associated Press that facts of the case had been left out for the sake of “sensational stories.”