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Child custody battle for daughter of Navy father out at sea

Raising children is a daunting task in the best of circumstances, but one which parents do with great joy. Even when the parents of the child are no longer living together, the goal of all involved presumably is to determine the living arrangement that will serve the child best. However, one child custody case that appeared to have been decided several years ago has recently been reopened and may prove difficult to resolve. While this case is not based in New York, military family members may wish to learn more as this situation progresses.

The case involves a Navy father and the biological mother who lost custody of the child four years earlier. In spite of the fact that the dad is an active member of the United States Navy, he was awarded sole, permanent custody of his then 2-year-old daughter. The man is remarried, and while he is assigned to submarine duty, his child lives with her stepmother. Now, however, the biological mother has recently re-petitioned the court for custody of the little girl.

The father has been summoned to appear for the court hearing. However, the man is currently somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean and is unable to appear in person. The Michigan judge has now threatened to file a contempt of court order against the father in this matter. There is a statute that provides a 90-day stay for active service members, but is not clear at this point if the judge will honor that requirement. In the meantime, this father fears that he will lose custody of the child regardless of the fact that she is residing in the care of his wife.

Currently, the case was put on hold to allow the child and her stepmother to travel from their home state to Michigan where the case was filed. It is unclear what the outcome may be at this time, but the father's legal counsel is working to ensure that the father's rights are protected. While this case may not be the typical scenario for most families, child custody disputes can be emotional and difficult experiences. New York families do have dedicated resources available that can help ensure that the parties involved are all working to determine which arrangements are in the best interests of the child.

Source: NY Daily News, "Sailor's inability to appear in court while serving on submarine threatens custody of daughter", Nina Golgowski, June 19, 2014

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