I’d like to file this under “things that would never happen to a woman.” A family law judge in Michigan, otherwise known as a kidnapper in a robe, has ordered Matthew Hindes, a man who is serving somewhere deep under the waves on a classified mission, to show up in her courtroom. If he doesn’t, she’ll issue a bench warrant and reassign custody to the child’s mother, who was judged unfit by child protective services. First, I have to say that for a woman to be declared an unfit mother, she has to be really lousy. It doesn’t happen all that often. You know all those kids you hear about dying from neglect? Often, their mothers had already been evaluated by CPS and found “fit” — sometimes on multiple occasions.
I have seen the rare creature known as the noncustodial mother in court. One in particular I remember because she didn’t look all that bad in person. However, when she opened her mouth in front of the judge and made every excuse in the book for failing heroin tests and violating probation time after time, it was pretty clear why she lost the kid. Evidently, it’s kind of hard to take care of your child when you’re in jail.
Although it’s unclear what exactly led to the sailor’s ex losing custody, the Michigan judge has declared that if the child is not presently in the custody of the father, she must be returned to the mother post-haste. The stepmother is currently taking care of the girl, and while that isn’t ideal, given the CPS action it’s probably a safer situation.
But the judge doesn’t care. In fact, she doesn’t even care that a law called the Service Members Civil Relief Act was passed explicitly to protect men like Hindes. According to the law, Hindes is entitled to a 90-day stay of proceedings, but judge Margaret Noe has ruled that this law doesn’t apply, because, in her opinion, he should have handed the child over to her (unfit) mother before he set foot on a submarine.
This case says a lot about the value of serving one’s country today. If a family court judge – some gussied up divorce lawyer in a robe – can ignore laws meant to protect him while deployed and order his arrest because, you know, he should teleport back from under the arctic icepack or wherever, then what’s the point?