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Submariner who can't attend custody hearing given last-minute reprieve

BREMERTON — A Bangor submariner patrolling the Pacific Ocean was excused from a child custody hearing Sunday after a media blitz by his wife.

Matthew Hindes, of the USS Michigan, had been ordered to appear Friday in a Michigan court, turn over 6-year-old daughter Kaylee to his ex-wife Saturday or Sunday and return to court Monday for a custody hearing.

Lenawee County Judge Margaret Noe said she would have no choice but to enter a bench warrant for Hindes’ arrest if he didn’t show up or have someone, such as current wife Benita-Lynn Caoile Hindes, bring Kaylee to court.

Benita-Lynn got word out last week through TV, newspapers, social media and Navy sympathizers that the judge was violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides for an automatic stay of court proceedings of 90 days if a sailor were deployed. The story went viral.

Private and Navy attorneys recommended that Benita-Lynn and Kaylee not travel Friday to Michigan, and they didn’t. The lawyers had planned to handle Monday’s proceedings without her. They submitted a motion outlining the SCRA, how it should be invoked and why Kaylee should stay in Bremerton.

“There’s no evidence of why she should be removed from this home,” Benita-Lynn said.

Noe released an order Sunday delaying some matters until at least Oct. 22. She said she didn’t know Matthew Hindes was in the Pacific until June 16 when he was supposed to appear or have someone bring his daughter to court. That hearing was held without him, with a decision postponed until Monday. Now it’s pushed back further.

Angela filed for divorce in December 2009. Matthew got custody of Kaylee after a child abuse and neglect case was filed against Angela and her then-boyfriend. She served 10 days in jail and probation, according to court records.

A parenting plan allowed Angela to speak to Kaylee by phone, and she later got Skype added. In August, Noe gave Angela monthly visits. Matthew and Benita-Lynn were required to bring her back to Ohio for a weekend, splitting the plane ticket with Angela. They had to drop Kaylee off each morning and pick her up each evening because Angela wasn’t allowed to keep her overnight.

The visits only occurred in October and November because Angela didn’t pay her share of the flight thereafter, Benita-Lynn said.

Angela is seeking temporary custody while Matthew is deployed, claiming a military lifestyle isn’t stable, Benita-Lynn said.

“I feel it is a stable home,” said Benita-Lynn, an Olympic High graduate whose father retired from the military. “Kaylee is happy and healthy. She enjoys moving, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.”

Navy attorneys have consulted with civilian lawyers about the case, said Submarine Group Nine spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura.

“We are thinking about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” he said. “There are federal laws that provide protections for military members on active duty. In cases where the act does indeed apply, we support jurisdictions in generating those protections for service members who may be deployed and serving our nation far from home.

“Because a service member is involved, there are some things that can be done between our folks, especially when we found out the SRCA should be afforded and it isn’t being.”

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