Local sailor ordered to be in court, despite being out to sea

BREMERTON, Wash. -- A Navy submariner is in the battle of his life trying to keep his little girl in a custody dispute.

A judge has ordered Matthew Hindes to appear in court or face contempt, despite the fact that he's out at sea and there's a federal law meant to help those who are deployed.

The word "mom" comes easily for 6-year-old Kaylee. Benita-lynn Hindes is actually her step-mom, but she has been her primary parent for the last 4-years because her father Matthew Hindes is a regular crew member aboard the guided missile submarine USS Michigan.

Hindes and his ex-wife Angela are now locked in a custody dispute back in Michigan with a mandatory court hearing on Monday. It's one he's unable to attend because the Michigan is deployed in the Pacific.

Hindes' Navy commanders point to the "Servicemembers Civil Relief Act." It says, "In an action covered by this section in which the defendant is in military service, the court shall grant a stay of proceedings for a minimum period of 90 days..."

But circuit court judge Margaret Noe in Michigan denied that protection for Hindes. The Daily Telegram quotes the judge, "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." But sailor Hindes argues the child was taken from the ex-wife four years ago for neglect.

Still, Benita-Lynn says they have no choice. She's going to fly back to Michigan with Kaylee to be in court Monday with the possibility the ex-wife will get temporary custody and the sailor won't be there to say goodbye.

"Or be able to tell her, ''I'll always be with you. I love you,' and everything like that," Benita-Lynn said.

Military lawyers are now joining the effort to get a delay in the case. In the meantime Hindes remains deployed serving his country.

"He's protecting the rights of others, but who's protecting his rights?" Benita-Lynn said.

Supporters of Hindes have started two Facebook pages to raise awareness about the story.