Now this is very troubling.
LAWRENCE, Kan. - A custody battle between a Marine stationed in Iraq and his estranged wife may have implications for all Kansas service members who are overseas, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
A Franklin County judge has twice ruled that a federal law meant to protect military personnel from civil litigation does not apply in the custody case between Marine Cpl. Levi Bradley and his estranged wife, Amber Bradley.
Levi Bradley, who has lived in Pomona and Ottawa, filed for divorce in May. When he was deployed to Iraq, he asked for a delay in the custody case over their 2-year-old son.
The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act, signed in 2003, shields military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan or other war zones from lawsuits and evictions until they are back in the U.S. The law required judges to postpone judgment for at least 90 days if the service member applies for more time.
Court records show that Levi Bradley and his mother, Starleen Bradley, had legal custody of the child when he was deployed in July. Amber Bradley, the Marine's estranged wife, signed the agreement.
Levi Bradley asked in October - a month before the first child custody hearing was scheduled - to delay further proceedings. The application included a letter from his commanding officer in Iraq and his own testimony, as the law requires.
But on Nov. 8, Franklin County Judge James Smith ruled that the mother should get custody of the child, saying the federal law didn't apply because the temporary action affected the child, not Levi Bradley himself.
Smith reaffirmed his ruling last week after the Marine's lawyer, Jean Ann Uvodich, filed a motion to reconsider the decision.
"There's really nothing that indicates the law shouldn't apply," Uvodich told the Lawrence Journal-World.
The attorney for Amber Bradley said a child's fate shouldn't be left in limbo because of a parent's military service.
"The court needs to be able to decide a child's welfare," attorney Amy Durkin said.
Levi Bradley's attorney said she expects to hear from the Kansas Court of Appeals this week about the Marine's appeal application.
Uvodich said there is no precedent in Kansas courts for such a case and the outcome will influence the rights of all Kansas service members overseas.
Durkin, the mother's attorney, said that regardless of appeals, the federal law won't supersede the needs of a child.
"It's going to be appealed," Durkin told the Journal-World. "We'll see then."
Levi Bradley's mother, Starleen Bradley, attended both custody hearings.
"I couldn't believe the judge said it," she said, "when everything we were reading said (the law) applied."
She contacted Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Dennis Moore about the judge's ruling.
"Sen. Brownback feels it's important that members of our military - and especially those who are currently serving in the Middle East - are not discriminated against simply because they are deployed and unable to represent themselves in person," said Brian Hart, Brownback's spokesman. "(He) wants to make sure that the law of the land, as stated in the Civil Relief Act, is not ignored."
Moore's spokeswoman, Christie Appelhanz, said: "Our job is not to be legal advocates. We feel very strongly that this needs to be played out in court."