Maggio Law Firm, PC

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Father fights to void felony charges in custody dispute

One of the most difficult family law matters any Mississippi parent can face is the one posed by a dispute over child custody. So many factors can come into play and any or all of them can create added friction to a tense family dynamic.

If parents are married and going through divorce, the process can be overshadowed by the personal animosity the two adults may have. Unless special care is taken, those emotions can lead to behaviors that leave children stuck in the middle of a custody dispute.

Even if the parents are not married, certain parental rights continue to exist and custody arrangements need to be worked out. This is why working with a skilled attorney is always recommended.

This may be something that is on the mind of a Mississippi father who is now facing felony crime charges in connection with efforts to exercise what he says are his parental rights involving his elementary school-age daughter. As a result of those efforts, he's accused of kidnapping, criminal attempt to commit a felony, disrupting a public school and three counts of simple battery.

The background of the case is complicated by several facts. The parents of the child were never married, both are in military service and, by virtue of deployments and postings, find themselves in different states. He is in Mississippi. She is in Georgia.

According to documents filed in a bid to dismiss the felony charges against the man, the parents were serving at an Air Force Base in Biloxi in 2010 when the girl was born. Both parents had equal custodial rights under state law pending a formal court order.

From April 2014 to April 2015, the child was in the sole custody of the father while the mother was deployed to Korea. In March of 2015, he petitioned for permanent custody, something the mother disagreed with, and a hearing had been scheduled for Aug. 28 2015. But one day before that hearing, the mother picked up the girl at her Mississippi school and took her to Georgia.

The defense says that was her right and that the father simply exercised his right when he picked up his daughter at her school in Georgia on the day he was arrested. On that basis, the defense says the felony charges should be dropped.

If convicted, the father could face up to 25 years in prison.

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