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Archive for Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Back home, Marine fights for custody

April 25, 2006

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— While deployed to Iraq, Marine Cpl. Levi Bradley had another fight going on for custody of his son in Franklin County.

So far he has lost that battle, but on Monday he was before the Kansas Supreme Court asking the court to overturn a decision by Judge James Smith that left 2 1/2-year-old Tyler with Levi Bradley's soon-to-be ex-wife Amber Bradley.

"It took a lot for me to keep it together while I was over there," he said.

The dispute is over a temporary court order by Smith that placed Tyler in Amber Bradley's custody.

Earlier, Amber Bradley had signed an agreement to give custody over to Levi and Levi's mother, Starleen Bradley, when Levi was deployed to Iraq last year.

But Amber Bradley later said she didn't understand the ramifications of the agreement and sought custody of her son.

Levi Bradley had sought a delay of that lower court proceeding under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which gives military personnel extra time to contest civil actions because they are not in control of their schedules.

But Judge Smith said the federal law didn't apply to the temporary court order in the child custody case.

So Levi Bradley was before the state Supreme Court asking it to overturn the temporary court order.

It wasn't fair for Judge Smith to hold proceedings while Levi Bradley was fighting in Iraq, his attorney Jean Ann Uvodich said.

But Amy Durkin, an attorney representing Amber Bradley, said the preferred placement of the child was with the child's mother - not the grandmother.

Levi Bradley is back in the United States, stationed in North Carolina, but he will probably be deployed again next year.

Meanwhile, a pre-trial conference is set for today in Franklin County in preparation for the divorce and permanent child custody proceedings.

Several state Supreme Court justices questioned what, if anything, their decision would mean, given that by the time they issue an opinion, the case may be resolved at the district court level.

But Uvodich said the court needed to state that the federal law applies to child custody cases so that if there are future court hearings, Levi Bradley and other soldiers in similar situations are given enough time to return and participate in the legal battles.

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