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Woman Soldier longs for return of her son – Parental Alienation by Father

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, child abuse, Child Custody, custody, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, Glenn Sacks, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation on November 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Soldier longs for return of her son

Mom: In war, law must guard custody

BY KEYONNA SUMMERS • FLORIDA TODAY • November 22, 2009

Fourteen-year-old John Collier Jr. wishes that his mother, Army Lt. Col. Vanessa Benson, would give up this battle.Benson returned in May from a 41/2-month deployment to Afghanistan. While away, she left her 2-year-old with her sister in Panama City and John with his father, her ex-husband, in Rockledge. When Benson got back, John didn’t want to return to his mother in Kentucky, and his father is not making him.

It’s a war of words that’s working its way through the courts, and Benson hopes the case will make it to Congress to better protect custodial parents serving in the military.

“They’re trying to use my deployment against me to change custody,” said Benson, a Satellite Beach native who has had primary custody of John since she and his father were divorced in 2000 in Colorado.

A Brevard County judge twice has ordered the boy to return to her, to no avail. Benson is due in court again next month for a hearing on John Collier Sr.’s motion for temporary custody.

“I’ve spent over $12,000 in legal fees fighting this case down in Florida,” she said. “I’m supposed to have my child back, yet all the judge’s orders have gone unheeded and have gone unenforced by (the judge). How much more money do I have to spend to get an order (the father is) not going to abide by?”

Now remarried to another Army lieutenant colonel, Benson, 39, said she raised John as a single parent for years and allowed her ex-
husband liberal visitation.

In December 2008, Benson and her current husband deployed together with the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

Benson said her family care plan outlined a temporary arrangement in which John would return to her on June 2, after he completed eighth grade in Florida.

However, court records said the boy refused, prompting Benson to touch off a multistate fight for his return.

‘Sick of moving’

Collier and his attorney, Vencil Moore of Cocoa, said the petition for temporary custody has nothing to do with Benson’s deployment and that it centers on her attempt to uproot the boy from Florida against his wishes. They said they filed the motion based on what the boy wants.

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In an interview with FLORIDA TODAY, John said he has wanted to live with his father since fifth grade, when he also stayed with him part of the time while his mother was deployed to Korea. He said he didn’t want to move with his mother to Kentucky four years ago.John said he wants to complete high school in Florida, where he has a prepaid college plan and might attend school with people he knows.

“I’m just sick of moving all the time,” the teenager said. “I don’t want to go to high school for like two or three years and have to move somewhere else.

“I just want my mom to let me live down here because I’m sick of all this court stuff going on. I want to be able to visit my mom’s house on Christmas, Thanksgiving and all my breaks, but with all this court stuff going on, I won’t be able to see her and my little brother for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“It really hurts because I only get to talk to my mom on the phone.”

‘What he wanted’

Collier, 42, and court records said the boy has threatened to run away and has refused to go with Benson’s parents, who were supposed to take him to the airport in August. Collier said he filed a motion for child support after he claimed that Benson spent 10 days in Florida with her younger son following her return from Afghanistan but did not come to see John.

Collier said he tried to comply with the court order but is now filing for temporary custody because he wants what’s best for his son.

“I’m doing it because I love my kid. It’s what he wanted,” he said. “He’s a normal high school kid, and he’s getting put through the ringer by all this that’s going on. He’s the only one losing in the end.”

‘Outrageous’ battle

Benson conceded that John wants to stay with his father but said she also wants what’s best for her child and his future.

She said she thinks her ex-husband has influenced him with gifts.

It’s “outrageous,” she said, that she has to make a third trip to Florida to prove that she should have custody of her son when she already has two documents ordering his return.

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“The fact that my ex-husband’s allowed him to think that he’s able to make the choice even though the court says he has to return — his dad’s allowed him to think he’s above the law and can do whatever he wants to do,” Benson said.”After having served in combat — where we were in direct fire, and it was very stressful — why should I have to come back to a court system that’s making me prove why I should get my child back when Florida law clearly states when the service member returns, the child should be returned to the service member?”

Demanding change

Benson is calling for federal legislation that would supply state courts with guidelines on custody rights regarding military parents.

She is frustrated that judges from Florida and Kentucky decided via a closed teleconference that Florida should have jurisdiction, even though she and her son lived in Kentucky for four years.

“A lot of my soldiers are single parents, and it makes them concerned that the laws aren’t there to protect service members when they go off to war. We aren’t able to focus on war when we know we might lose the children that we’ve raised,” she said. “I just want my family back the way it was a year ago before I left for combat, and I’m going to ensure I do what I can to help other soldiers who follow in my footsteps and experience what I’ve experienced.”

Contact Summers at 242-3642 or ksummers@floridatoday.com.

Soldier longs for return of her son | floridatoday.com | FLORIDA TODAY.

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