By: Ashley A. Smith
Two state agencies may determine whether the child custody case of country music singer Mindy McCready is argued in Florida or Arkansas.
Lee County Circuit Judge James Seals requested Tuesday the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Florida Department of Children and Families settle which state should oversee visitation and custody issues for McCready’s son, Zander, 5.
“The paramount thing right now is this little boy has not had a normal childhood,” Seals said. “He has been the subject of a dispute between mom, dad … (the) state of Arkansas, (and the) state of Florida and, for this child’s sake, we need to plot the quickest route possible to normalcy.”
In November, McCready, a North Fort Myers native, took her son out of Florida without permission of Florida’s courts during a supervised visitation.
Zander’s maternal grandmother, Gayle Inge, and her husband, Michael, both of North Fort Myers, had custody of the child since 2007.
The singer and her son were found hiding in a closet of a house in Arkansas by law enforcement; at which time he was taken into that state’s custody and moved to two different foster homes.
Despite an order by Seals to return Zander to Florida, he’s remained in foster care in Arkansas and McCready has visitation rights.
Arkansas courts, by law, don’t have to follow another state’s “pick-up orders” for returning children taken from that state, according to officials from Arkansas Department of Human Services.
Billy McKnight, Zander’s father, had visitation rights with his son prior to McCready moving the child to Arkansas.
“The parallel cases aren’t working,” Seals said. “This is nuts, this is really nuts. One parent is saying, ‘Go Arkansas,’ and another is saying, ‘Go Florida.’”
Seals said he would make a decision on whether or not the case should be transferred to Arkansas depending on a plan from Arkansas DHS and Florida DCF.
McKnight and Inge declined to comment. McCready, who is pregnant, participated by telephone.
The case will resume 9 a.m. Wednesday.