Judge dismisses petition seeking custody of child

COLUMBIA (AP) — A Missouri judge used a technicality Tuesday to dismiss a former soldier’s petition seeking custody and child support payments from a teenager he impregnated when she was 14 years old.

The petition came in the guardianship and adoption case filed by the mother’s parents, who were seeking to permanently block him from having contact with the child.

Pulaski County Associate Circuit Judge John Clayton dismissed the former soldier’s petition and ruled it should have been filed as a separate case. The father’s attorney told the judge it would be refiled soon.

The teen became pregnant in December 2010, when she was 14. Mutual friends introduced her to the solider, who was 19 at the time and on leave from Florida.

This past December, he was found not guilty by a military court in Virginia of aggravated sexual assault, statutory rape and committing an indecent act. He was convicted of a drug charge from a separate incident and left the military with a less than honorable discharge.

The former soldier told the Columbia Tribune that all the accusations are unfounded and that he was acquitted. His attorney, Mark Prugh, said after the hearing Tuesday that the father is pursuing custody because the mother’s family has “viciously and falsely charged him with things that are not true.”

Kimberly Lowe, an attorney representing the couple, said the former soldier had denied paternity before the criminal trial and called the action seeking custody curious. Lowe said the child has never seen the father and “doesn’t even know who he is.”

The mother, whose name is being withheld because of her age, has said she never wants to see the former soldier and doesn’t want his money for child support. She said the military did not give her justice.

The mother’s family had agreed to have the criminal case handled by a military court.

In Missouri, statutory rape is a felony but the law is structured to avoid felony cases against teens who are similar in age. If one person is younger than 17 years old but the other is not yet 21 years old, sexual activity can be charged as a misdemeanor.

A court hearing on whether to terminate the former soldier’s parental rights has been scheduled for September. That would be followed by two days of testimony on whether the mother’s parents should be permitted to adopt.

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