BLOOMINGTON — A judge found a father who has been absent from multiple court hearings in a child custody case in direct criminal contempt Wednesday but postponed issuance of a court order until a September hearing.
Michael Cadena, who is living in Massachusetts, has missed at least six hearings in a long-running legal battle over custody of 4-year-old Michael Cadena Jr. The child's mother Amber Buck lives in Bloomington.
Associate Judge Lee Ann Hill ruled that Cadena's refusal to comply with multiple court orders to return to McLean County with the child amounts of criminal contempt. Hill postponed issuance of an order that could result in the father's arrest until Sept. 7.
The issuance of an immediate order could lead to Cadena's arrest and force him to miss an Aug. 31 hearing in Massachusetts related to his efforts to have jurisdiction of the case moved to that state, said Hill.
Buck's lawyer Tristan Bullington withdrew a previously filed request for indirect civil contempt against the father.
Indirect civil contempt, which was sought by Buck's lawyer, covers such actions as defiance of a court order that happens outside a courtroom and may include jail until the person complies with the order. Direct criminal contempt, which is what Hill found, involves more serious conduct that was personally witnessed by a judge and requires jail time.
Cadena left Illinois with the boy in March 2017, a month after he was given custody of the child. Hill's orders for him to return include her opinion that Cadena left the state without the court's permission during a pending case related to the child's best interests.
Cadena has alleged that his son was emotionally and physically abused by Buck. A forced reunion with Buck would be detrimental to the child, Cadena has said in court filings.
Buck was sentenced to probation last year after she pleaded guilty to drug charges. She has been found fit by a judge to care for her child.
Hill has given permission for Buck to travel to Massachusetts to pick up the child. The mother went to Massachusetts in July but returned to Illinois without the child after a judge there took the jurisdictional issue under advisement.
Still unresolved are issues of shared parenting time between the parents and other matters related to the best interests of the child. The judge has expressed frustration that those decisions have been delayed by the lengthy proceedings on Cadena's absence.