BLOOMINGTON — A McLean County judge on Friday issued an arrest warrant, with a $25,000 bond attached, for a father who has failed to return to Illinois with his son for a series of hearings in a long-running custody battle.
Associate Judge Lee Ann Hill ordered Michael Cadena to be arrested in Massachusetts where he has been living since March 2017 when he left the state with his son Michael Jr., now 4.
"I have bent over backwards to accommodate Mr. Cadena on multiple occasions," Hill said in issuing her ruling in the custody dispute between Cadena and his former girlfriend, Amber Buck. The judge noted that Cadena has missed six court hearings.
Hill set a Sept. 17 sentencing date for Cadena on the direct criminal contempt charge that could send him to jail for six months. The county uses a private prisoner transport service to handle out-of-state extraditions.
Cadena's absence at court hearings has delayed decisions on the best interests of the child and harmed the mother, said Hill.
"Miss Buck has not seen her minor child since March 2017," said Hill.
Buck was awarded custody of the child in June after Cadena failed to come to court.
Cadena has launched a legal battle in Massachusetts to keep his son from living with Buck. He has filed an appeal of a court ruling there that rejected his effort to move the custody case to that state.
On Aug. 31, a Massachusetts judge heard testimony from witnesses, including Cadena, as to whether the child should be relocated to Illinois. A decision is expected next week on that issue.
Buck's lawyer, Tristan Bullington, argued Friday that Cadena should be barred from presenting any evidence in the custody matter unless he is personally present in court.
Such a sanction "would let him know he doesn't get to have his cake and eat it, too," said Bullington.
Cadena's lawyer, Adele Saaf, argued that Cadena's departure with the child followed alleged threats toward him by Buck's father and her acquaintances. Saaf also claimed the child was abused by his mother during the time she was using drugs. Buck, 31, was placed on probation last year for meth charges.
Cadena was found fit to parent the child by a McLean County judge in February 2017 and given custody. Buck, who also has a daughter, later achieved parental fitness.
Cadena was unavailable for comment Friday.
Buck's plans to bring her son back to Illinois were put on hold when a Massachusetts judge stayed the court order until a ruling on Cadena's appeal. According to Bullington, the stay could be lifted after Cadena's arrest when the custodial parent is no longer available to care for the child.