Michigan, Florida judges at odds over kids' custody after tragic crash

Mich & Fla judge at odds over kids custody

NEWAYGO COUNTY, MICH. - WZZM 13 is learning new information about the custody case regarding the children of a Newaygo County firefighter. Two of his sons were killed and his daughter was injured in a Florida crash last weekend.

The mother of the children was the driver. Florida Highway Patrol says Tonya Capallia-Eason was drinking before the wreck. Yesterday a judge in Florida granted custody of the daughter to that father from Newaygo County, Andrew Bird.

Related: Newaygo father awarded custody of surviving child, sons' bodies after crash

Newaygo County court documents show that Tonya Capallia-Eason filed multiple personal protection orders on behalf of the kids as well as herself against Andrew Bird. In every single case, that protection order was denied.

After taking the children to Florida, Capallia-Eason filed a petition for custody of the three children. Judge Robert Foster granted her that in November of 2014.

According to district court documents, despite the Florida proceedings, here in Michigan Bird filed a separate custody suit in Newaygo County Circuit Court. A judge there granted him sole legal and physical custody of the children in March of 2015.

Related: More than $10K raised to help Newaygo family after 2 boys killed in crash

But prior to that Newaygo County decision, the Florida Judge sent a letter saying Florida was the proper state to have jurisdiction over the children adding, "It is unfortunate that two states have issued conflicting orders but the Florida order is valid and enforceable."

Since then, Capallia-Eason went to federal court asking the judge to uphold the Florida decision. In September 2015, a judge refused to get involved saying the issues raised belong in state court.

Andrew Bird is working to bring his family back to Michigan soon.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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