A Florida judge signed an order on Thursday allowing authorities to take custody of country singer Mindy McCready's 5-year-old son, Zander, and bring him back to Florida if they can find him.
The order came a day after Florida officials said a missing person's report had been filed for Zander and that McCready had been ordered to return the boy. But the singer had countered that her son was safe with her.
The singer said Thursday she would not bring her son back from Tennessee to Florida, despite violating a custody arrangement and a judge's order.
McCready took the boy during a recent visit at her father's southwest Florida home and a judge signed an order Thursday ordering authorities to take the boy into custody and return him. It's not yet clear whether she could face criminal charges.
"I'm doing all this to protect Zander, not stay out of trouble," McCready wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Thursday. "I don't think I should be in trouble for protecting my son in the first place."
McCready says she is in Tennessee and it is looking less likely that she will bring her son back to Florida. She says she cannot travel because she's nearly seven months pregnant with twins.
Representatives for the singer said on Wednesday that Zander has been with her for more than 30 days, and that he was safe and healthy, adding that law enforcement officials spoke with Zander and saw him on Tuesday via the online video conferencing program Skype.
McCready and her mother have had a long custody battle over the boy. Until recently, the boy was living with McCready's mother. Her mother was awarded guardianship in 2007. McCready says her son has suffered abuse at her mother's house; her mother, Gayle Inge, denies the abuse allegations.
"Once the child is located, we will pick him up and bring him back to Florida," said Terri Durdaller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families. "Although these circumstances are unfortunate for a young child, his safety and well-being are our number one priority."
Durdaller said any criminal charges would come at the discretion of law enforcement or the Lee County (Fla.) State Attorney's office.
McCready provided a series of e-mails to the AP with Lee County Judge James Seals' ruling to return the boy and correspondence with her attorney. Seals wrote to McCready's lawyer that once the boy is back in Florida "we'll pick up the pieces."
"Mom has violated the court's custody order and we are simply restoring the child back into our custody," the judge wrote. "Nothing more. Nothing less. The court makes no judgment about whether Mom will or will not competently care for the child while in her custody. It only wants the child back where the court placed him."
McCready was born in Florida and found fame in Nashville as a singer in the mid-1990s, including a No. 1 hit, "Guys Do It All the Time." She has lived a complicated life in recent years.
In August, she filed the libel suit in Palm Beach County against her mother and the National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc., over a story published in the tabloid newspaper that quoted Inge.
In July 2007, she was accused of scuffling with Inge and resisting arrest at her mother's home in Florida. She was sentenced to jail for 60 days for a probation violation and released; she served 30 days in jail. She also lost custody of her son.
And in 2008, McCready was admitted to a Nashville hospital after police said she cut her wrists and took several pills in a suicide attempt.
During the TV show "Celebrity Rehab 3" in 2010, McCready came off as a sympathetic figure, and host Dr. Drew Pinsky called her an angel in the season finale.
Also in 2010, police went to Inge's home for a report of an overdose, and McCready was taken to a Florida hospital. However, neither the hospital nor McCready's publicist would say why the singer was hospitalized.
McCready also fought the release of a tape in which she reportedly talked about former Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, with whom she had an affair as a teenager.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.