The two buzz words that came out of an Oakland County divorce case last week were “kids” and “jail.”
When Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca sentenced three children to the Oakland County Children’s Village maximum security youth facility those words garnered the headlines. Two other words are more significant in family courts these days - parental alienation.
Gorcyca and other people involved in the Tsimhoni case acknowledge that alienation has become a significant issue within the divorce. Their parents, Maya and Omer, are now in their fifth year of trying to work out a feasible situation for everyone involved.
State and local officials have been sounding off on the case since Gorcyca made her ruling on June 24 and subsequently reversed it on July 10 and sent the children - ages 14, 10 and 9 - to a summer camp.Friday’s order to release them to summer camp
The backlash the case has received is based on the apparent drastic action taken by Gorcyca.
“No child should be jailed for trying to stay safe,” Mary Keefe, Executive Director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) said the day after Gorcyca’s ruling. “It is equally outrageous and telling that the children’s father has left for a trip to Israel and the children remain in juvenile custody. The court seems to rely on the long debunked theory of parental alienation as a rational reason for the detention.”
The judge was looking to have the children sit down and have a meal with their father and when they refused, all three opted to go to Children’s Village.
Based on court documents, all of the rancor and animosity in the case appears to stem from an incident at a West Bloomfield park in August of 2010.
A scheduled visit with their father devolved into two of the children being locked in a car to protect themselves from him. The third child avoided him while perched atop a piece of playground equipment and later claimed that the father threatened to kill him if he did not get down.
Police reports were filed after one of the children called 911 from inside the car and their mother claimed that the father struck her outside of the vehicle.
A West Bloomfield police report found no probable cause to make an arrest at the time, but the father later admitted that he took his son down by force in order to put him in a time-out.
Reports throughout the case files claim that that incident, along with the fact that the children felt abandoned when their father took a job with General Motors in Israel in late 2009, are at the heart of the children’s fear and animosity toward their father that the courts have been trying to rectify for the past four years.
Ms. Tsimhoni filed for divorce in December of 2009.
Multiple supervisors, visitation sites, communication alternatives and therapists have rotated in and out of the case since then and left Gorcyca frustrated.
Gorcyca voiced her opinions on how severe the parental alienation was during a February 2012 hearing by explaining things to Ms. Tsimhoni, the alleged blockade to the children having a relationship with their father.
“I see kids who have been physically abused, tortured, raped, that still want to talk to their father; that still respect their father,” she said after reading a report by a parenting time coordinator on the case. “Your kids have none of those things.”
Last Friday, Gorcyca again let it be known that every other avenue had been investigated before handing down her contempt ruling.
“Every alternative presented to this court has been exhausted,” she said. “This is a custody arrangement that has become completely harmful to the children’s well being.”
Gorcyca pointed out at her July 10 hearing that the children were not sent to the maximum security section of Children’s Village, but rather to Mandy’s Place. That area of the facility is billed as short-term housing for kids who have been removed from abusive homes.
A representative of Mandy’s Place reported that the children were making “slow, but hopefully steady progress.”
Meanwhile, Gorcyca has said that Mr. Tsimhoni has had no criminal charges filed against him, no warrants issued and according to the judge has “moved mountains to be a part of these children’s lives”.
On the other hand, despite her claims after the judge’s ruling on July 10 to transfer the children from Mandy’s Place that none of the claims of hindering the process of allowing the children to have a relationship with their father were true, Ms. Tsimhoni agreed to spend a day in detention back in March and spent time volunteering at an animal shelter for violating Gorcyca’s orders.
Although some believe the term “parental alienation” to be an unsubstantiated clinical term, it has been prevalent in this case.
Court documents show one psychological evaluation did not go as far as formalizing “Parental Alienation Syndrome” as a specific diagnosis, but did state that “the Tsimhoni children are alienated from their father”.
Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, expressed opposition to Gorcyca’s decision to send the children to the county’s juvenile detention center for contempt of court.
“Regardless of whether the children want communication and a relationship with their father, they are still children and learned their behaviors from one or both parents,” Rockind said. “The key point, though, is they committed no crime.”
Murray Davis, Board President of the National Family Justice Association Midwest Office in Southfield, does advocate for the use of the term.
“Court records appear to indicate the children are the victims of tenacious parental alienation against their father by their mother,” he said in a statement.
Davis is also one of the few who stood by the decision to temporarily take the children away from not one, but both parents.
“She (Gorcyca) should be praised and respected for attempting a just resolution that permitted both [responsible] parents to exercise their rights to be actively engaged in the lives of their children despite their acrimonious divorce,” he said.
Labels: Chief judge, Children's rights, Domestic Violence, Family court, Family Court Contact Denial, Family therapy, Fathers' rights movement, Florida Circuit Courts, Legal abuse, Linda Gottlieb, Parental Alienation
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