I hope society generally will soon be able to give up on the myth that the legal system somehow favors mothers over fathers, here’s some more evidence of the fact that fathers’ rights are always given precedence, and that children are still seen, first and foremost, as the property of their father:
A Michigan judge may have overstepped her bounds by taking the “unprecedented” and “disturbing” action of sending three siblings to a juvenile detention facility for not having a “healthy relationship” with their father, according to legal experts who spoke to the Guardian.
The children’s detention has sparked a fierce backlash both locally and on social media. Dozens of supporters convened outside the Oakland County courthouse Wednesday to demand the children’s release.
Last month Lisa Gorcyca, a circuit court judge in Oakland County, held three siblings – ages nine, 10 and 15 – in contempt of court after they refused to talk with their father, Omer Tsimhoni. Experts were taken aback by the judge’s decision to send the children to a local juvenile facility, Children’s Village, until “you graduate from high school”.
The ruling came amid a protracted and contentious divorce proceeding between Tsimhoni and his wife, Maya, which dates back to 2009.
At a 24 June hearing on supervised parenting time, Gorcyca said the children had been “brainwashed” by their mother before ordering their removal to Children’s Village. A hearing has been scheduled for 2pm on Friday local time.
The children were removed from Maya Tsimhoni’s custody following the hearing. Gorcyca said neither the mother, nor any of her relatives, could visit the children, although their father would be allowed to.
“When you are ready to have lunch with your dad, dinner with your dad, to be normal human beings, I will review this when your dad tells me you’re ready,” Gorcyca said at the hearing. “Otherwise you are living in Children’s Village until you graduate from high school. That’s the order of the court.”
The decision to hold three children in contempt of court who were not parties to the divorce proceedings puzzled legal experts. If Gorcyca took issue with Maya Tsimhoni’s handling of the situation, then an order should be directed at the mother, they said, not the children.
Catherine Ross, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in family law, compared the situation to journalists who are jailed for contempt of court by refusing to reveal the name of a source, where they remain until they back down.
“That’s basically what the judge did here,” Ross told the Guardian. “You can get out of prison when your father tells us that you’re ready to have a good relationship with him.” Ross said to her knowledge the decision was “unprecedented” in reported cases with established opinions of the court.
She added: “The initial threat of sending them to detention even for a weekend is disturbing enough.”
A court transcript from the 24 June hearing begins with the eldest son being asked if he was prepared to see his father or be sent to Children’s Village.
“I do apologize if I didn’t understand the rules,” the 15-year-old told the judge. “But I do not apologize for not talking to him because I have a reason for that and that’s because he’s violent and I saw him hit my mom and I’m not going to talk to him.” The father has not been charged with a crime.
“I ordered you to talk to your father,” replied the judge. “You chose not to talk to your father. You defied a direct court order. It’s direct contempt so I’m finding you guilty of civil contempt.”
“I thought there was like rules when – rules for like not, you know, not hitting someone,” said the boy.
Gorcyca said the boy had “defied a direct court order” by not talking with his father.
“You’re very defiant,” she told the boy. “You have no manners. You need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has.”
A 25-page report filed last year by a court appointed adviser, William Lansat, spelled out the couple’s litigious past and highlights allegations levied over the years by the children.
In August 2010, for example, a police report was filed after Omer Tsimhoni spent a day with his children unsupervised. But the meeting apparently soured shortly after, and the children called 911, alleging their father “threatened to kill them while at the park”, according to Lansat’s report.
When Maya Tsimhoni arrived, she alleged the father began “pushing her around”, the report says. No probable cause was found to arrest Omer Tsimhoni, who “has always denied making the threat”, according to the report. Maya Tsimhoni sought a personal protection order against her husband, but the request was denied by Gorcyca.
This is effectively criminalising and pathologising children for being afraid of their violent father – under what other circumstances would a child’s fear of a violent adult get them compared to Charles Manson? The accusation of being ‘Manson-like’, also comes from the court appointed adviser (see the rest of the article) – someone who is supposed to be an expert witness acting in the children’s best interest – because the children ‘huddled together’ and refused to go into a supervised meeting with their father; under what other circumstances would siblings sticking up for each other in a adverse situation be describes as ‘Manson-like’? It seems also, from the rest of the article, that the children’s court-appointed attorneys aren’t objecting to them being criminalised in this way.