In yesterday’s post I described the court hearing in Michigan that led Judge Gorcyca to send three children, ages 15, 10 and 9 to Mandy’s Place, a juvenile detention centre for children under 18.
Many people expressed outrage at her decision. Comments from American lawyers writing in the American Bar Association Journal ran at about 99% against. A few examples:
“Really. Sending kids to jail. This judge has no judgment. She should be removed from office. Clearly she is power mad.”
“If we saw this case on some TV lawyer show, no one would believe it. Yet here it is, in all it’s pathetic grandeur.”
“In loco parentis, with the emphasis on “loco.”
“It is painfully clear these children have already been destroyed. I am often skeptical about parental alienation syndrome even being a thing (and I do
matrimonial law) but this transcript proved it to me. A kid says they would prefer to go to juvie than to eat lunch in the courthouse cafeteria with his father? That is just appalling. And bespeaks some nasty business by mom-who also apparently went off on the judge personally in the past. This is not the insanity it reads like, I’m afraid. There is a back story and it’s ugly.”
The Michigan media later reported that the children spent two weeks at Mandy’s Place, a facility they had been ordered by Judge Gorcyca to tour earlier in March of 2015, an indication that she had the juvie hall in mind months before she made the order. The facility later reported that the children had settled in and were making friends, although they had been kept apart from one another, until their unexpected release earlier this month.
The children’s father and the court appointed guardian ad litem jointly applied for an order that the children be released from Mandy’s Place and be sent to a Jewish summer camp with the costs to be divided equally between the parents.
Judge Gorcyca, previously a prosecutor, granted the order saying:
“While this court’s remedy in this particular situation may seem drastic and offensive, so too, is the notion … that the only way to maintain a stable and loving connection with the mother is to vilify and reject the father.”
While Judge Gorcyca’s initial order may have been draconian, my twenty-seven years of experience provides me with a perspective that is less critical and more understanding of the judge’s dilemma.
Mrs. Tsimhoni knew that in the absence of a genuine attempt at reunification between the children and their father, their removal from her custody was inevitable. She and the children toured the Children’s Village three months earlier.
However, it would have been difficult, nearly impossible, to
order a change in custody in the circumstances presented. Mr. Tsimhoni had returned to live in Israel with his new wife and child. The prospect of allowing the children’s mother to continue to “brainwash” them was intolerable. I have no doubt that Judge Gorcyca had considered many other options before choosing the Children’s Village.
The mother had so empowered her children that even she could not obtain their cooperation to speak to or have lunch with their father. In my view, because of her self-centered need to obtain revenge against her ex-husband she turned three innocent young children into victims, and she alone is to blame for their predicament.
Typically in these cases, the children are ordered to live with their grandparents or other relatives who will adhere to a court order that the mother not be permitted any contact with the children. In the Tsimhoni case, the immediate family lived in Israel, including both sets of grandparents.
I recall a case of mine many years ago where two young boys were taken by their mother to Germany on the pretence of a holiday. They didn’t return, leaving a devastated father in Vancouver. His court applications in Germany were of no assistance in recovering his children.
Over the years the eldest boy begged his mother to allow him to visit his father, but she refused. Finally, when he turned twelve-years old she consented and he flew on his own to visit his father for two weeks.
At the conclusion of the holiday, I received a phone call from the father. His son was refusing to fly back to Germany. I told him that he had no choice but to take his son to the airport and see that he got on the plane.
Father and son arrived at the British Airways counter and the check-in process began, but suddenly the young boy started emptying his suitcases, throwing the clothes on the floor, and yelling that he would not board the plane.
His actions so distressed the clerks at the counter they called the captain of the 747 to come and speak to the boy. The pilot’s overture was of no use, as the boy still would not budge. With that, the captain advised my client that he would not allow his son to board the aeroplane for safety reasons. The boy remained with his father and a custody order was obtained in British Columbia.
But that was not the end. Two summers later I received a phone call from my client who advised his younger son, now approaching twelve-years old, had surreptitiously left Germany and showed up on his doorstep in Vancouver. His mother in Germany was frantic, as he left under cover of night and she had no idea where he was. He too escaped the clutches of the mother who had abducted him years before, and remained in Vancouver.
A dynamic in my client’s case and in the Tsimhoni case is that the younger child or children will often follow the older sibling, which is exactly what occurred in Judge Gorcyca’s courtroom.
So what is a judge to do? In certain jurisdictions reunification programs have been established for children who have, for no legitimate reason, refused to see a parent. In British Columbia, parental alienation expert, Dr. Katherine Reay runs “Family Reflections”, a residential program where children receive intensive therapy over a prolonged period of time. She reports a significant success rate.
As for those who still insist that parental alienation is a pseudo-syndrome that doesn’t really exist, I have seen it with my own eyes for many decades, as have hundreds of other lawyers and psychologists across North America. It is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse, rivalling the inexplicable tactic of falsely alleging a parent has sexually abused his or her children.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang