Three Michigan children who were sent to juvenile detention for refusing to see their allegedly abusive father have been reunited with him against their will, after being forced to undergo “parental alienation therapy.” They are now living with the man.
The saga began in July, when the three children — ages 9, 11 and 14 — told Judge Lisa Gorcyca that they didn’t want to have a relationship with their father, Omer Tsimhoni, because he is violent. They added that they had seen him hit their mother.
“I do not apologize for — for not talking to him because I have a reason for that, and that’s because he’s violent and he — I saw him hit my mom and I’m not gonna talk to him,” the 14-year-old said at the time, according to Oakland County Circuit Court records.
But Judge Gorcyca was anything but sympathetic, telling the eldest child that his father had never been charged with any crime, and that he had “jumped through hoops” to have a relationship with his children.
However, the judge’s instructions went beyond a verbal reprimand to the children. Frustrated that the children would not follow her orders to have lunch with their father, she sentenced them to a juvenile facility called Children’s Village — though they were later transferred to a summer camp after the move prompted a public backlash.
“I felt like I was watching them be executed,” the children’s mother, Maya Tsimhoni, told Fox Detroit of their lockup.
Gorcyca also had an earful for the children’s mother, implying she’d raised her children in the style of the Charles Manson cult, brainwashing her children to dislike their father.
But it didn’t end there. According to court documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press, the children were also ordered to five days of intensive “parental alienation therapy” with their father in August. The mother was not present at the sessions.
Although the court file that details the therapy is sealed, the Detroit Free Press reported that the intensive treatment is rare, and costs as much as $40,000. Supporters of the program say it is a way to end tense custody disputes and ensure that children have relationships with both parents. However, critics say it doesn’t do enough to protect children from parents who are, indeed, abusive.
The children moved in with their father, his new wife and their half-brother on August 13.
Omer Tsimhoni is asking the judge to prohibit the children’s mother from contacting them, or appearing at their schools, for the next 90 days, which is part of the protocol in reuniting children with an estranged parent. He is also asking for an abatement of the $1,700 a month he pays in child support.
The two parents were to appear before Gorcyca on Wednesday morning, but that hearing was adjourned.
Meanwhile, a petition to remove Judge Gorcyca from office has reached more than 10,000 signatures.
But despite public outcry, the judge has defended her actions, saying there’s more to the story than it seems.
“There are eight files,” Gorcyca said. “No one has reviewed those files and, as of right now, no one has requested to watch any video. As a result, we have a frenzied, and misinformed, misguided public,” she said in July.
Gorcyca and the attorney appointed to represent the children’s best interests, William Lansat, have said their mother actively sought to damage the children’s relationship with their father, following the couple’s 2009 divorce.
The judge is to hear arguments in October whether to permanently end the mother’s physical custody of the children.