Divorce is hard enough on children. Their home life and everything as they have always known it is changing. That’s not easy for even the most grounded and intelligent child to reconcile. As a result, many children of divorce misbehave or act out of character. But is refusing to see one parent reason enough for them to be sent to a juvenile detention center? One Michigan judge thinks so.
Three children from Bloomfield Hills – ages 14, 10, and 9 – were in court with their mother for a divorce hearing on June 24 when they were sent to juvenile detention for disobeying the orders of Judge Lisa Gorcyca. The oldest son refused the judge’s order that he apologize to his father, Omer Tsimhoni, saying that he apologized for “whatever I did to you. But 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 boy said, later telling the judge, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
These statements were apparently the last straw for Gorcyca, who has presided over these contentious divorce hearings for the past five years. She claimed the children have been brainwashed by his mother, comparing their family situation to that of Charles Manson and his cult. She called the boy a “defiant, contemptuous young man,” adding, according to the transcript, “You’re supposed to have a high IQ, which I’m doubting right now. You have no manners.”
She ordered the teenager to the youth shelter then offered the two younger children the opportunity to apologize and have lunch with their father. Under their attorneys’ coaxing, the children did apologize and said they would try to connect with their father. Gorcyca then ordered them to have lunch with their father, which their mother Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni also encouraged them to do, or face the same fate as their brother. “I’ll go with my brother then,” the 10-year-old told Gorcyca.
Gorcyca held all three Tsimhoni children in civil contempt and sent them to Children’s Hall, where they have been for the past two weeks and will remain for the indefinite future. Eibschitz-Tsimhoni’s attorney has filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus seeking the release of the children, and Gorcyca is set to consider this next week.
Eibschitz-Tsimhoni has been banned from visiting her children and the judge has ordered that the siblings be “kept away from each other as much as possible.” A review of the punishment has been set for September 8, but Gorcyca said their father could have them released earlier if he feels the children have learned their lesson. “When you can follow the court’s direct order and have a normal, healthy relationship with your father, I would review this,” Gorcyca said. “It might be three years. It might [not] be till you’re 18.”
Unfortunately, the day after the hearing Tsimhoni left for work in Israel and is not expected back in Michigan for a few weeks. “No matter how bad the divorce gets, I think the court should not punish the kids for that,” Eibschitz-Tsimhoni said.
The divorce attorney now representing Eibschitz-Tsimhoni says, “I have been doing family law for 20 years and I must say this shocks the conscience. I think we have a court with the best interest of children in mind. I think the judge was very concerned about reunification of this family, but went about it the wrong way. I know laws were violated and I know that the children were punished for crimes they did not commit.”
When most advice involving children of divorce encourages parents to avoid using their children as pawns in their split, this is an unprecedented move on the part of a family law judge who classifies the divorce proceedings as “tied for my worst parental alienation case.” The Tsimhoni children are being forced to live with troubled children, some who have committed crimes – a very different situation than the Tsimhonis’.
Should children pay the price for their parents’ divorce? For their parents’ inability to settle on child custody or parenting time? If you’re experiencing a contentious divorce, or anticipate a struggle as your marriage ends, contact Michigan Divorce Help, PLLC, to discuss your situation.