A Michigan judge sentenced three siblings to a juvenile detention center for refusing to go to lunch with their estranged father.
In a bizarre and uncompassionate ruling, a Michigan judge sentenced three siblings to a juvenile detention center for refusing to go to lunch with their estranged father. The children, ages 14, 10, and 9, were at a court hearing with their parents, who have undergone a years-long divorce. They were ordered to remain in the center until they are eighteen-years-old.
The family was in an Oakland County, Michigan courtroom for a hearing on supervised parenting on June 24 when the order was made.
According to a local Fox affiliate, Judge Lisa Gorcyca “criticized them for avoiding him and even compared them to Charles Manson and his cult. Gorcyca then ordered the children to apologize and have a nice lunch with their dad.” She also ordered them to have a “healthy relationship” with their father, apparently failing to realize that a judicial decree cannot resolve years of dysfunction.
When the children refused, Gorcyca ordered them to “Children’s Village,” a juvenile detention facility, until they are of legal age—amounting to years of their lives. She was unmoved by the explanation of one of the children, who said he did not want to see his father “...because he is violent and I saw him hit my mom.” The judge responded by saying he had been brainwashed.
While this very well may be true, there is no (apparent) sensible or therapeutic reason for Gorcyca to sentence them to a detention facility where they will be “forced to live with troubled or neglected children and some who have committed crimes.”
Their mother, Maya Tsihimoni, was devastated by the decision. “I felt like I was watching them be executed,” she said. She acknowledged the five year divorce had been long, messy, and included accusations of alienation and parental kidnapping. Still, she said, “No matter how bad the divorce gets, I think the court should not punish the kids for that.”
Gorcyca also denied her request for an emergency hearing.
Ms. Tsihimoni has hired attorney Lisa Stern to deal with the children’s sentencing. “I have been doing family law for 20 years and I must say this shocks the conscience,” Stern said. “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.”
All signs indicate she is correct. Apparently, the children can only be released from Children’s Village by order of the judge or if the father believes the children have “learned their lesson.” However, he reportedly left the country the day after the hearing for a two-week business trip.
The case will be revisited in September, where Stern will argue in favor of the children’s release. “I know laws were violated and I know that the children were punished for crimes they did not commit, she said.
Their mother remains devastated at the decision. “I want them back home,” she said. “Help them heal, give them the love they need and deserve.”
Though—as in most cases—both parents likely contributed to the disastrous divorce, it is difficult to argue that the children deserved to be sentenced to detention for making a personal choice, especially when at least one child feared a threat of violence. While the judge’s intentions may be good, her decision is yet another example of the futility of attempting to force behavior and “healthy relationships,” whether interpersonal, societal, or political.
As the children’s mother said, “Since that day I cannot eat, I cannot sleep. I cannot understand something like that can even happen in this country.”
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