Michigan Judge Lisa Gorcyca has ordered three children to juvenile detention for refusing to maintain a “healthy relationship” with their father, calling the case one of the worst examples of parental alienation she has ever witnessed.
In an unprecedented move, Oakland County Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca ordered the Bloomfield Hills, MI children – ages 14, 11, and nine – to Oakland County’s Children’s Village on June 24, describing the case in court records as one of the worst examples of parental alienation she has ever witnessed. The children’s parents, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, 40, and Omer Tsimhoni, 45, have been embroiled in a bitter divorce battle since 2009.
The children, who were each represented in court by their own individual attorneys, were cited with civil contempt after they refused to eat lunch with or talk to their father. Their mother was warned of this possibility months ago.
Once word of the judge’s ruling got out, backlash reverberated through social media platforms. A small rally made up of adults and children also convened outside the Oakland County Courthouse on Wednesday in protest of the order.
Speaking to the eldest child about his behavior, referring to him as a “defiant and contemptuous young man,” Judge Gorcyca said, “you need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has. Your behavior in the halls with me months ago, your behavior in court, your behavior back there is unlike any I’ve seen in 46,000 cases.”
During the hearing, Gorcyca remarked the Tsimhoni case is “tied for my worst parental alienation case,” and forbid the children visits with their mother and their mother’s family while confined at Children’s Village, allowing them only to see their father and their respective attorneys. Gorcyca went on to advise that “the siblings are to be kept away from each other as much as possible.”
Judge Gorcyca further admonished the children by saying, “You have been brainwashed. This is not normal behavior,” a reference to reports from past counseling and therapy sessions that detailed the children’s refusal to speak or make eye contact with their father, or touch food he had touched.
The sensational case dates back to 2009 when Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, an ophthalmologist who was listed as one of the Best Doctors in America during 2007, filed for divorce in Oakland County Circuit Court from her husband and the children’s father, Omer Tsimhoni, a General Motors engineer who currently resides primarily in Israel. At the time of the filing, Ms. Tsimhoni was on-leave from her position as a University of Michigan professor.
Henry S. Gornbein – senior partner at Lippitt O’Keefe Gornbein in Birmingham, MI – was involved in the case early on as counsel for Eibschitz-Tsimhoni. He says this is “a case with a tortuous past,” calling what happened to these children, who are all good students and highly regarded members of the community, “a tragedy.”
The couple, who married in 1995, has been fighting over parenting time since the dispute began. Eibschitz-Tsimhoni is now arguing that her children “are being restrained of their liberty,” and that Judge Gorcyca is overstepping her authority by finding the minors, who are not parties to the case, in contempt of court.
According to court transcripts, the Tsimhoni’s eldest child, who also studies piano in his spare time, apologized to Judge Gorcyca for his recalcitrant behavior, but remained adamant he would not apologize to his father. Arguing his actions were justified, the child went on to cite his father’s alleged violence against his mother as the reason why he took the measures he did.
Court records show Eibschitz-Tsimhoni filed a petition in March 2010 for an order of protection order against her husband, claiming he had threatened both she and the children. The allegations were never substantiated, and the petition was later denied without a hearing.
Gorcyca, speaking on Tsimhoni’s behalf, reminded the child that his father had never been charged with any abuse and went on to say his father loves and wants to see him.
The couple, both originally from Israel, were living together in Michigan with their children when Mr. Tsimhoni, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, accepted a job offer in 2008 back in Israel. Eibschitz-Tsimhoni filed for divorce then, but the couple reconciled a few months later and relocated to Israel as a family. In December 2009, Eibschitz-Tsimhonii returned to the United States with the children and filed for divorce a second time.
Tsimhoni sought to keep the children with him in Israel, claiming it was the children’s habitual residence, but in March 2010 the court ruled in favor of Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, allowing the children to remain with her in the United States.
Because each of the parents reside in different countries separated by a vast distance, Gornbein notes that this case presents unique challenges, particularly concerning where to place the children. According to Gornbein, in severe cases of parental alienation, children are often sent to live with the parent whose parental rights have been compromised – but because of differences in the governing laws of each country in this case, doing so would raise other concerns and risks for the family.
“I disagree with Judge Gorcyca’s decision,” Gornbein states. “But I can see how this case could have driven her to take extreme measures.”
With the children now in custody, the burden rests solely on the Tsimhoni family to abide by the court’s parenting order so they may return home to their mother as quickly as possible.
UPDATE (July 13, 2015): After the media and social-media firestorm that erupted on Friday, July 10, Judge Gorcyca released the children from Oakland County’s Children’s Village. They were sent to Camp Tamarack, a Jewish summer camp organization run by the Fresh Air Society in Bloomfield Hills, MI.