Court Holds Children in Contempt, Detained for Refusing to Have Lunch with Father

August 25th, 2015 by

In what can only be described as a bizarre method for enforcing a court order, a Michigan Circuit Court judge recently remanded three siblings to a juvenile facility for refusing to have a relationship with their father. After spending nearly two weeks at the euphemistically named ‘Children’s Village,’ the court made a further order that the children spend the rest of the summer at an overnight camp until their parents resolve their custody dispute, what the judge described as unlike anything she had seen in her legal career.

The case arose out of divorce proceedings between the father and mother. Both were seeking custody, and there was strong evidence that the mother had been alienating the children from their father. The children referred to their father as a ‘violent man’ although the record shows that there is little evidence supporting this, and that likely notion was a product of their mother’s influence.

At the hearing, the judge found the eldest sibling in contempt of the Court’s order to communicate with his father and directed him to the Children’s Village until he decided to obey the order. The younger two siblings, when given the opportunity to have lunch with their father that day in the Court cafeteria, declined and instead opted to follow their older brother to the youth facility.

When news broke of the decision, there was a public outcry from the community, complete with “Love is Not Court Ordered” shirts. After approximately two weeks at the facility, the children were released, but not allowed to return home. Although no details were provided, the children have since been placed in a summer camp until school starts or the parents conclude their custody proceedings, whichever comes sooner.

While I am unaware of any similar situation happening in Ontario, this case should stand as a warning to parties engaged in contested custody or access proceedings no matter the forum. Parties are under an obligation to facilitate a relationship between their children and former spouse, where it is in the interests of the children. Courts have repeatedly held that parents must be proactive and earnest in this regard. Where parents fail to do this, they may be reprimanded by the Court in a variety of fashions.  If you believe that your former spouse is alienating your children from you, or you are experiencing other issues in relation to a custody or access dispute, contact the experienced family law team at Devry Smith Frank LLP.

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