Family judge orders “reunification therapy” despite children’s fears

Michigan judge orders controversial therapy for Tsimhoni children despite the children's fears of being alone with their father.

CBS Screenshot showing media coverage of the case
CBS Screenshot showing media coverage of the case

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2015 – In an about face that makes little sense,  Michigan judge Lisa Gorcyca recently forced three children from the Tsimhoni family to undergo reunification therapy. Under that therapy, the children reportedly would be locked in a hotel room with their estranged father for five days.

This Tsimhoni family case has made domestic and international headlines due to the judges seemingly biased position against the children.

The about face comes from the fact that the same judge, in the same custody case, had previously rejected the same reunification therapy, CDN has learned.

According to reports, the children have all expressed fear over being alone with their father.

Gorcyca’s extraordinary action followed her international headline-making order sending the same three children to juvenile hall after they refused to have lunch with their father. After her order drew overwhelming media attention and condemnation, Judge Gorcyca backed off that decision and instead sent the children to a camp.

Michigan Judge Gorcyca sends children to father they fear

New information obtained by CDN shows that in March 2015 lawyers for the mother, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, initially suggested that the children go through reunification therapy.

“One of the things that we proposed was to start reunification therapy now,” Eibschitz-Tsimhoni’s then attorney, Andrew Bossory, told the court, “if the court wants to entertain that.”

Tsimhoni Testimony
Tsimhoni Testimony

William Lansat, guardian ad litem,  for the three children, responded: “I don’t wanna to do that now.”

Keri Middleditch, attorney for the father Omer Tsimhoni, concurred, saying, “and I happen to agree with Mr. Lansat.”

Yet in August, Judge Gorcyca ruled that the three children must go through reunification therapy, which is followed up with a period of 90 days during which they are forced to live with their father.

CDN exclusively reported in August that the father has a history of domestic abuse incidents, including threatening to kill the children and grabbing one of them by the arm and pinning him against a wall.

This new revelation clearly shows that Maya Tsimhoni, the mother, was prepared to move forward with parenting time which flies in the face of the allegation that Maya Tsimhoni has been alienating her children from her ex-husband.

Allegations that the mother has alienated the children hav been made by the father, Judge Gorcyca, and Lansat, but have not been proven.

Judge Gorcyca sealed the case, and all parties have since declined repeated requests for comment from media, including CDN.

The State of Connecticut, CDN has learned, has deemed reunification therapy not to be therapy at all, and that the “therapists” participating in reunification therapy often have no licenses or clear training.

Referring to the reunification therapy called “Transitions in Parenting,” the Connecticut Department of Public Health said,

“A closer review of the documents that those services do not meet the criteria of ‘clinical social work’ nor of ‘counseling, psychotherapy, behavior modification and mental health consultation.’”

The department further said, “reunification did not constitute the practice of social work and therefore you were not required to have a social work license at the time.”

Despite the dubious nature of the therapy, L.L .Brasier, writing for the Detroit Free Press, claimed the Tsimhoni children had successfully completed the therapy:

“The three Michigan children caught up in a custody dispute that made international headlines have successfully reunited with their father.”

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Brasier did not respond to an email from CDN to explain how he determined that the therapy was successful.

Speaking with Hope Loudon of the Huffington Post, Dr. Joy Silberg challenged the notion that such therapy could ever be considered a success:

“In these therapies, the children do not give any form of consent, their autonomy is disregarded, and privileges are withheld until they comply with the program expectations. In the view of many child psychologists this is more akin to a brainwashing prison camp than a therapy program…. Coercion plays no part in [a successful therapeutic program] and delays meaningful and lasting reunification even if the children show surface compliance.”

Most recently, Maya’s mother has filed a motion to appoint her as the Tsimhoni children’s “next friend.”

At the same time, her daughter has filed a separate motion to have Gorcyca recused from the case for apparent bias.

Michael Volpe is author of the new book, Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney’s Kafkaesque Divorce, where this case is discussed in more detail.

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