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New attorney defends mom in bitter Oakland custody case

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — New attorneys for a West Bloomfield Township mother embroiled in a custody battle in Oakland Circuit Court defended their client and her children to reporters Monday.

Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni and her ex-husband, Omer Tsimhoni, were back in court to hear a report on how their two boys, 14 and 10 years old, and a 9-year-old sister are faring in a summer camp they were sent to last week after more than three weeks in Children’s Village, a county-run juvenile detention facility.

The Tsimhoni case has drawn international media attention. The couple, who divorced in 2011, are involved in a contentious custody battle. Judge Lisa Gorcyca found the children in contempt of court June 24 and ordered them placed in Children’s Village until they were willing to have a healthy relationship with their father. The children have repeatedly refused to speak, look or even have lunch with their father.

Tsimhoni’s attorney and others appointed by Gorcyca have reported the major issue as a case of parental alienation, motivated by Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, a well-known ophthalmologist, exerting influence over her children to shun their father.

“There are a lot of kids in this state that would be lucky to have a mother like her,” one of the mother’s new attorneys, Andrew Abood, said outside the courtroom after the hearing.

Abood and his brother, Jeffrey, took over legal duties Monday for Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, who has had 12 different attorneys since initiating her divorce in 2009. The Aboods replace family custody expert attorney Lisa Stern as well as Jennifer Hoult, a New York City attorney who allegedly tried to send mail to the children in Children’s Village and also at the camp.

Eibschitz-Tsimhoni’s custody will be challenged Wednesday before Gorcyca.

Tsimhoni, who has filed for sole custody, described the childrens’ mother as “unfit.” Tsimhoni is also asking that his ex-wife submit to a psychological exam. She has countered her husband has violent tendencies and she fears he will kidnap the children and take them to Israel where he is employed as an engineer by General Motors Corp.

Neither parent discussed the case Monday. Tsimhoni huddled with his attorney, Keri Middleditch, and both left shortly after the hearing. His ex-wife let Abood talk to the media.

Abood described the children as “smart” and “intuitive” and while he said they are doing well at the camp “they would be doing much better at home with their mother.”

“A lot of kids go to summer camp, but few on the orders of a judge,” he said.

Attorney William Lansat, appointed by Gorcyca to handle legal issues and rights of the children, said things were going well at camp, but rules at the facility required all attendees to have physical examinations by Tuesday to remain there. Gorcyca ordered a doctor to be permitted to visit the children at camp to do the physicals or if that can’t be arranged, to permit their mother to take them to their family physician.

Lansat said the only issue at camp has been the large amount of mail being sent to the children, much of it from attorneys. Gorcyca said all mail should be monitored by Lansat. Neither parent is allowed to write the children at camp and can only visit in compliance with camp rules and with a court-appointed monitor present. After one monitor reported Eibschitz-Tsimhoni would only speak to the children in Hebrew in the presence of adults, Gorcyca ordered all verbal communication to be in English.

While it remains unclear how long the children will remain at camp, the parental visits there expire this Thursday by camp rules.

Lansat had earlier said the children had been uncooperative with him and mental health professionals trying to evaluate them. Lansat described the siblings as displaying “cult-like” behavior, huddling together and tapping their feet as if communicating in Morse code with one another.

Their mother has repeatedly said there was nothing abnormal with her children’s behavior. Abood agreed.

“Nobody ... no evidence that these are bad kids,” he said. “They get good grades and have good relationships. They love each other and they love their mother.”

“We want them to have a positive relationship with their father.”

Abood said he doesn’t expect much to happen at Wednesday’s first change of custody hearing before Gorcyca “or on any other day.”

Several of Eibschitz-Tsimhoni’s supporters wore white “Love Is Not Court Ordered” T-shirts to court which also had the message of returning the Tsimhoni kids to their mother. Several woman, accompanied by young children, unsuccessfully tried to carry homemade signs into court which carried messages asking Gorcyca to send the children home.

John Langlois, executive director of Dads and Moms Group, a non-profit Oakland County association which seeks to keep children involved with both divorced parents, said parental time and visitation issues in the Tsimhoni case should have been resolved “at least two years ago when the children were younger.”

“Children have to be taught how to hate,” Langlois said outside the courtroom. “They don’t have the power to decide custodial rights or what parent they will live with. And their relationship with their father is not their mother’s business.”

Langlois said it will likely require “a lot of therapy” to revive a relationship between Tsimhoni and his children.

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