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June 24, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I’ve often criticized family court judges who battle with alienating parents, sometimes for many years, until finally the alienator does something truly drastic, like abducting the children. I point out that, if the judge had acted sooner, the children would still be safe. Plus, prompt judicial action could save huge amounts of time and expense on the part of litigants as well as the court. But judges often are loath to act and the result often is a mess for everyone and abuse for the kids.

But in this case, a Winnipeg, Manitoba judge seems to have acted promptly, doing pretty much all she could to prevent a disaster, but sadly one occurred anyway (Winnipeg Free Press, 6/22/16). This past Monday, Montana and Joshua Giesbrecht, ages 11 and 9 respectively, were abducted, apparently by their mother, Sandra Giesbrecht.

That’s true despite the fact that the judge in the custody case of which Montana and Joshua were the subjects, issued an order giving full custody to their father, Attorney Jacob Giesbrecht, and limiting Sandra’s access to them to six hours per week of supervised visitation. That happened in April, now the kids are gone and a nationwide alert has been issued for their mother.

That follows a 2 ½ year donnybrook of a custody case that featured pretty much every alienating trick in the book. Essentially, Sandra Giesbrecht stopped at nothing in her effort to deny a father to her kids.

"Since the separation, the mother’s behaviour has been disturbing. She continues to show an unwillingness to parent the children in a healthy manner. She continues her attempts to prevent their parental bond with their father," [Judge Cathy] Everett wrote. "Immeasurable harm has been caused to these children over the past 21/2 years by the mother’s toxic conduct. She has attempted to destroy the parental bond between the children and their father. To some degree, the extent of which is unknown, she has been successful."…

As part of the court ruling, the mother was also banned from having any unauthorized contact with her children or her estranged husband.

CFS seized the children in January because of concerns they were being "emotionally and psychologically abused" by their mother. There had been two previous criminal complaints in 2014 and 2015 made against the father for alleged sexual abuse of his daughter. A lengthy investigation by police and CFS found there to be no merit and deemed they were the mother’s attempts to manipulate custody.

This has led to an ongoing police investigation of the mother for possible public mischief charges. As well, police uncovered disturbing text messages the woman sent to her friend, which were presented in court at the recent custody battle.

"They confirmed she was having the father followed and that she wanted to kill him if the court gave him more time with the children. In the text messages she also mused about disappearing with the children," said Everett…

The children were recently found to each have "secret" phones their mother had given them to communicate. The mother was also found in contempt of court for hiring the person to follow her estranged spouse around, apparently in an attempt to dig up dirt on him.

As well, Everett said two unidentified women in a rental vehicle were seen in April taking pictures of the children’s school and all the entrances. An adult woman was also caught by staff in the school that month, speaking briefly with the children. She refused to identify herself before fleeing.

Everett ordered Sandra Giesbrecht to pay a $5,000 fine for the contempt charge and gave her a 45-day suspended sentence.

"The mother shows no contrition and no inclination to change her contemptuous behaviour. At trial her, conduct continued to border on contemptuous. This conduct included yelling at the father’s counsel, refusing to answer questions and inappropriate commentary directed at the court following rulings on objections," Everett wrote.

The mother has also lashed out at her estranged husband by recently sending a "highly personal and vicious" email to the man’s co-workers.

"Much of the content was not true. It is demonstrative of the unstable behaviour that the mother has exhibited over the past two years," said Everett.

Judge Everett found Sandra in contempt of court and fined her $5,000, but nothing deterred her from her campaign of hatred toward the father of her children.

From here it looks to me as if Everett did pretty much all she could to rein in Sandra’s behavior. But questions arise, principally, “who assisted Sandra in abducting the children?” It certainly appears that she had help and I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t come from the two women who were caught surveilling the children’s school and following Jacob wherever he went.

I suspect Sandra had help because, although being a licensed real estate agent, she hasn’t worked in that capacity in quite some time. Weirdly, she did start a daycare center, but didn’t obtain a license to do so. Authorities shut the place down last year, leaving her apparently with no income. She’s filed for bankruptcy.

With a normal person, filing for bankruptcy usually means a severe shortage of funds, but with Sandra, that may not be the case. After all, she’s lied to the police and courts for over two years about her ex-husband, so why not lie to another court about her finances. Judge Everett ordered her to pay child support, so filing for bankruptcy could simply be a ruse to avoid doing so or lower her payments.

On the other hand, having only worked as a daycare operator and not even that in months, my guess is that Sandra truly is short of funds. If that’s true, fleeing authorities isn’t easy to do. How does someone in that situation pay for food, lodging and transportation expenses?

The answer is she doesn’t, but that isn’t a problem if she doesn’t incur any. If she’s got help, she can vanish for a long, long time and leave no trace via credit card expenditures, checks cashed, etc.

So my question remains, who’s assisting her? There are a couple of possibilities. As we learned in the Danny Dimm case three years ago, domestic violence shelters are commonly understood to be places in which a woman and her kids can hide out. Few questions are asked on the assumption that Daddy is an abuser and everyone needs to keep out of sight. That the three might be hiding, not from Daddy, but the police seems never to be considered.

The second possibility is one of the underground organizations that exist for the purpose of helping mothers abduct children.

Both DV shelters and those organizations readily accept a mother’s word for it that she and/or the children are in danger of abuse. Nor are they deterred in that belief by multiple findings by a judge of abusive behavior by the mother. Their narrative holds that courts routinely ignore claims of abuse by mothers and hand over custody to abusive fathers. That such behavior by courts is vanishingly rare, if it happens at all, concerns these people not a bit.

Will we ever see Montana and Joshua again? Who knows? But if they’re gone long, there’s no doubt that their well-being is in very serious jeopardy. That would be true of their lives with Sandra even if she hadn’t abducted them, but life on the run with a mother like her is all but certain to leave psychic wounds that literally may never heal.

 

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#parentalchildabduction, #parentalalienation, #childabuse, #contemptofcourt

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