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A bitter custody battle keeps racking up damages

If you think a marriage can be toxic, you have no idea how bad a divorce can get. However, those who have witnessed the 8-year-long custody battle between a Michigan couple are starting to think that there's never been an uglier divorce.

In the eight years of litigation, the parties have gone through at least three judges and 21 attorneys. Over 1,000 entries have been logged into the court's docket and more than $400,000 has been paid in legal fees. Additional hearings have been held in Israel, the U.S. District Court and Michigan's Court of Appeals.

There have been allegations of violence and the threat of child abduction by both parents. Police escorts were even required each time the children were transferred between their parents.

Eventually, the father claimed that the mother was purposefully turning the children's minds and hearts against him, while the mother claims that the children are simply afraid of and angry with an abusive and domineering father.

In a now-famous courtroom meltdown, a family court judge lost her cool when dealing with the children -- who steadfastly refused to communicate with their father even when forced to sit with him for hours in the courthouse. She compared the oldest child, who was only 14, to cult leader Charles Manson and had all three kids shipped off to juvenile detention. She then issued a no-contact order to the mother's legal team, forbidding anyone from her side of the battle to interact with the children.

The judge was alternately vilified and lauded, depending on who was talking about the case and her actions. Some saw her as a much-needed voice of reason trying to put a stop to parental alienation syndrome -- while others (including the state bar) saw her as overstepping her bounds by putting three children in handcuffs for having a poor relationship with a parent and treating them in a demeaning manner.

A case like this is an extreme example of how parents -- and even judges -- can sometimes overlook the fact that the children at the center of a bitter custody battle are often the real victims.

While no divorce is particularly pleasant, you should talk with your attorney about how to minimize the fallout from your own divorce -- particularly if there are children involved.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Is this Oakland County's most toxic divorce ever?," John Wisely, July 31, 2017

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