For those of you who have been following the Wendi G. case, I’ll start with the good news: Wendi and her new husband will be seeing her children in a few days. (I have had the pleasure of meeting Wendi’s new husband and speaking with him, by the way; he is a lovely, caring man.) By court order, they are to have four hours with the children on Friday, seven hours Saturday, and six hours Sunday, with a supervisor selected by the children’s father. There is no indication in Judge Hulsing’s order that he or his staff contacted the father’s proposed supervisors to evaluate their appropriateness, and he gives no explanation for rejecting the mother’s proposed supervisors.
If you are not familiar with the case, the children are 10 and 12 years old and have spent the great majority of their lives in the primary care of their mother. They have not been permitted to see her since August 12th, despite how easy it would have been for the court to order and arrange supervised contact during that time. Wendi has never been accused of harming her children in any way; she is being denied visitation with them because she fled with them for three weeks over the summer after her daughter made disclosures to her mother that she was being sexually abused by her father. (I say this based not only on what Wendi has recounted to me, but also on a detailed forensic report I have read where the children were questioned by skilled forensic interviewers at a Child Advocacy Center ; the contents of that report make Wendi’s report of what her daughter said to her entirely credible). No one has presented any evidence that the children were harmed or frightened during their time of living in hiding with their mother, and they appear to have returned in good spirits from that time.
Given this context, in cannot be in the children’s psychological interests to be permitted so little (almost nonexistent) time with their mother.
Father and His Attorney Told an Easily Verifiable Lie to Restrict Mother-Child Contact
Here comes a critical point for today’s blog. Wendi was requesting four days with the children, Dec. 16-19, when she is able to travel to Colorado. In a document (which I have a copy of) prepared and signed by attorney Susan Vroegop of the firm Cunningham Dalman, P.C., Ms. Vroegop states, “The children will be in school on Friday the 16th, they will attend church on Sunday morning the 18th, and the 19th is another school day for them. Therefore, Eric proposes the parenting time referenced above.” The parenting schedule they requested, which the judge granted in its entirety, does not allow Wendi to see the children until 5:30 on Friday the 16th and does not permit her to see them at all on the 19th, based on these false claims about the school schedule.
As is easily verifiable on the school district’s website (see www.d49.org, click on “Parents and Students” and then click on “Academic Calendar 2011-2012”), the children have only a half day on the 16th and do not have school at all on the 19th. Visitation could easily have started earlier than 5:30 on the 16th and should have included a full day on the 19th.
Judge Jon Hulsing did not bother to check the veracity of Attorney Vroegop’s claims about the children’s school schedule, and simply gave father the requested schedule.
Eric C. may claim that this was an accident, and that he simply misremembered the school schedule. I would not find such a claim credible, but even if it were true, it would show a reckless disregard for the children’s need for time with their mother and show that he doesn’t consider it important – and that Attorney Vroegop does not consider it important—to make sure that the most crucially relevant assertion they made in their document for court was accurate. And it indicates an underlying goal to keep the children away from their mother.
The Potential for Intimidation of the Children Regarding Their Upcoming Testimony
The children, who are living in Colorado with their father, are scheduled to testify in court in Michigan on January 10th and/or January 12th. They will be there to testify to whether the daughter made the reports about child sexual abuse that the forensic team says she made, and that Wendi says she made. (The son was reportedly a witness to some of these disclosures.) It is striking that, other than this brief weekend visit in December -- the first time the children have seen their mother in four months -- the court does not intend to permit any more visitation with the children and their mother before the hearing. Father’s court papers explicitly stated that she should not see them again until after the hearing.
Thus the court is doing nothing to protect the children from intimidation by the alleged perpetrator prior to the hearing – they are living with him – but seems very concerned about possible intimidation by their mother despite the absence of any evidence that they have ever been harmed by her or afraid of her. The forensic team did not find any evidence that the children’s statements about the sexual abuse were rehearsed or coerced. How can the family court leave the children with so little face-to-face contact with their mother, and none whatever for three weeks prior to their testimony, while leaving the alleged perpetrator unlimited access day and night?
If the court were serious about finding out the truth, it would make sure that these children have more balanced contact between their two parents during the period prior to testifying, and that an unbiased professional, not chosen by either parent, be in place to meet with the children regularly in the weeks leading up to their testimony to make sure that no one is pressuring them about their statements.
As always, far more needs to be said about this case, so I will write more soon. I am also considering posting the entire forensic report (with the names changed), which I think would lead readers to be even more deeply concerned about Judge Hulsing’s rulings on this case. I know readers may also be eager for an update on Ann M.’s case as well, so I will also get a post up about her as soon as I can.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Call the Michigan Bar Association and complain that:
1) Attorney Susan Vroegop of Cunningham Dalman in Holland, MI, wrote and signed a letter that included falsehoods about the school schedule in Falcon School District 49 in Colorado in order to keep a woman from seeing her children on this coming December 19th.
2) Attorney Vroegop’s falsehoods were believed by Judge Hulsing and thus led to the mother being denied contact on December 19th.
The telephone number for the Michigan Bar is (517) 346-6300, or (800) 968-1442. Feel free to mention this blog (LundyBancroft.blogspot.com) in your call.