The first and most important news: The children are scheduled to testify at a hearing on January 10th, but the father's attorney has filed papers requesting that the court prevent them from taking the stand. I have read this motion carefully. Bear in mind that the father has had the children in his custody since the middle of August, during which they have been permitted only supervised phone contact with their mother and one in-person visit of several hours, also supervised, over a span of three days in December. In other words the mother has had no chance to influence her children's testimony for nearly half a year, during which the father has had them 24/7 and has had ample opportunity to pressure them regarding their testimony. So why would he be the one trying to keep them off the stand?
The father is claiming in his filing that testifying would be too stressful for the children. I can't see how the stress of testifying could possibly be greater than the stress of not having the opportunity to tell the court the truth. If the child abuse allegations are true, the children would need to testify so that they can get to safety, and if they are untrue, the children would need to testify so that they can stop living in a swirl of controversy, tension, and suspicion. The only possible reason for keeping the children off the stand would be if the abuse allegations were frivolous, which they certainly are not; a specialized team of professionals at the Child Advocacy Center in Holland, Michigan did not find any reasons to disbelieve the children's statements following their interviews last summer. It is clearly urgent to establish what actually happened, and at this point there is no better way to do this than through the children's appearance on January 10th.
There are other people involved in this case who are creating the impression that they are scrambling to keep the facts buried. The police from the Crimes Against Children Unit of El Paso County, Colorado have filed motions, through their attorney and through the Colorado Springs City Attorney, to be allowed not to release their records and not to have their detectives deposed about their role in the investigation, claiming that their interest is to protect the children's privacy. In my 25 years of working in domestic violence I have never before heard of police attempting to shield their files and their personnel from a child sexual abuse court proceeding (or from any other type of court proceeding). The claim of protecting the children's privacy is frivolous; the judge can choose to seal records after they are reviewed by the lawyers and by the court if the children need that protection; in fact, the Colorado judge has reportedly already sealed one of the completed depositions on the case.
It seems much more likely, then, that what the police are out to protect is their own irresponsible or biased actions. This matter will be heard in court in Colorado on January 5th.
The children's current therapist in Colorado, who became their therapist at the father's suggestion, also filed a motion through her attorney to stop her deposition. However, the Colorado judge already denied her motion and ordered that deposition to go forward (but sealed it).
If the daughter's statements were misunderstood or were rehearsed, it would seem that the father and the professionals involved would all be eager to have that information come out, in order to prove his innocence. To be mistakenly accused of sexual abuse would be a horrible experience. So my concerns for these children's safety is increased when the father and these surrounding professionals are instead seeming eager to put a lid on information.
The Michigan judge who has been handling the family law proceedings, Judge Jon Hulsing, has important opportunities in the weeks ahead to do right by Wendi's children. He already made one important positive step, which was that he denied motions by the father to quash mother's subpoenas for depositions. (The professionals involved then filed their own motions to quash in Colorado, supported by the father, which I wrote about above).
Of concern, though, is that the Judge stated at the last hearing that he will not allow the transcript of the children's forensic interview last summer by the Child Advocacy Center to be entered as evidence, although no Michigan statute prevents the transcript from being entered. Judge Hulsing cited an Appeals Court case as his reason for blocking the transcript. I have read the case that appears to be the one he is referring to, and there is nothing in that ruling that would keep him from allowing the transcript in. That ruling does seem to give him permission (not obligation) to keep the transcript out if he chooses to, and if the children's version of events is adequately covered by other evidence that has been admitted, which so far it is clearly not. In other words, if Judge Hulsing were to both bar the transcript and bar the children from testifying, he would appear to be violating the very case law that he is citing to justify keeping the transcript out.
It is my hope that he will deny the motion to stop the children's testimony, and then revisit his mistaken decision to keep the transcripts of those earlier interviews out. (Those transcripts are important so that the children's statements at that time, when they were in their mother's care, can be compared to statements they make at trial after a long period in their father's care.)