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Children detained in child custody contempt case

A highly unusual case has garnered national media attention after three children were jailed for refusing to see their father. The case has led to a great deal of outrage among parents in Colorado and across the nation. While a number of child custody cases include hearings on contempt, the parties involved in those proceedings are the parents, not the children. In this case, the judge seems to be punishing the children for the family's ongoing conflict.

The parents have been involved in custody litigation since 2009. They have attended dozens of hearings in the matter, including proceedings to determine therapy, visitation schedules and other matters. In 2010, the mother asked for an order of personal protection, claiming that her former husband had issued threats toward both herself and her children. Because those alleged threats could not be substantiated, the petition was denied.

The couple's oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, claims to have witnessed his father assaulting the mother. He has stated that he no longer wishes to see his father or interact with him. Court records state that the children have all been influenced by their mother, and the judge has made statements to the oldest child regarding her belief that the boy has been brainwashed.

When the children recently refused to see their father for scheduled visitation, the matter went back to court. The judge ordered the children, ages 15, 10 and 9, to be placed within a juvenile detention facility for contempt of court. While there, the siblings may not be allowed to interact with one another. They can visit with their father, but cannot see their mother or any member of their maternal family. As they have long refused to speak to or even look at their father, this could mean that they are completely isolated from family contact during their incarceration.

As this case plays out, many in Colorado and across the country are shocked that three children have been sent to a juvenile detention facility despite having broken no laws. Children are not considered to be parties within a child custody matter, so it is difficult to understand how they could be found guilty of refusing to obey a court order that pertains to their parents. Until the matter is resolved, these three siblings will continue to be housed in a facility that does in fact contain juvenile offenders, an outcome that many find simply unacceptable.

Source:, "Siblings thrown in juvie hall for refusing to see dad", Mike Martindale and Jennifer Chambers, July 9, 2015

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