Very Brief Overview of the Injustices of this Case

As published on the Daas Torah blog.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Who is Dr. Michael Schlesinger?

I have posted many articles regarding the Schlesinger twins and I still find this case difficult to understand or justify. updated and corrected
click link for transcript of facts reported in Parliament
The basic  facts are that when Beth and Michael got married she moved from England and settled in his community in Vienna.  They are both highly intelligent. They have twin boys. Apparently the marriage had significant problems from the beginning. Beth claims she was having serious doubts about the marriage because of what she claims was his strange and abusive - both physically and psychologically - behavior. (She claims for example that he prevented her from using the bath room at night.) The marriage officially fell apart after the twins were 8 months old (after 3.5 years).

At that point Michael - who is a medical doctor - tried unsuccessfully to have Beth committed to a mental hospital. Beth received full custody of the twins with Dr. Schlesinger having supervised visits. After a year there was a custody trial by a judge (Susanne Göttlicher) who did not know Schlesinger, but, higher court judge Konstanze Thau (who has no legal position in the case) was a family friend of Schlesinger's, and was advising him as admitted by Schlesinger in court and documented in the court transcripts. The judge gave a totally unexpected ruling - based on a psychological evaluation by a psychiatrist who is alleged to have connections with the Schlesinger family - that full custody was given to Michael.

The court-appointed psychiatrist who heavily criticized Beth in her report was Dr Ulrike Willinger (this was the underpinning reason for the transfer of custody in 2011). She was an employee of Konstanze Thau's husband, Prof Kenneth Thau (who is himself a psychiatrist) at the AKH hospital: . Dr Willinger has been discredited in other custody cases where she has been heavily critical of the mother's parenting skills, and a subsequent court-commissioned report by Dr Werner Leixnering states: “Neither at the time of the examination nor at any point in the past, has [Beth] suffered from any form of mental illness.”

Beth has supervised handovers for which she must pay 50 Euros. This means that both Beth and Mr Schlesinger have to go to a "family center" at the start and end of each visit so that they don't meet each other. Once the transfer is complete, Beth is allowed the visit to be unsupervised and to take the children away for the length of the visit. In practice, the handover doesn't actually need to be done by a "family center". Beth could pick them up from the Kindergarten for example or take up Chief Rabbi Eisenberg's offer to do the handover at the Stadttempel under his supervision. In actual fact, the family center have regularly failed to protect Beth from Mr Schlesinger's verbal abuse at the start and end of the visits.

Beth reports that her children have significantly deteriorated in Michael's custody where they are being raised by two non-Jewish women. For example their front teeth were extracted because of decay that occurred after they moved in with their father. They are functioning significantly behind their age level in language and in fact don't speak normally. It is not clear how they are doing in the Chabad school they attend since the school refuses to divulge any information to Beth. There are reports that they don't wear kippos or tzitzis Furthermore Beth reports that at times Michael arbitrarily cancels visits because of various claims he has against her.

It is difficult to me to understand what justification there is for denying the children their mother  and instead raising them with non-Jewish babysitters. It is difficult to understand why Beth should be denied knowledge about how they are doing in school. It is strange that the Jewish community should tolerate this situation.

It seems obvious that there is a need for an outside evaluation of the children. This in fact was ordered by the court - but has never been implemented. It is also strange that Dr. Schlesinger has not been evaluated for his mental health and competence as a parent.

In the name of fairness, I would welcome a guest post by Dr. Schlesinger explaining his side of the story and why he thinks it is important that Beth not be given a normal relationship with her children and what is the basis for the reports about the twins developmental and language problems. Obviously he has a different understanding then she - and it would be helpful if he or one of his supporters explained his side of the story. It would also be helpful if some of his background could be provided - such as where he works and why he thinks the marriage fell apart so quickly despite appearing to be such a promising relationship.

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