Expert: Locking kids up for not spending time with dad is "draconian"

A twist in a six-year court battle stemming from a messy divorce is sparking outrage.

A Michigan judge is holding three kids in contempt of court after they refused to spend time with their father. The children, ages 9, 10 and 15, are now at the Children's Village, a juvenile detention facility in Pontiac.

"This is really a draconian remedy," CBS News legal expert Rikki Klieman said Friday on "CBS This Morning." "This gives new meaning to the phrases 'scared straight' or 'tough love.'"

Oakland County Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca last month declared the children in civil contempt of court.

"When you can follow the court's direct order and have a normal, healthy relationship with your father, I would review this," Gorcyca stated.

She also told the children, "You're so mentally messed up right now, and it's not because of your father."

"If you read the transcript of this hearing, the transcript offends more than the ultimate ruling, if such a thing is possible, because she's saying to the kids, 'You're in a Manson-like cult, you ought to read about Charles Manson.' That was a bit over the top for me," Klieman said.

According to CBS Detroit, the children's parents, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni and Omer Tsimhoni, have been entangled in a bitter divorce for six years. The Bloomfield Hills couple has reportedly made dozens of court appearances for issues including parenting time, therapy and schooling, but have never reached a common ground.

While some question whether getting the court involved would make the situation worse, Klieman said "the court is the only authority that can try to bring this family together."

"We look at cases of what we call 'parental alienation' and what parental alienation really is about one parent in a divorce who ultimately gets hold of the child, or in this case three children, and poisons the well against the other spouse," Klieman said.

According to the court, guardian and the therapist, the mother has been obstructing in the case for many years, Klieman said.

"If there should be a sanction, it should be against mom. She's a party to the divorce, which, by the way, the divorce has been final for some time. The kids are the victims," Klieman said.

Ultimately, however, the children in this instance have "the key to the kingdom."

"They're in a juvenile facility and they, if they will simply talk with their father when he visits them, he will report to the court and they can come back," Klieman said.