Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Timeline of Events
For the most crucial points see the post titled "Facts."
On January 17, 1998, Julie Sharpe, a Jewish girl from Toledo, Ohio, married Peter Goffstein, who at the time presented himself as Jewish.
In 2002, when their oldest was starting preschool, the two decided that they wanted to be more involved in their Jewish heritage, and started their journey towards becoming more observant of Jewish traditions. They agreed to send their children to Jewish schools, observe Kosher dietary laws, keep the Jewish Sabbath and Holidays, etc.
In 2005, when Peter learned that he wasn’t really Jewish (as he wasn’t born Jewish), he initiated the process of converting to Judaism; a complex process which includes a great amount of study, a sincere commitment to Torah observance, immersion in a Mikvah, as well as undergoing circumcision.
In 2006, after completing the conversion process, Julie and Peter renewed their vows in a second wedding ceremony.
During this time Peter was very much involved in the growth of the Jewish community. He hosted meetings, and donated funds, to help establish a local Rabbinical school, a Jewish Discovery Center, etc. He even purchased a new home, just to be closer to the synagogue.
In 2008, after losing his job with Bear Creek Capital, Peter started to drift away from his Jewish observance. He stopped observing the Sabbath, stopped keeping Kosher, etc. All the while living at home with his observant wife and children.
In 2010 Peter gave Julie an ultimatum: Either she was to abandon her religious practices, stop observing the Sabbath, register the children in public schools, etc., or he wanted a divorce.
On July 2, 2010, after all attempts at reconciliation/negotiations/arbitration had failed, the couple filed for divorce.
They had 6 boys together (ages are at time of judgement): Reuven (15), Yaakov (13), Aaron (11), Eli (9), Levi (7), and Aryeh (5).
In July, 2010, Julie was assigned sole temporary residential and custodial parent. She was allowed to keep the children in their Jewish schools, and allowed to have the children for all Jewish holidays, including all Sabbaths.
At the time, the Magistrate assigned to the case understood the importance of maintaining stability in the children’s lives. He understood that the mother was loving and caring, and only wanted what was best for the children.
The magistrate followed the court’s policy of looking out for the best interest of the children.
Peter tried filing many motions, all aimed at allowing him to change the way the children were being raised.
He wanted them to be taken out of their schools. He wanted them to spend every other Saturday with him, so they wouldn't be able to observe the Sabbath, but the magistrate would not allow it. Peter was not allowed to disturb the environment that the children were raised in. He was not allowed to change the way they were being raised. The children were to remain in the stability that was established during the marriage. That was the court’s philosophy, and that’s what the magistrate ordered.
Unfortunately, the judge did not seem to share the magistrate’s commitment to the court’s standards. The judge started caving to the father’s demands. The judge was more concerned with the father’s “rights” to his children, rather than considering what was in the children’s best interest.
During the trial the court ordered evaluations by both a social worker, as well as a psychologist. They were both called in as expert witnesses, and both recommended that Julie be allowed to continue to raise her children within the Orthodox Jewish community, as she had been doing since they were toddlers. They both testified that she was a good parent. They both testified that the children were doing well in her care. And they both felt it was in the children’s best interest to leave everything as it was, and to keep the magistrate’s decision as final.
During the trial Peter conceded custody of the two oldest boys, ages 13 and 11, so the trial was only regarding custody of the younger four.
On June 21, 2012, after an extremely drawn out trial, the judge issued permanent custody of all six children to their mother. However, contrary to the magistrate’s original decision, contrary to the only two expert witnesses on the case, and contrary to the court’s own ideology, the judge allowed for Peter to have the children every other Saturday, not allowing the children to observe the Sabbath. He split the Jewish holidays between Julie and Peter, allowing the children to only observe half of their holidays. He allowed for Peter to serve them non-kosher food. He allowed Peter to interfere with the children’s summer camps. Etc. Etc.
The more requests Peter put in with this judge, the more he was granted.
The more Julie tried defending herself, the more she tried defending her own religious rights, as well as the children’s rights, the more she was ignored.
Peter kept coming back with the same complaint: he didn't like the fact that the children were in Jewish schools. He also felt that he had been alienated. The children were happy with their mother, they were happy in their schools, they were happy being raised as Jews, and that bothered Peter, so he kept coming back to court.
In March, 2013 Peter filed for a reallocation of custody. He wanted the judge to retry the case. He argued all the same arguments that he had argued in the past. He tried convincing the judge that he, not Julie, had the children’s best interest at heart. He wanted the children to have a chance at a “normal” life. He wanted them spared of the Jewish radicalism that Julie was exposing them to. He wanted all rights over all the children, including those of which he had conceded custody.
After 2 days of trial, at which no new evidence was presented, no witnesses were called in, and no investigations had been done, the judge agreed to change custody of the four younger boys.
On May 22, 2013 the judge split this family. He left the older two with their mother, yet issued the change in custody for the younger four, stating his reason for the change as the mother’s “misplaced priorities”, referring to her desire to maintain the Jewish education that had been established during the marriage, by sending her teenage son to Yeshiva (rabbinical school).
The judge ordered that, as long as Julie paid their tuition, the children can remain in the Jewish elementary school they were attending, however Peter would have rights over their high school. Parenting time was split evenly between the two.
Julie, who was obviously very distraught by the judge’s actions, filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals.
Considering that the children were still in Jewish schools, and still felt like they were part of the Jewish community, Peter was still not happy. So he kept filing motions with the court. Peter asked the court to modify the previous order, and allow him, among other things, to pull the kids out of their school.
The judge once again scheduled a hearing to listen to all of the same claims, all over again.
The hearing was scheduled for July 29, 2013, the same day as their son Yaakov’s Bar Mitzvah. Yaakov was out of state at sleep-away camp, and was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah at camp.
Julie filed a motion, asking the court to reschedule the hearing, to accommodate her son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Julie also filed a motion, asking the judge to “stay” his previous ruling pending the appeal’s case.
In addition, Julie filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case, as the judge no longer had jurisdiction to modify a ruling that was being appealed.
The hearing continued as planned, in Julie’s absence. The judge addressed all of Julie’s motions, and dismissed them one at a time.
He dismissed her motion about her not being able to be there, on grounds that she wasn't there to argue it
(i.e. because she’s not here to tell us why she’s not here, we’re not going to accept her motion, which explains why she’s not here.)
He then addressed her motion to stay judgement pending appeal, and expressed that she was being “presumptuous”, and that she obviously felt that a stay was automatic, and it therefor denied.