London Free Press

December 8, 2001

Triplets' mom wins time alone with kids

London Free Press

STRATFORD -- Carline Vandenelsen will have unsupervised access to her triplets, a family court judge ruled yesterday.

Superior Court Justice John Desotti also slapped the disgruntled mother with a contempt charge for popping her cheek with her finger during part of his decision.

Desotti ordered Vandenelsen back to court Dec. 14 to face her second contempt charge.

The first charge was for contravening a family court order by secretly taking the children to Mexico in October 2000 and disappearing for three months, prompting an international search.

Vandenelsen was acquitted of three counts of parental abduction in October.

Despite "the abhorrent conduct of the applicant," Desotti said it was "important for the children to be in an unsupervised regime."

The Merkley triplets -- Peter, Gray and Olivia, 8 -- will see their mother next weekend, Jan. 12 and Jan. 13, then alternate weekends until the end of February, when the interim access order will be reviewed.

Vandenelsen was also given an unsupervised visit of four days starting Boxing Day.

Vandenelsen, 39, stomped out of the courtroom before Desotti adjourned the family court hearing that lasted nearly two hours and was punctuated with several heated exchanges.

Since her stunning criminal case victory Oct. 26, Vandenelsen has returned to Stratford after living in the Kitchener area.

Vandenelsen, who was defended successfully by London lawyer Clay Powell in the criminal case, represents herself in family court.

Craig Merkley, the triplets' father and custodial parent, was not in court yesterday. He was at home recovering from a detached retina. His father and sister were in attendance.

Merkley's lawyer, Gordon Lemon, said the unsupervised nature of the visits "comes as a real surprise given our concerns and given her behaviour here today."

Desotti also ordered yesterday:

The support decision was what prompted Vandenelsen, who is in arrears on her payments, to pop her cheek. She wanted all support terminated to March 2000, when Merkley was given full custody and a support order was made.

As for access, Vandenelsen asked Desotti to put the children on a two-week cycle, spending half their time with her and the other with Merkley. But Desotti said that is disruptive, even if the parents get along.

"The likelihood of that happening is zero," he said and noted her "my-way-or-no-way" attitude was making her "confrontational in the extreme."

Vandenelsen said she wanted "a normal and reasonable raising of these children."

Desotti remarked: "You're not oblivious to the fact you absconded with the children and took them out of the country."

"And (was) found not guilty by reason of necessity," Vandenelsen replied.

Desotti said: "I don't care about that. This is family court and that was in direct conflict with a court order."

Copyright (c) 2001 The London Free Press,