February 6, 1996 in Nation/World

Teens Threatened With Jail For Refusing To Visit Dad Contempt Decision Delayed Until High Court Rules

Lindsey Tanner Associated Press

She gets straight A’s and swims like a champion, but Galatea Kapsimalis is a lot like other teenagers when it comes to being told what to do.

Not even the threat of jail has persuaded the 15-year-old to visit the father she says deserted her family in a bitter divorce battle.

The threat came from the same court that in July ordered a 12-year-old girl jailed for refusing to visit her father. That girl was released a day later pending the outcome of an appeal that could determine how far Illinois judges may go in trying to resolve visitation disputes.

The two cases have caught the attention of family law experts nationwide.

“Ordering children to obey their parents … is, except in rare circumstances, no business of the court,” said Benjamin Wolf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

“It’s definitely not fair,” said Galatea, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook. “We have our rights. He can’t force us to see our father.”

Judge Robert C. Lorz in Joliet has indicated he will await the appeals court ruling before deciding whether to send Galatea and her 14-year-old brother, Peter, to jail. He held the youngsters in contempt on June 27.

“If it comes down to seeing him or going to jail, we’ll go to jail,” Galatea said.

Jailing children in such cases is almost unheard of, said Mary Becker, a University of Chicago law professor. “I can’t imagine that we would even dream of treating adults that way - forcing them to spend time with someone they don’t want to spend time with,” she said.

Kostas Kapsimalis is seeking to divorce his wife, Bess, after nearly 15 years of marriage.

Kapsimalis said that since moving out of the family home and filing for divorce in 1994, he has seen his children just twice outside court, despite court orders granting him regular visits. Even then, he said, the youngsters wore headphones and ignored him. He thinks his wife has “brainwashed” them.

“I do love my children. I do miss them very, very much,” Kapsimalis said.

Kapsimalis said seeking a contempt ruling against his children was a last resort, an effort “to improvise a way to give me my rights.”

“I don’t want them to be punished,” says Kapsimalis, 46, a technician at an ink plant. “I honestly didn’t think it would ever reach this point.”

Bess Kapsimalis said her children have been too busy to see their father on scheduled visitation days, and his efforts to find them in contempt have only increased their bitterness toward him for leaving and have made them furious with him.

“I’ve always said if they wish to see their father they can,” Mrs. Kapsimalis said. “You can’t force them.”

The youngsters are equally angry with the judge, who “was red-faced and screaming at us” when he issued the contempt ruling, Mrs. Kapsimalis said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email