2017-11-08 / Front Page

Judge, lawyers to meet in custody-support case

BY STEVEN KOVAC
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com

Family Court Judge Gregory S. Ross has scheduled an attorneys only closed conference for today, Nov. 8, as the next step in the resolution of a custody/child support case that made national headlines last month.

The meeting, called a “closed pretrial,” is a conference of lawyers and the prosecutor with the judge, usually in his chambers, that even the clients do not attend.

The case involves a Sanilac County woman who was raped by then eighteen-year-old Christopher Mirasolo of Brown City when she was twelve years old.

On Dec. 8, 2008 Mirasolo pled guilty to attempted criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. He served less than a year in jail for the crime.

Earlier this year the child’s mother applied for public assistance. The process required that an official determination of paternity be made by DNA testing, so that child support payments can be pursued from the father.

In cases involving sexual assault, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) notifies mothers of an exception designed to keep the victim from having unwanted contact with her assailant through the legal process. Under the “exception for good cause,” the mother is not required to pursue paternity identification and child support in order to receive public assistance.

MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton has told the News in an email, “In these cases the mother receives a notice asking if there is a reason for ‘good cause’ to not seek child support. If the parent notifies us of good cause, we would not proceed with seeking child support. If the mother says she doesn’t want to pursue child support and provides us with good cause, then we don’t pursue child support and that has no effect on whether she is eligible for public assistance benefits.”

The News filed a Freedom of Information request with MDHHS for any “good cause” documents submitted by the mother. The request was denied.

Prosecutor James Young has maintained the “exception for good cause” was granted to the victim by MDHHS, and therefore the case should have never been forwarded on to his office, which, upon receipt, is required to set up the paternity testing and a subsequent court hearing seeking child support for the mother.

How did the pursuit of child support continue following the mother’s communications with MDHHS regarding the sexual misconduct of Mirasolo?

The mother’s attorney, social activist Rebecca Kiessling of Rochester Hills, told the News, “She said she didn’t understand things.

She was just trying to do the best she could financially for her child and herself.”

The case went on through the steps of the process with nothing attached to indicate there were any special circumstances involved.

Mirasolo was confirmed to be the father, and on Sept. 22, Judge Ross awarded the mother sole physical custody of the child along with child support.

Unaware of any past criminal sexual conduct on the part of the biological father, Ross also granted the parties joint legal custody, and parenting time as the parties agree.

This part of the judgment, unintentionally ordered by Ross, ignited a firestorm of public criticism as Mirasolo’s past history came to light.

When he learned of Mirasolo’s record, Ross immediately issued an order staying his judgment, and on Oct. 17, set it aside entirely.

That action had the effect of reopening the case, and last week Ross set a closed pretrial conference for today.

Kiessling told the News that her objectives going into the meeting are to restore her client’s child support, and to press for a permanent termination of the biological father’s parental rights.

“In the larger scheme of things,” said Kiessling, “much good has been accomplished through this experience. The prosecutor has apologized. The assistant prosecutor has been fired. Better procedures have been put in place. The Friend of the Court has vowed never to sign an order like this again.”

Mirasolo’s attorney, Barbara Yockey of Imlay City told the News, “What transpires from this point forward is pretty tightly determined by statute. We seek no custody. No parenting time. We acknowledge Chris to be the biological father but not the legal father.

“This case never needed to get here,” continued Yockey. “It could have been resolved very quickly. The whole thing stemmed from bureaucratic snafus. It has been turned into a media circus. My client’s picture has been published worldwide. As a result of all the adverse publicity, he has lost his job, and may have trouble getting another job. You can’t pay child support when you are unemployed. How has the best interest of the child been served by all of this?”

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