Yesterday Susan and Michael Schofield squared off before a judge in Los Angeles to learn the fate of their children Bodhi and Jani. The court appearance followed an emergency removal of the children last week from Susan’s home she shares with husband Cory Cabana. During the hearing, the judge issued a gag order on both parents effectively silencing them from speaking any further about their children.
For more than a decade, Jani and Bodhi Schofield’s lives have been documented by both parents. Michael wrote a book about the family’s journey of raising a child with schizophrenia. After publishing his book, the family was featured on Discovery Health’s “Born Schizophrenic.”
As a result of the show, the family has made appearances on Dr. Phil and Oprah. From 2012-2019, Susan used her reality tv fame to start a YouTube channel and Facebook page. Her perpetual sharing of the children’s lives lead to numerous reports to DCFS for abuse.
After the couple divorced in 2015, the two began fighting about the medical management and treatment of both children. Their custody battle reached a pivotal point when they appeared on the Dr. Phil Show in early March.
During the appearance, Michael accused Susan of having Munchausen-by-Proxy. He believed her obsessive need to diagnose their son Bodhi with schizophrenia had her over-medicating their child. Susan admitted to taking Bodhi to over 50 doctors to obtain the diagnosis.
Following the show, DCFS took swift steps and removed the children from Susan’s custody. In an interview with Without a Crystal Ball, Michael told us that DCFS believed Susan was exaggerating Bodhi’s symptoms and misusing medications for their daughter Jani.
With DCFS working to build a case of medical abuse of the children against Susan, the parents and DCFS appeared before a judge on March 13, 2019, to discuss the next steps.
Few details about the hearing have been released. Without a Crystal Ball reached out to Michael. He only told us that he did attend the proceeding but he could not speak about the case due to a gag order placed by the judge.
However, we can report the children will remain in DCFS custody. There are rumors that the parents may be given supervised visits with the children, but that information has not been confirmed. A source connected to the case stated that DCFS is monitoring all social media made posts by the parents including the online forum Kiwi Farms.
A gag order bans parties connected to the case from disclosing specific information to the public. In cases of child custody with DCFS, gag orders can be instituted to prevent parents from gaining public support or interfering with the outcome of the case.
Since both Michael and Susan have used the public to gain sympathy and attention for themselves and their children, the gag order placed by the judge is entirely appropriate. Susan will be unable to share any details about the children nor will she be able to accuse DCFS of wrongly removing her children.
In cases of suspected medical abuse, gag orders can be used to prevent parents from speaking to the media. Legal Dictionary highlights a case from 2013 in Boston where a judge issued a gag order in a suspected medical abuse case.
Doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Massachusetts diagnosed young Justina Pelletier with mitochondrial disease. However, medical professionals at Boston Children’s Hospital did not agree with the diagnosis, believing she suffers from somatoform disorder instead.
Justina’s parents disagreed with the doctors in Boston, and tried to have their daughter discharged so they could return her to Tufts Hospital. When the parents arrived at the hospital to discharge Justina, they were charged with medical abuse.
The report stated that the parents were seeking medical treatment that the girl did not need. The state took custody of Justina, and a legal battle ensued regarding custody of Justina, as well as her medical treatment.
On November 7, 2013, the court issued a gag order to prevent the Pelletiers from talking about the case to the media. This came about after a media investigation began by WTIC, a Connecticut NewsTalk station. The parents did not agree with the gag order, believing they need to gain support in order to save their daughter’s life.
Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, spoke with an independent television news network about the controversy surrounding his daughter and her diagnosis. In doing so, Pelletier violated the gag order, and the judge found him to be in contempt of court.”
Additionally, neither parent will be able to manipulate or use the public to garner sympathy or share a one-sided story. Privacy laws for minor children prevent DCFS and medical providers from speaking out about cases or patients.
If either parent violates the order, the judge can charge them with contempt of court. If found guilty of contempt of court, the penalties range from fines to 5 days in jail.
As a result, DCFS will be able to evaluate the children, manage their custody, and determine if Susan caused the children’s illnesses. The gag order will also protect the children from people disclosing their location and current health status.
For the first time in their lives, Bodhi and Jani will finally be free from the public eye. The time away will allow the children to heal and recover from their mother’s abuse.
As the civil case continues, there will be limited details revealed. However, a criminal investigation could begin against either parent at any time. If the county determines Susan committed medical abuse, criminal charges of child abuse could follow the custody case.
My interview with Michael Schofield:
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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