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Dad gets custody after mother's 'spiteful' lies

The Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Dad gets custody after mother's 'spiteful' lies
Judge says woman was also guilty of contempt of court, which merited a jail term
by Neal Hall

A Lower Mainland man has been awarded sole custody of his young daughter
after a judge found the child's mother committed spiteful perjury in court
about her former common-law husband and was flagrantly in contempt of
court orders allowing him to visit his children.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Edwards decided not to send Nancy
Jean Strobel to jail, finding it would be contrary to the best interest of
her five-year-old daughter.

The judge noted that the girl is trying to get over the death of her
three-year-old brother, Brody, who died March 15 of meningitis.

"However," the judge added, "I warn the mother that I have found she has
committed serious and repeated contempts of the orders of this court,
which warrant a substantial jail sentence, and have only suspended
indefinitely the imposition of that sentence."

If Strobel fails to comply with court orders in the future, "then [she]
will be compelled to appear before the court and a jail sentence will be
imposed," the judge said.

The judge pointed out that he was not awarding sole custody to the father,
Justin Anton Steinebach, to punish Strodel for contempt, but because it
would be in the best interest of the child to re-establish contact with
her father after a three-year interruption.

Strobel, 30, who is remarried with a one-year-old son and is now living in
Hawaii, swore a number of false statements used in court: that Steinebach
was not the biological father of the children; that he had threatened to
kill his ex-wife, his children and his ex-wife's mother; and that he was
mentally unstable.

"Her allegations were false," Edwards wrote in a 30-page judgment. "She
admitted she knew they were false when she made them. I infer she made
them to pervert the course of justice by attempting to have the courts
here and in Hawaii deny the father any contact with the children, and to
explain or justify her disobedience of the court orders."

The written judgment also warned Strobel's mother, Heather Maron, that she
faced losing access to the child because of her conduct. The judge found
she "aided and abetted the mother in her contempt of court orders."

There was sufficient evidence to order Maron to stand trial for contempt,
the judge added. But Edwards decided not to do so "because of the risk
such a trial may serve to inflame antipathy between the parties and divert
attention from the urgent need to cooperate and ensure the best interest
of (their daughter) is met."

The judge admonished Maron for stating, in the girl's presence, that
Steinebach was at fault for his son's death. Maron later acknowledged she
was wrong to have said that, explaining she was distraught over Brody's

Maron also admitted that she later dialled Steinebach for the girl, who
told her father over the phone that she would call police if he didn't
return her belongings. Suspecting that Maron might take the girl out of
B.C., Steinebach obtained an ex-parte restraining order on March 16, a
Saturday, from B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm.

The judge found that Strobel and her mother "embarked on a concerted plan
to prevent the father from contacting the children."

The couple, who were never married, had a stormy relationship during the
four years they lived together. After their separation in October 1999,
the mother took steps to deny the father access to the children,
maintaining she was concerned for their safety.

The father made unsuccessful attempts in May 2000 to locate his ex-wife
and children in Hawaii. When the father finally located them and got a
court order to allow him an access visit, he arrived in Hawaii to be
harassed by U.S. immigration authorities and police, who were falsely
advised by Maron that the father was there to breach a temporary
restraining order issued against him by a Honolulu court.

"This conduct amounted to a deliberate and egregious disobedience of this
court's orders," Edwards concluded.

The following year, Steinebach, a 27-year-old truck driver, got another
court order allowing him unsupervised access to his children last
Christmas. But when he arrived in Hawaii, he learned that his ex-wife had
decided to ignore the court order -- she had taken the children to
California without notifying him.

The judge found the mother in contempt of court for this and other
conduct. Edwards credited the mother's current lawyer, Steven Mansfield,
for getting Strobel to understand the gravity of defying court orders and
persuading her to admit she had committed perjury in sworn statements
filed in courts here and in Hawaii.

The judge also credited the father for not reacting with threats to his
ex-wife's provocation but instead relying on the court proceedings to
vindicate his position.

Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
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