Halifax Herald

Friday, March 7, 2003

Mom charged with abducting triplets gets more access

The Halifax Herald Limited

STRATFORD, Ont. (CP) - A mother who once was charged with abducting her triplets has been granted more access to the children.

Carline VandenElsen's unsupervised access had been limited to alternate weekends and vacation periods but in a written ruling a Stratford judge ordered each of the children to also spend a weeknight with their mother.

The order means that the triplets will be split up for three days each week during the school year.

Two will be with their father, Craig Merkley, while a third will be with VandenElsen.

But Justice David Aston also gave VandenElsen a stern warning to toe the line or risk losing all rights to the youngsters.

"Ms. VandenElsen has come within an inch of losing any right of access to her children and could put herself in that position again," Aston wrote in his Feb. 28 ruling.

But he added that "any access order which does not take into account the mother's desperate need to be a parent is doomed to fail."

The children will spend five days with their mother during Christmas holidays and five days during March breaks that fall in odd-numbered years.

The amount of time they spend with their mother during July and August was also increased to a maximum of five weeks.

VandenElsen and Merkley, who divorced in 1998, have been involved in a bitter custody battle over the triplets since 1995.

VandenElsen spent three months on the run with her children during the fall of 2000 until authorities caught up with her in Mexico. The children were retrieved in January 2001 and returned to their father.

A jury acquitted VandenElsen of abducting her children.

She claimed her children would suffer emotional harm at the prospect of losing their mother.

Copyright © 2003 The Halifax Herald Limited