By Monica Velez
The pending custody battle between Eric Gilson and Claire Benoit will not be able to move forward until she returns to the United States with her four children. Judge Kathleen White was not able to have an evidentiary hearing because Ms. Benoit, again, failed to appear in court.
The complexity of this year-long case leaves Mr. Gilson trying to acquire the “leverage,” as he stated in court on the morning of March 14, 2016, that he needs to get his children back into the country – 50 percent custody.
Ms. Benoit left the country with her children and went to France and she then filed for asylum in the Netherlands. Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Susz told the court that if Ms. Benoit were granted asylum, Mr. Gilson would have to go to the Netherlands to try to get custody of his kids.
Mr. Gilson told Judge White that he thinks Ms. Benoit is trying to “manipulate” the court into thinking that he has had prior domestic violence disputes with her. Mr. Gilson reiterated that he has never had a domestic violence dispute with Ms. Benoit, and made a mistake in his past.
Mr. Gilson is currently on felony parole because of a prior domestic violence issue with his ex-wife. His children were present during the dispute with his ex-wife, where he was accused of causing severe injuries to his spouse and felony stalking.
He said that he called the police once while he and Ms. Benoit were arguing, because Ms. Benoit pushed him.
Mr. Gilson said he would pick up his kids from school every day, and when he asked Ms. Benoit about having some weekends with his kids, she filed a court report for custody.
Attorney for Ms. Benoit, Derraugh Dawson, said Ms. Benoit still did not believe her kids would be safe around Mr. Gilson. Ms. Benoit would not feel safe coming back to United States unless she had full custody of her children.
On November 16, 2016, Mr. Gilson was granted temporary custody of their children.
Ms. Benoit claims that her youngest child with Mr. Gilson is a product of rape and that he attempted to murder his ex-wife in front of their children.
Judge White said nothing could really be done, that “we’re really just talking to ourselves,” she said. Without both parties present an evidentiary hearing cannot take place because both sides cannot be heard, especially with completely opposite stories being told on each end.
Multiple hearings took place in Yolo Superior Court during 2015 and Ms. Benoit has yet to appear to any, and Judge White said she cannot ignore that. DDA Susz has tried to reach out to her many times, offering her a safe place to stay and arranging plane tickets for her and her children.
Ms. Benoit has not taken the offers.
Ms. Dawson filed a continuance for at least a month, with Judge White granting it until April 21, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. in Department 3.
Judge White again ordered Ms. Benoit to be in court that day, even if it is through telephone, because it was confirmed her passports were being held by the Netherlands.
All prior custody orders were vacated, and Mr. Gilson was left to file a Hague Petition for child abduction, although if asylum is granted for Ms. Benoit in the Netherlands, the petition would become irrelevant, resulting in Mr. Gilson having to go through the European court system to gain custody of his children.