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Archive for the ‘Family Rights’ Category

She defied the law to find her mother – Telegraph

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Winona Varney was reunited with her mother through Facebook, writes Christopher Booker.

Winona Varney was reunited with her family through Facebook

Winona Varney was reunited with her family through Facebook

For once, after all the shocking stories I have reported on the secretive system that allows social workers to seize children from loving parents for no good reason, to send them for adoption, I can at last report a story where a family torn apart for nine years has been reunited.

When Winona Varney, now a pretty 16-year-old, recently fell into the arms of her mother Tracey at Truro railway station, they had not seen each other since she was seven. During that time, she and her 12-year-old sister Daniella have been living unhappily with an adoptive family, who repeatedly told them that their mother was a bad woman who did not love or want them. But when, in June, Winona managed to track her mother down, via Facebook, a short time later the two girls and their mother were again living under the same roof.

This harrowing story began back in 1997, when social workers from Cornwall county council received a wholly erroneous tip-off that there might be drugs in the house where Tracey lived with her partner. The day after the birth of their first child, a boy, they were made to sign an agreement that they would “work with social services”. Tracey then had two daughters, Winona and Daniella; but their father, who had been in care himself, had a strong aversion to social workers and eventually threatened one with violence.

On the social workers’ insistence, in order to keep her children, Tracey left her partner. She and they were sent to a mother and child unit in Staffordshire, where she often had to protect them from abuse by other inmates. Eventually, though there was no evidence that Tracey had harmed them in any way, the girls were sent for adoption, on the grounds that they were “at risk of emotional abuse”. They were taken in by a couple in a nearby Cornish village, and Winona was given a new name. (Their brother, however, was returned to his mother, after a year in foster care.)

Year after year, unaware of her daughters’ whereabouts, Tracey sent loving birthday and Christmas cards to them. But this could only be done through social services – who never passed them on. According to Winona, she and her sister were constantly told both by social workers and their adoptive parents that their mother was “a horrible person” who didn’t love them.

Tracey eventually found a new partner with whom she had two more daughters. In June this year, Winona managed to track down her mother through Facebook, and they arranged to meet at Truro station. They couldn’t believe their happiness at being reunited and more secret meetings followed.

When Daniella was told what was going on, she was initially wary, because of the lies she had been told about her mother. But twice the girls escaped at night through windows for further meetings, until eventually Winona rang the adoptive parents to say they were both going back to live with their mother.

Winona is so angry about what has been done to them that she has opened a page on Facebook entitled “Anti-Social Services Forced Adoption – We Can Help!”, to join up with other children in the same plight. She pays tribute to the advice she was given by Ian Josephs, the businessman living in the South of France who, through his Forced Adoption website, has helped hundreds of families who have fallen into the clutches of this corrupt and secretive system.

Not dissimilar was the case of Tammy Coulter, taken away from her mother by Derbyshire social workers when she was only seven months old, after an accident left her with a bruised cheek. After time in foster care, she was put out for adoption by a judge who said that, thanks to delays by the social workers, she and her mother would by now be strangers. Only after 17 years did she find her mother again through the website Genes Reunited, and was able to return happily to her birth family.

In 2006, Tammy told a London audience, which included judges, lawyers and Harriet Harman MP: “Finding out you’ve been adopted is one of the worst feelings in the world, because you feel that all of your identity, everything you’ve known about yourself, is a lie.” She said she was speaking out “on behalf of children and parents who have also been through the secrecy of family courts and the injustices that have taken place, and the devastation of one decision that determines the future of a child”.

After nine years of misery, Winona Varney would agree. She says that after going to college, she wants to get involved in child care – “but certainly not as a social worker, because I have seen what they can do”.

Parental Alienation Syndrome – Case Law

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

The purpose of this page is to provide the visitor with an overview of important PAS case law. The citations are in Blue Book format and are followed by a short explanation of the case.

Need for Proof in PAS Cases

Coursey v. Super. Ct., 194 Cal. App. 3d 147; 239 Cal. Rptr. 365 (Cal. Ct. App. 1987).

Alienated fourteen-year-old daughter refused to visit her father pursuant to the terms of a stipulated order. The mother was found in contempt. On appeal, the court found that absent evidence of intent, it could not be inferred that failure of visitation was willful on mother’s part.

Constitutional Rights and PAS

Schutz v. Schutz, 581 So. 2d 1290 (Fla. 1991).

Alientor mother appealed order to do everything in her power to create in the minds of her children a loving, caring feeling towards their father, claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights. Court found any burden on those rights to be merely incidental.

Best Interests of the Child and PAS

In re Violetta B., 210 Ill. App. 3d 521,524; 568 N.E.2d 1345 (Ill. App. Ct. 1991).

Court reversed decision to transfer custody of four-year-old from foster mother to paternal grandmother based on psychologist’s expert testimony that a transfer of custody would cause irreparable trauma. Court concluded that best interest of the child should control the decision.

Spurious Allegations of Child Abuse

Karen B. v. Clyde M., 151 Misc. 2d 794; 574 N.Y.S.2d 267 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1991).

Mother’s allegations of sex abuse of child by father found baseless after court considered trained validator’s testimony as to no abuse and verbatim similarity between mother and daughter’s statements. Court likened mother’s behavior to that of Medea.

Abusing Visitation

Zigmont fka Toto v. Toto, No. 62149, 1992 WL 6034 at *2 (Ohio Ct. App. Jan. 16, 1992).

After considering the appellant’s erratic behavior in exercising his visitation, and the resulting psychological problems of the children, the court found it both just and reasonable for trial court to limit visitation to a specific schedule.

Court’s Discretion re PAS and Custody

Wiederholt v. Fischer, 169 Wis. 2d 524; 485 N.W.2d 442 (Wis. Ct. App. 1992).

Despite psychologist’s testimony that PAS was the worst he had seen, the court concluded that the evidence was not strong enough to be cured by placing children with father, noting that the cure was controversial and the success of the treatment was limited.

Using PAS as a Defense

Truax v. Truax, 110 Nev. 437; 874 P.2d 10 (Nev. 1994).

Father claimed that because of PAS, the testimony of the court-appointed special advocate (CASA) was skewed in favor of mother. CASA recommended that custody be changed to mother, citing abuse by step-sister. Bite mark on son tipped the scales for the court.

Attacking the Validity of PAS

In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa Ct. App. 1994).

Father severely alienated children from mother. The court found the only way to correct the situation was to place children with mother. On appeal, father attacked validity of PAS and testimony of mother’s expert. Court focused instead on parties’ behavior.

Rebutting PAS through Child Testimony

White v. White, 655 N.E.2d 523, 526 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995).

Psychologist on whom mother had insisted testified that she was engaging in PAS and that she excessively hostile toward father. Mother attempted to rebut expert’s testimony by putting 10-year-old son on stand. Trial court refused to subject son to the process. Affirmed on appeal.

Placing Children with an Alienated Parent

Tucker fka Greenberg v. Greenberg, 674 So. 2d 807 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1996).

In a trial arising over a visitation dispute, court noted that former wife was obsessed with making shared parenting as difficult as possible for father. Both trial and appellate courts decided best decision was to place children with the alienated parent.

PAS not Gender-Specific

Williams v. Williams, 676 So. 2d 493 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1996).

In Williams, the court took custody from an alienating father and vested it with the alienated mother. Williams demonstrates the non-gender-specific nature of PAS.

PAS and Extreme Tactics

Hanson v. Spolnik, 685 N.E.2d 71 (Ind. 1997).

Father and mother were awarded joint custody. Mother then engaged in extreme tactics that included false allegations of sexual abuse and comments that father had AIDS and that he had hired a hit man. On appeal, court found modification of joint custody was necessary.

Contesting Concept of PAS in New York

In the Matter of J.F. v. L.F.,181 Misc. 2d 722; 694 N.Y.S.2d 592 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1999).

By order to show cause against mother, father applied for custody. Annexed to order was psychiatrist’s affidavit recommending custody change. Mother bitterly contested concept of PAS. The court nonetheless found that mother had alienated children from father.

Court-Appointed Experts and Bias

Pathan v. Pathan, No. 17729, 2000 WL 43711 (Ohio Ct. App. Jan. 21, 2000).

Court-appointed psychologist showed significant bias against Pakistani father, who asked for an independent evaluation. The court noted that mother was the primary offender. Nonetheless, the court merely opined that if mother did not mend her ways, custody might change.

Mutual Alienation

Spencley v. Spencley, No. 219801, 2000 WL 33519710 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 7, 2000).

Parents engaged in mutual alienation made complaints against state for its determination of abuse and neglect. On appeal, mother challenged concept of PAS; however, the court found ample evidence of emotional injury, and that PAS was used in an explanatory manner.

Need to Show Change of Circumstances

Chambers v. Chambers, No. CA99-688, 2000 WL 795278 (Ark. Ct. App. June 21, 2000).

Trial court concluded that prolonged alienation was so successful that there was no hope of re-integration between father and children. On appeal, the court found that father had failed to show requisite change of circumstances to warrant the court’s intervention.

Ignoring Expert Testimony

Kirk v. Kirk, 770 N.E.2d 304 (Ind. 2002).

In Kirk, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned an appellate decision, ignoring copious expert testimony regarding parental alienation syndrome and the spurious nature of mother’s sexual abuse claims.

Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Identifying Cases of Parent Alienation Syndrome–Part II by Leona M. Kopetski

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 19, 2010 at 1:31 am

THE COLORADO LAWYER, MARCH 1998, VOL. 27, NO. 3 p 63-66

IDENTIFYING CASES OF PARENT ALIENATION SYNDROME–PART II

by Leona M. Kopetski

Editors’ Note: This is the second part of a two-part article dealing with parental alienation of children and aiding the courts and counsel in recognizing parental alienation in cases involving custody and parenting time. Part I was published in the February issue at page 65.

The Family and Children’s Evaluation Team (“Team”),(1) which pioneered the team approach to child custody evaluations in Colorado, evaluated both parents and all of the children in approximately 600 cases fiom 1975 to 1995. The conclusions in this article result from the Team’s evaluations.

Psychological Characteristics of Alienating Parent

Parent Alienation Syndrome occurs when individuals who have certain psychological characteristics manage internal conflict or pain by transforming psychological pain into interpersonal conflict. Divorcing parents often experience humiliation, loss of self-esteem, guilt, ambivalence, fear, abandonment anxiety, jealousy, or intense anger. These normal but very painful emotions must be managed. Usually people in crisis rely on characteristic relationship styles and pain management techniques. The Team has found alienating parents to have the following characteristics:

1. A narcissistic or paranoid orientation to interactions and relationships with others, usually as the result of a personality disorder.(2) Both narcissistic and paranoid relationships are maintained by identification, rather than mutual appreciation and enjoyment of differences as well as similarities. Perfectionism and intolerance of personal flaws in self or others have deleterious effects on relationships. When others disagree, narcissistic and paranoid people feel abandoned, betrayed, and often rageful.

2. Reliance on defenses against psychological pain that result in externalizing unwanted or unacceptable feelings, ideas, attitudes, and responsibility for misfortunes so that more painful internal conflict is transformed into less painful interpersonal conflict. Examples of such defenses are phobias, projection, “splitting,” or obsessive preoccupation with the shortcomings of others in order to obscure from self and others the individual’s own shortcomings. “Splitting” results when feelings, judgments, or characteristics are polarized into opposite, exhaustive, and mutually exclusive categories (such as all good or all bad, right or wrong, love or hate, victim or perpetrator), then are assigned or directed separately to self and other. (I am good, you are bad.) The need for such defenses arises because alienating parents have little or no tolerance for internal conflict or even normal ambivalence. The interpersonal result of such defenses is intense interpersonal conflict.(3)

3. Evidence of an abnormal grieving process such that there is a preponderance of anger and an absence of sadness in reaction to the loss of the marital partner

4. A family history in which there is an absence of awareness of normal ambivalence and conflict about parents, enmeshment, or failure to differentiate and emancipate from parents; or a family culture in which “splitting” or externalizing is a prominent feature. Some alienating parents were raised in families in which there is unresolved or unacknowledged grief as the result of traumatic losses or of severe but unacknowledged emotional deprivation, usually in the form of absence of empathy. More frequently, alienating parents were favorite children or were overly indulged or idealized as children.

The Alienated Parent

The alienated parent also has psychological symptoms that are more or less characteristic. The most prominent characteristic is a history of being passive, overly accommodating, or emotionally constricted.

The passivity so often seen in alienated parents is difficult to evaluate during the crisis of the divorce. Some passivity is characterological and is usually detrimental to relationships. Some passivity, however, is an adaptation to a marital relationship with a controlling partner. Only a detailed, careful history of interactions and of functioning in other relationships before and after the marriage can lead to a clear understanding of whether the passive alienated parent has a longstanding characterological problem or has made an adaptation to a disturbed marriage. Although alienating parents often feel victimized and controlled, a thorough history may indicate that, in fact, the parent to be alienated has accommodated or capitulated in conflicts many more times than the alienating parent.

Although self-assertion may be healthy from the viewpoint of individual psychology, it can lead to an intense and destructive power struggle if the partner to the interaction is uncompromising, unable to tolerate awareness of personal flaws or differences of opinion, or prone to make accusations and engender guilt. In many cases of parent alienation, the passive partner not only tolerates criticism and accusation, but engages in self-questioning. Self-questioning is, of course, healthy, but it may lead to an honest conclusion different from the opinion of a critical partner. It can strengthen a relationship if the different conclusion can be accepted by both parties.

In relation to an alienating parent, such disagreements cannot be integrated or resolved. Self-assertion then leads to an intensified power struggle. To avoid intense, intractable, and destructive interpersonal conflict and to preserve the relationship, one partner must then “give in” and accommodate. That partner is usually the parent who is to be alienated.

One confusing aspect of the dynamics of parent alienation cases is that the alienated parent sometimes has more obvious symptoms of psychological distress, such as depression or anxiety, than the alienating parent. When psychological health is defined as the absence of internal distress or conflict, this factor makes it appear that the alienating parent is the healthier parent. However, this appearance is misleading.

The very presence of symptoms of depression or anxiety implies that internal conflict is present. Depression and anxiety both increase with passivity and when there are limited opportunities for self-assertion or directly expressed anger. Depression and passivity, of course, feed on each other. Depressed people do not have the energy to assert themselves and may not feel justified in doing so anyway; the passivity and emotional constriction lead to more depression. Although the intensity and pervasiveness of depression and anxiety must always be evaluated carefully in order to determine how these symptoms impact relationships in general and parenting in particular, it is possible for parents who are hurting internally to protect their children from their own pain and to be good parents.

The accommodating characteristic of the alienated parent sometimes includes a willingness to provide some justification for the alienating parent’s accusations. In general, people seem reluctant to acknowledge irrationality in others, especially those they love and admire. They look for ways to make sense out of the illogical or unrealistic ideas and behavior. When the partner to an interaction is paranoid but not psychotic or bizarre (and this is not only possible but more common than might be thought), the pressure to conform to the paranoid ideation is very strong. Even professionals can begin to doubt themselves, make unusual mistakes, or search hard for barely plausible explanations and rationalizations. The pressure on a spouse, of course, is much greater than that on a professional.


“The accommodating characteristic of the alienated parent sometimes includes a willingness to provide some justification for the alienating parent’s accusations.”



For example, it is well known that some men become physically abusive and intimidating in order to prevent a wife from leaving them. In contrast, some parent alienation cases are justified by spousal abuse, but the process is very different. There are reports of longstanding fear and anticipation of abuse, followed by a “confirming” but isolated incident in which actual abuse took place. The parent who lost control then leaves the marriage, intolerant of his own behavior. By that time he has sabotaged himself and justified the paranoid ideation or accusation of his partner.

In this example, the usually passive, alienated parent may be correctly designated the “cause” of the immediate intensified marital conflict and the incident of physical abuse is clearly an unacceptable way to resolve an intolerable situation. However, the marital pathology is usually much deeper than one incident and is usually longstanding. The spouse who makes a healthy decision to dissolve the very unhealthy relationship is often accused of desertion, abandonment, or seeking an unnecessary divorce. That spouse has often been unable to make the decision to leave prior to the incident because of the guilt it would engender and the accusation that was inevitable.

Parent alienation is not a gender-determined syndrome. Either the mother or the father can alienate; either can be alienated. Some parents have a history of attenuated involvement with their children until just prior to the marital separation. In some cases, this attenuated involvement is longstanding and indicates a lack of interest in parenting. However, in a number of cases that on evaluation were determined to be alienation cases, attenuated involvement was not the result of lack of interest in parenting or concern and caring for the child, but was circumstantial.

For example, some fathers of very young children have reported that they accommodated a maternal desire that they provide economic support for mother and child, emotional support for mother, and refrain from interfering with what would now be called an enmeshed mother/child unit. The marital balance was upset when either the child (because of a normal developmental push such as often occurs around age four, for example) or the father (believing that the child is now old enough to relate to someone other than the mother or responding to a change in the cultural definitions of expectations for parents) insisted on increased involvement.

An another example, some fathers have attempted to alienate mothers whose involvement with their children was compromised by physical or emotional illness or self-development or vocational requirements by making accusations of neglect even when the attenuated involvement was clearly temporary. Such fathers ignore the fact that good parenting is a joint venture. Each parent should be free to expect the other parent to be available and competent as a “primary parent” when the other is temporarily unavailable.

Effects of Parental Alienation on Children

Symptoms of emotional distress are seen in virtually all children of divorce. This distress usually dissipates when a routine that allows frequent and predictable contact with both parents is established. Children then use their energies to cope with and make use of the strengths and weaknesses of both parents and the other important people around them, just as children do in intact families. The importance and impact of the divorce recedes.

In parent alienation cases, routine may not be established for years. Intense conflict between parents may last until all emotional and financial resources are consumed. In the meantime, the child experiences unpredictable changes and interruptions in the relationships with both parents as different legal maneuvers take place. The emotional intensity, the pervasive and all-consuming preoccupation with divorce, danger, and protection, as well as the instability, are overwhelming.

Children of alienating parents face challenges in addition to the high conflict divorce. One important problem is that the relationship between the child and the alienating parent is disturbed. In many ways, parent alienation syndrome is the modern equivalent to school phobia, a common condition twenty years ago. The only difference is that the object of the phobia has changed. The divorced spouse has replaced the school. A researcher in child development who is primarily responsible for the research that led to successful treatment of school phobias clarified the type of attachment phobic children have with a primary parent and the impact of the pathology on the child’s development:

“Strong” attachment and also “intense” attachment are ambiguous; both of them and the former especially, might be thought to imply a satisfactory state of affairs….When we come to know a person of this sort it soon becomes evident that he has no confidence that his attachment figures will be accessible and responsive to him when he wants them to be and that he has adopted a strategy of remaining in close (physical) proximity to them in order to as far as possible ensure that they will be available.(4)

Such attachments are called “anxious attachments.” In a desperate attempt to maintain a relationship in the only ways possible (identification and alliance) with the parent who is, at the end of the alienation process, the only parent from a psychological and sometimes physical point of view, the child will mirror the personality and the distorted perceptions of the alienating parent. The blame for anxiety consequent to the insecurity of attachments will be externalized and attributed to the other parent. The same researcher points out that

[w]henever the patient’s problems can plausibly be ascribed to some extra-familial situation, the parents seize eagerly upon it. Unsympathetic teachers, bullying boys, barking dogs, the risk of a traffic accident–each is caught at hopefully in order to explain the patient’s condition. Thus are phobias born: and, because so often they provide a convenient family scapegoat, they grow to have a life of their own.(5)

Many alienated children develop symptoms of anxious attachment or separation anxiety when they are long past the age where separation anxiety is normal. The psychological distress is a result of the malignant emotional environment. The most common symptoms in young children are unusual distress during transitions from one parent to the other, sleep disturbances, regressions in achievement of regulation of bodily functions, and failure to achieve expected levels of impulse control. In elementary school age children, disorganization, inability to attend school work with resultant lowered grades, social isolation, and moodiness are often seen.

Teenagers often emancipate prematurely from adult control, becoming defiant and rigid. Such emancipation sometimes includes school refusal, with or without the permission of the parent. Alienated children of all ages show more problems with impulse control than normal, and many children show less ability to be considerate of the feelings of others (except when they accommodate a chosen parent) than normal for the child’s age.

Psychological distress is not the same as psychological damage. As the children grow older, there are more signs of actual damage to development, especially if the alienating parent is successful.

In the area of development of realistic self-concept and self-esteem, alienated children can develop several kinds of problems. These children are often overvalued in ways that are detrimental and are undervalued in ways that would be helpful to them. Because their symptoms have strong emotional appeal and thus become a valuable part of the legal evidence, they become the object of intense, nurturing attention, often under the guise of empathizing with the child. Their symptoms are discussed repeatedly with the child, and are blamed on the behavior of the alienated parent.

Psychological symptoms thus can sometimes become a perversely valued part of the child’s identity. Because other equally or more important aspects of the child’s experience are less valued and receive less empathic or sympathetic response, the child must use the acceptable symptoms to engage necessary and life-sustaining attention from others. Attempts to engage around interests or concerns that do not parallel the interests of the adults are unsuccessful. Sometimes, especially if the accusation used to justify alienation is child abuse, the alienating parent and allies that parent gathers will assert that the child has been permanently and irreversibly damaged. Such a prediction ensures that the child’s self-concept will be damaged and ignores both important conflicting research as well as information that can be gained directly hem the child.

Another area in which the development of a child can be harmed by the process of parent alienation syndrome is that of reality testing. That the child mirrors the distorted perceptions of the parent has been stated. There is a more disturbing aspect of this problem. Children need to develop the function of reality testing, not just about their parents, but also about the world in general. It is essential that they learn not to exclude important information just because it makes them uncomfortable or conflicted. It is also important that they learn to correct misunderstandings and change conclusions with new information.

Alienated children tend to become fixed and rigid in their opinions and ideas. They will obviously and actively reject any information that does not confirm their ideas. Too often, their ideas are strongly influenced by feelings, which they often cannot distinguish from facts without help. Having little sense of time (as most people do not during a crisis), they believe that the feelings of today will last forever. If those feelings are exploited or are treated as though they will never change, the child cannot resolve them.

Although alienated children are often taken to mental health professionals, they do not generally get the help they need. In order to be helpful, psychotherapy has to be based on accurate diagnosis. Alienating parents have a diagnosis already in mind when they engage a child therapist. The idea that the child’s symptoms can be attributed to any cause other than the one designated by the alienating parent meets with fierce resistance.

Therapists may be chosen because of a specialty in evaluating or treating the problem the parent has already “diagnosed.” Such therapists may deliberately limit the evaluation to comply with the contract, because of particular interests or because of lack of expertise in evaluating and treating other conditions. Therapists who have the ability and interest in providing general evaluations that consider a variety of alternative diagnoses and treatment plans can be helpful. However, conclusions and interventions that do not agree with the opinion of the alienating parent are often sabotaged, and the therapists who have them are discharged.

If material given by the child in therapy becomes part of the litigation between the parents, the child may feel that it is unsafe to expose thoughts and feelings in any setting. If the child forms a relationship of trust with the therapist and loses or feels betrayed in that relationship, that child’s ability ever to use therapy may be impaired.

Finally, alienated children face the problem of parent loss. If the alienating parent will not change, the child will lose one parent or the other. That loss will have consequences, especially if there is no help with sadness and grieving. Younger children will be vulnerable to the unmitigated pathology of whichever parent is chosen for them. Older children will choose, for better or worse. Some children will emancipate prematurely from both parents. All of them will incur the usual results of parental deprivation.

Final Comments

Although parent alienation cases are very difficult and painful, they also are a fruitful source of knowledge. These cases test therapists’ knowledge, theories, and professional discipline. They are often discouraging and frustrating. Still, an optimistic view can emerge from the struggles.

There is psychological significance to the fact that human beings reproduce sexually, not by cloning. Physically and psychologically, children combine the contributions of two separate, different individuals to form themselves. The child becomes a third individual, unique from either parent. One of the most adaptive aspects of human biology and human social development is that if one adult is not available or helpful, another can take over the parental functions. In an intact family, children quietly and unobtrusively take what they need from those who are available. Their preferences and identifications shift and change over time; different people are favored at different times, preferred according to developmental need and current common interests.

In the social systems humans have evolved, parenting is augmented by a whole variety of resources, including schools, therapists, extended family, and the family court. Children thus have a variety of relationships with many people who are different from them as well as with people who are very much the same. These relationships are important resources. They give perspective.

If children are allowed free access to these different people, they do not need a perfect parent. It is not individual parental mistakes that harm the development of children. It is the exclusion of these different people that places them in danger of becoming psychological clones, doomed to repeat parental mistakes rather than learning from them. Two parents who can recognize their imperfections and who know that they are mutually dependent can augment each other’s efforts, and protect the children from the undue influence of the human flaws and limitations of each other simply by providing a different perspective and experience.

Most children are born with the capacities to think for themselves, to process both negative and positive experience, and thereby restructure things so that each generation can improve over the last. These capacities can be developed. Given opportunities to perceive both healthy and problematic aspects of different people and to respond to those perceptions within the context of an empathic relationship, most children will develop a self that is not only different, but has a good chance of being more functionally effective than either parent has been. Of course, the children will not be perfect, either. They do not need to carry the burden of trying to be. No human being is perfect.

The child who is solely or primarily dependent on one parent is in jeopardy. The child who has access to multiple relationships with people who can help in different ways and learns to process a variety of experiences is our hope for the future.

NOTES

1. The Family and Children’s Evaluation Team was comprised of the author of this article, Leona M. Kopetski, MSSW, and Claire Purcell, Ph.D.

2. Benjamin, Interpersonal Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders (N.Y.: Guilford Press, 1993) at 140-62 and 313-41; American Psychiatric Assoc., Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III-R (Wash. D.C.) at 348-351; Lyons, Personality Disorders: Diagnosis and Management (2d Ed. 1981) at 65-73 and 163-81.

3. Gabbard “Splitting in Hospital Treatment,” 146 Amer. J. Psych. 444 (1980).

4. Bowlby, Separation (N.Y.: Basic Books, 1973) at 212-13.

5. Id. at 315.

This newsletter is prepared by the CBA Family Law Section. This month’s article was written by Leona M. Kopetski, MSSW who worked as a clinical social worker specializing in the field of custody evaluation, in addition to maintaining a private practice in psychotherapy. She is now retired and living in Seeley Lake Montana, (406) 677-3278.

Identifying Cases of Parent Alienation Syndrome–Part II by Leona M. Kopetski.

“Parental Alienation” – Joel R. Brandes

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 18, 2010 at 6:00 pm

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL, March 26, 2000

“PARENTAL ALIENATION”

by Joel R. Brandes

Parental Alienation was recently described as a situation where one parent intentionally attempts to alienate his or her child from the other parent, by poisoning his mind, and usually succeeds.(1) Parental Alienation Syndrome (“PAS”) is a disorder that usually arises in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s unjustified campaign of denigration against a parent. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the parent.

Where the child’s animosity may be justified, such as in a case where there is true parental abuse or neglect, the Parental Alienation Syndrome explanation for the child’s hostility is not applicable. The term is applicable only when the target parent has not exhibited anything close to the degree of alienating behavior that might warrant the campaign of vilification exhibited by the child. In typical cases, the victimized parent would be considered by most examiners to have provided normal, loving parenting or, at worst, exhibited minimal impairments in parental capacity. The hallmark of PAS is the exaggeration of minor weaknesses and deficiencies.(2) The parent who programs the child brings about the destruction of the bond between the other parent and the child which, unfortunately, is likely to be lifelong in duration.(3)

We believe that inducing parental alienation in a child is a form of child abuse, which should be punishable as abuse under the Family Court Act. Moreover, a parent who alienates a child against the other parent should be denied visitation with all of his or her children until the child is no longer alienated against the target parent.

Parental alienation has been recognized in New York custody cases since the 1980s, when it was held that a custodial parent’s interference with the relationship between a child and a noncustodial parent is “an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the child as to per se raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as a custodial parent.”(4)

In Matter of Karen B. v. Clyde M.,(5) the parties originally had a joint and split custodial arrangement and a comprehensive visitation arrangement. In September 1990, the mother filed a petition to modify, requesting that she “retain all custody and visitation to be supervised, if at all.” She alleged a change of circumstances, in that “Mandi had disclosed sexual advances and behavior problems because of concerns. Also it is not good for her physical, emotional and social well being to go back and forth between parents. Social Services is currently investigating.” As a result of her allegations, the court entered a temporary order requiring the father’s visitations with Mandi to be supervised.

According to the mother, in September 1990 Mandi disclosed to her certain sexual abuse perpetrated on Mandi by her father. He allegedly put his finger in her “peer.” When she said that it hurt, he told her that he could do what he wanted. She also claimed that her Daddy’s “dinkie” got bigger and “stuff came out.” The mother reported this to a friend of hers, employed by Community Maternity Services, who went to her home and investigated. The child and mother were interviewed by a child sexual abuse therapist specializing in victims of ages 2-1/2 to 18 years. The mother repeated all of the allegations to the therapist, and additionally stated that on Sept. 9, Mandi had told her that the respondent has put his “peer” on her “peer” and that he had put his hand under the covers of the bed and touched her buns stating, “You know, like you take your temperature.” The expert observed no outward signs of emotion when the mother spoke to her and found that the mother seemed to be repeating the story by rote, and that she couldn’t respond to questions without starting from the beginning and completing the entire story. The expert concluded that there was no information that would indicate that Mandi had been sexually abused by her father.

The court held that a parent who denigrates the other by casting the false aspersion of child sex abuse, and involving the child as an instrument to achieve his or her selfish purpose, is not fit to continue in the role of a parent. It found that it would be in Mandi’s best interests that her custody be awarded to her father. It stated “As the court has no assurance that the mother will not continue to ‘brainwash’ or ‘program’ Mandi, petitioner shall have no visitation nor contact with her daughter.”

The Third Department affirmed.(6) It noted that the Family Court found that petitioner had programmed Mandi to make the sexual abuse allegations in order to obtain sole custody and deny access to respondent. It held that the fact that Family Court made reference to a book regarding parental alienation syndrome, which was neither entered into evidence nor referred to by any witness, was not a ground for reversal, especially in light of all the testimony elicited at the hearing.

In RB v. SB,(7) the trial court found that prior to their separation in October 1994, the father (R.B.) and son (A.B.) had an extremely close relationship. They spent time together playing basketball and working on A.B.’s homework. R.B. walked A.B. to school in the mornings and regularly attended school functions. In August 1994, R.B.’s relationship with A.B. deteriorated substantially. The record was replete with numerous examples of the mother’s (S.B.) campaign to poison A.B.’s relationship with his father. R.B. repeatedly asked S.B. to refrain from speaking to A.B. about these issues until after A.B.’s bar mitzvah the following Sunday. In response, S.B. reiterated her threats involving A.B. The court concluded that A.B.’s four-year estrangement from R.B. was the result of S.B.’s vindictive and relentless decision to alienate A.B. from his father. The court found that beginning in August 1994, S.B. engaged in a campaign to poison the relationship between A.B. and R.B. and effectively alienated A.B. from R.B. for approximately four years. During the four years when A.B. would neither see nor speak to his father, S.B. repeatedly referred to R.B. in front of A.B. as “evil,” a “thief,” an “embezzler” and a “liar.” She told R.B. he would never see his son without her supervision, and attempted to condition visitation upon increased support. She told R.B. she wanted A.B. to “hate his f–guts.”

The court held that S.B.’s intentional interference in R.B.’s relationship with his son, to the point where A.B. refused to see or speak to R.B. for nearly four years, was an appropriate factor for the court to consider pursuant to D.R.L. 236(B)(6)(11) in setting maintenance. It found that S.B. permanently damaged R.B.’s relationship with A.B. The court refused to order support to S.B. so that she could maintain her prior standard of living. Instead, it directed that R.B. pay to S.B. only those amounts S.B. reasonably needed to meet her daily living expenses so as not to diminish A.B.’s lifestyle. The award of maintenance and child support was contingent upon S.B. ensuring that the visitation schedule established by the court at the conclusion of the trial was adhered to. The court directed that it would entertain a motion by R.B. to terminate maintenance and decrease or terminate child support upon a showing that S.B. interfered with the visitation established by the court in any manner.

First New York Court

In Matter of JF v. LF, (8) the Family Court became the first New York court to discuss PAS at length in a custody decision. It pointed out that the theory is controversial, and noted that according to one of the expert witnesses who testified, the syndrome is not approved as a term by the American Psychiatric Society, and it is not in DSM-IV as a psychiatric diagnosis.

Parenthetically, we note that the DSM-IV,(9) which was published in 1994, cautions that “DSM-IV reflects a consensus about the classification and diagnosis of mental disorders derived at the time of its initial publication. New knowledge will undoubtedly lead to the identification of new disorders.”

The Family Court acknowledged that New York cases have not discussed PAS as a theory, but have discussed the issue in terms of whether the child has been programmed to disfavor the noncustodial parent, thus warranting a change in custody.

The court observed the children and found them to be both highly intelligent and articulate. Yet, when discussing their father and his family, they presented themselves “at times in a surreal way with a pseudo-maturity which is unnatural and, even, strange.” They seemed like “little adults.” The court found that the children’s opinions about their father were unrealistic and cruel. They spoke about and to him in a way which seemed to be malicious. Both children used identical language in dismissing the happy times they spent with their father as evidenced in a videotape and picture album as “Kodak moments.” They denied anything positive in their relationship with their father to an unnatural extreme. The court concluded that nothing in the father’s behavior warranted that treatment.

Three expert witnesses testified that the children were aligned in an unhealthy manner with the mother and her family. One expert testified that the “…[M]other has clearly won the war over the children’s minds and hearts and the father is generally helpless to offset that. Children, likewise, are deeply attached in a symbiotic fashion with their mother … Father is painted in a highly derogatory and negative fashion, way out of proportion to any possible deficiencies that he may have. This is clearly a borderline mental device within the mother’s psychology which has been clearly duplicated in the children. The overall prognosis for any major change in their attitude would appear to be quite limited at this time, even with expert psychiatric assistance.”

The court-appointed psychologist concluded that the PAS was “clear” and “definite” with both children.

The father’s expert submitted a report to the court in which he stated that the alienation from the father was probably the most severe case of alienation he had ever witnessed as a child psychiatrist.

The court accepted the testimony of the mental health professionals to the extent that they indicated that the mother alienated the children from the father. It found that the children would have no relationship with the father if left in the custody of their mother, and that they would continue to be psychologically damaged if they remained living with her. Their negative view of their father was out of all proportion to reality. The court found that the mother had succeeded in causing parental alienation of the children from their father, such that they not only wished to cease having frequent and regular visitation, but actually desired to have nothing to do with him. It awarded sole custody to him and suspended her right to visitation.

The court did not specifically base its decision on a finding of PAS. Instead, it relied on the case law, which requires the custodial parent to nurture the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent, and ensures access by the noncustodial parent,(10) pointing out that interfering with the child’s “relationship with the noncustodial parent, has been said to be so inconsistent with the child’s best interest as to per se raise a strong probability of unfitness.”(11)

1. R.B. v. S.B., New York Law Journal, 3-31-99, page 29, col. 5, Sup. Ct., NY Co. (Silberman, J),

2. Gardner, R.A., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition (1998)

3. See Gardner, R.A., The Parental Alienation Syndrome (2d Edition) Addendum I (1999)

4. Entwistle v. Entwistle, 61 AD2d 380, 384-5.

5. Karen B. v. Clyde M., 151 Misc2d 794, aff’d, 197 A.D.2d 753 (3d Dept, 1999).

6. Id.

7. See note 1, supra

8. 694 NYS2d 592, 1999 N.Y. Slip Op. 99408

9. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, 1994 at p. xxiii.

10. Daghir v. Daghir, 82 AD2d 191, aff’d 56 NY2d 938.

11. CITING, INTER ALIA, MALONEY V. MALONEY, 208 AD2D 603, 603-604; YOUNG V. YOUNG, 212 AD2D 114, 115; ENTWISTLE V. ENTWISTLE, SUPRA.


Joel R. Brandes has law offices in Garden City and New York City. He co-authored the nine-volume Law and the Family New York and Law and the Family New York Forms.

3/28/2000 NYLJ 3, (col. 1)

“Parental Alienation” – Joel R. Brandes.

Identifying Cases of Parent Alienation Syndrome–Part I by Leona M. Kopetski

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 17, 2010 at 1:30 am

THE COLORADO LAWYER, FEBRUARY 1998, VOL. 27, NO. 2 p 65-68

IDENTIFYING CASES OF PARENT ALIENATION SYNDROME–PART I

by Leona M. Kopetski

Editors’ Note: This is the first part of a two-part article dealing with parental alienation of children and aiding the courts and counsel in recognizing parental alienation in cases involving custody and parenting time. Part II, which will appear in. the March 1998 issue, will focus on the psychological dynamics of the family members in a parental alienation case.

In 1987, Richard Gardner identified a serious form of parent-child pathology and named it “Parent Alienation Syndrome.”(1) Simultaneously, but without awareness of his work, The Family and Children’s Evaluation Team (“Team”)(2) evaluated 413 families in custody disputes and in 20 percent of those cases found dynamics that led the Team independently to conclusions that were remarkably similar to Gardner’s conclusions regarding the characteristics of the syndrome. However, the Team’s experience led to somewhat different conclusions regarding frequency, causality, and recommended interventions. Others have now investigated the problem, documenting its frequency and importance.(3)

Parental alienation cases pose a particularly difficult challenge to lawyers and mental health professionals attempting to help families negotiate divorce. The syndrome is seriously harmful to both children and parents. The following ideas are intended to help by providing clarifying criteria for identification.

Definition

Parent Alienation Syndrome is a form of psycho-social pathology. It is most frequently identified in the process of divorce, although it is not a condition limited to divorcing families. It is not caused by the divorce. However, it is exacerbated by legal procedures that coincide with and strengthen the pathological defenses alienating parents use to avoid experiencing the psychological pains of internal conflict, ambivalence, narcissistic injury, or the deflated self-esteem that is part of a normal grieving response to interpersonal loss. Thus, like many forms of psychological pathology, Parent Alienation Syndrome occurs when there is an unfortunate “fit” between the internal psychological dynamics of an individual and a cultural opportunity for living out pathology in an interpersonal setting.

Alienating parents enforce their agenda by aligning with intrinsically sound theories or causes, then accusing the parent to be alienated of behavior that violates the tenets of those theories or causes. Social causes and movements contain particularly powerful resources that can be exploited. Emotional and ideational content from any social causes, however well-intended or intrinsically sound, can be appropriated and used for the pathological purpose of alienating a child from the other parent.

The potential usefulness of a cause is not determined by its content, but by the amount of emotion and action that can be generated when there is an accusation that the tenets or taboos of the cause have been violated. The emotional climate attendant to the cause helps blur boundaries so that questions that need to be raised in a particular case are treated as though the validity of the cause itself is being questioned. However, in parent alienation cases, exclusion of the other parent from the life of the child is not desired for the altruistic reasons that generated the social cause with which the alienating parent hopes to be identified, but for personal reasons that are rooted in complicated emotional and psychological dynamics.

The alienating parent may or may not be consciously aware of manipulating the child and the legal/social systems. Alienating parents often believe that the accusations they make are true, but have developed those beliefs by a faulty reasoning process. The following case illustrates the process of parent alienation.

In the 1970s, child abuse and neglect were the subjects of national attention. The reporting law had just been passed, and systems were being forced to change to respond more effectively to neglected and physically abused children. In one case, a father accused a mother of life-threatening neglect of their four-year-old daughter. The family had experienced the accidental death of an older child, and the father could not overcome his grief. Like many parents who lose children, he believed that finding a reasonable explanation and placing blame would give him “closure” and relief.

The father blamed the mother and focused intense anger on her. Although data from the evaluation of the mother did not support his conclusion, her parenting was not flawless. Needless to say, the loss of her child and the blame and criticism directed at her caused her to be depressed. Depressed people often are not able to be as attuned to their children as would be optimal.

In spite of the Team’s recommendation, the child was placed in the custody of her father. Therapy was ordered and obtained. However, ten years and much litigation later, this child refused any contact with her mother. The mother resigned herself to the loss and made a good adjustment in spite of it.

Sound psychological theories can be exploited and used in pathological ways, just as legitimate social causes can. For example, a child’s normal needs may be exacerbated or exaggerated, then presented as a justification for excluding or severely limiting time with the unwanted parent. Attachment theories and theories about separation anxiety are most often used in this way. Again, there is no acknowledgment of the fact that it is the alienating parent not the child, who wants and would benefit from the exclusion of the other parent.

Differentiating causes from cases requires that there be criteria for making the diagnosis of any condition in a particular case. These criteria can then be used to rule in, and, just as important, to rule out the existence of a syndrome in a family.(4) The following characteristics are common to all of the cases of parent alienation the Team has seen and seem to be useful as diagnostic criteria.

Observable Family Dynamics

It is well known that children need emotional support, comfort, and warmth provided in the context of secure, safe, predicable attachments and relationships with at least one and preferably two parents in order to develop and mature psychologically. However, emotional dependency is not the whole story for children. In all families, the limited experience and perceptual abilities of children make them dependent, not only emotionally but also cognitively, on one or more significant adults.

The child’s cognitive understanding and view of the world and the people in it are shaped by a conglomeration of immediate perceptions combined with perceptions shared with that child by caretaking adults. Who has contributed which perceptions is not always clear, either to the child or to the caretaking adults. Because children, for very good reasons, trust the perceptions of parents more than their own perceptions, they participate in any perceptual distortion or delusion shared with them by a parent unless there are mitigating factors.(5) The most important mitigating factor against sharing a distorted perception is a relationship with another separate, different parent who offers different data and perspectives. The child of an alienating parent is deprived of that relationship and, therefore, its potentially corrective influence.


“Parental alienation cases pose a particularly difficult challenge to lawyers and mental health professionals attempting to help families negotiate divorce.”



The child’s emotional and cognitive dependencies can be exploited by adults. Alienating parents (who should know better) and their children (who cannot be expected to know better) sometimes share a common delusion that one and only one other human being, namely the alienating parent, can provide the child with the relationship necessary for psychological survival. The alienating parent believes and communicates to the child that only that parent or delegates of that parent can be considered safe. This, of course, gives the alienating parent a great deal of power-much more power than is the case if the child knows more than one safe, dependable, trustworthy adult. A child who does not know that there is a nurturing someone else “out there” separate from a symbiotic unit can only be terrified of leaving the only safe world that, in that child’s experience, does exist.

For children, feeling safe and being safe are synonymous; it takes significant growth, the development of a dependable capacity for testing reality as well as the freedom to use that capacity, and considerable experience to distinguish between internal mental content and external reality. Most adults have achieved the ability to make such distinctions, although some adults lose that ability under severe stress and some adults have never developed it because of mental illness or because of deficits in education, personality development, or life experience.

Very young children need adults who can make the distinctions between feelings and facts for them; school age and older children need adults to help them make the distinctions if they can, and to take over that function when the child is unable to make the judgments. Many adults do not recognize how important it is to help children find healthy ways of managing, putting in perspective, and sometimes overcoming feelings, especially such painful ones as anger, fear, or disappointment. The child’s participation in alienation is thus relatively easy to achieve by blurring the distinctions between feelings and facts, then exaggerating and exploiting the emotion.

The following parent-child interactions are observable when children have been engaged in the process of alienating a parent:

1. The alienating parent shares with the child a distorted, essentially negative perception of the parent to be alienated, as well as a lack of interest in or active avoidance of changing that perception. The child begins by being confused, but progresses toward identification with the alienating parent, finally reflecting the distorted perception as his or her own version of “the truth.”

2. A child old enough to assert an opinion refuses to visit the parent to be alienated. A younger child either experiences or is described by the alienating parent as experiencing unusual distress or anger on separation from the alienating parent or on return from contact with the other parent, though often not during the visit itself.

3. The alienating parent attempts to attenuate, control, or exclude contact with the other parent through behavior such as the removal of the child from physical proximity to the parent to be alienated and/or engaging in repeated litigation aimed at enforcing exclusion, indefinite supervision, or attenuation of the relationship. This attempt is accompanied by intense, unconflicted parental affect, usually anger, anger mislabeled as fear, or fear itself and by “protective” behavior toward the child. Similar feelings are attributed to or are provoked in the child by the alienating parent so that the child mirrors parental ideas, attitudes, and emotions. Older children often show these intense feelings in interviews; preschool children say them and seem to believe them cognitively, but often do not show them when seen in a clinical interview. The feelings now attributed to the child are used to justify an exclusion that is in reality the alienating parent’s desire, not the child’s need. Alienation is the only proposed solution to the perceived problems; other possible solutions are either rejected or attempted but sabotaged before they can become or when they do begin to become effective.

4. Entitlement to alienation is often justified by accusing the parent to be alienated of immoral or irresponsible conduct and asserting that the child needs to be protected. It also may be justified by appeals to child development theories that may predict absolute irreversible and devastating consequences from “traumas” such as separations from a “primary parent” (that is, the alienating parent). It sometimes is justified by appeals to “children’s rights,” such as a right to be believed literally and without question or the right to refuse a relationship with an unwanted parent.

5. The alienating parent also asserts entitlement to the desired outcome by arguing, often eloquently and convincingly, a need for “justice.” From the narrow perspective of the alienating parent, justice and revenge are synonymous; only those who have suffered “injustice” are considered to have the right to expect “justice,” especially in the form of protection of the civil right to be heard with the possibility of being believed. It is significant that contact with the child is often discussed as a reward (for the “good” or self-sacrificing alienating parent) or punishment (for the “bad” parent to be alienated).

6. The child’s need for a relationship with two parents is not recognized; the question is which one of the parents will remain in the child’s life.(6)

Understanding Accusations

Accusations are not the same as allegations. Allegations are here defined as serious concerns raised in the form of a question that can be answered negatively or positively by gathering data. Accusations are here defined as preformed convictions or conclusions considered to be beyond question.

The stated fear of the alienating parent in a custody or visitation evaluation is that the examiner will not see the pathology in the other parent. Information that raises questions or conflicts with the conclusion made by the alienating parent is excluded, explained away, or considered invalid. Anyone, professional or otherwise, who questions or disagrees with an accusation may be accused of being naive and charmed or brainwashed by the accused, or of being incompetent or biased. Such dissenters are accused of collaborating with injustice and thereby causing harm to children. Self-defense by the accused is called lying or denial. In the minds of some accusers, denial actually proves guilt.

The normal parent making an allegation is different from an alienating parent making an accusation. Normal parents are not perfectionistic. The capacity to tolerate flaws and imperfections in himself or herself allows the normal parent to take in information that disproves the allegation as well as information that confirms it. Normal parents thus not only allow themselves to be wrong on occasion, but have clear ambivalence about being right in this situation. They do not wish to believe that their children have been hurt, so they want to be mistaken in their suspicions or perceptions, even when they have good data, and they are relieved when good data indicate that the child was not hurt.

The alienating parent is not relieved by a finding that the child has not been harmed, but is both angry and disappointed. Such a parent actively seeks more information or more professional opinions in order to prove that the preformed conviction is true.

Normal parents tolerate flaws in others as well as in themselves. They understand the importance of the child’s relationships with people other than themselves and do not want the child to lose a relationship with the other parent. Accordingly, they will consider alternatives for helping the other parent overcome problems and improve functioning or even will simply allow the child to take advantage of limited parental ability and interest. In addition, normal parents have a minimal residual trust in and fondness for an individual once loved, in addition to the disappointment and anger that attend the failure of the relationship and which may be very intense at times. This minimal trust and fondness allow some cooperation on behalf of the child.

There are, of course, situations in which there is clear evidence that a child or a spouse has been neglected or abused, or clearly observable evidence in which a parent/spouse is emotionally abusive or guilty of serious negled. In alienation cases, however, the evidence is very frequently ambiguous and difficult to sort out. Physical evidence is often sparse or lacking. In younger children, the directly observed relationship between the child and the parent to be alienated is often emotionally positive (loving but sometimes conflicted and lacking in fear or emotional constriction, for example), in contrast to verbalized content.

Older children are sometimes very angry with the parent to be alienated and participate actively, but for different reasons than those that would justify alienation. Although they may say the words that produce the desired effect of engaging the system, their actions and emotions may suggest different motivations. The desire to alienate may be an attempt at retribution for a perceived desertion (“I’ll do to you what you are doing to me!”), and thus an expression of a wish to stop the divorce and reconstitute the family.It may be an attempt to accommodate the needs and wishes of the alienating parent.

The Team has seen children ages twelve and fourteen become infuriated when direct evidence conflicted with a conviction, openly shared with the mother, that the father was uncaring and irresponsible. The children accused the father of “pretending” and thereby deluding the examiners, adding, “You will believe him because he is the adult.”

In one such case, the child was convinced, erroneously, that the father was not paying his child support. This particular case was finally resolved when an accusation of sexual abuse was made. Although the evidence for that accusation was very questionable, the relationship between the father and child was, by then, irretrievably broken, and she stopped all contact with him.

Ambiguity often serves to prolong the litigation and thereby furthers the process of alienation. Relationships between a child and an accused parent are usually attenuated or disrupted during investigations. In ambiguous cases, the investigations can last months or even years in hopes of achieving a level of certainty that can never be achieved. Such prolonged investigations can in themselves be harmful to the family relationships.

Conclusion

Parent Alienation Syndrome complicates the evaluations and legal process in divorce cases by exploiting the normal concerns and anxieties of professionals trying to help families through litigation. Accusations abound and must be carefully evaluated because often they are untrue, only partially true, or remediable by means other than excluding a parent from the child’s Life. The interactions described in this article indicate serious and specific psychological conditions that will be described in a later article.

Although it is uncommon in the Team’s experience, it is conceivable that abuse or neglect and parent alienation could occur in the same case. Both therapists and lawyers are familiar with situations in which the pathology of each parent is used to attempt to obscure the pathology of the other, with the result that neither parent can ever improve functioning enough to parent adequately. Pathologies do not cancel each other out. Obviously, it is important in such circumstances to respond to and provide interventions such as therapy for both conditions. Remediation should almost never consist of excluding a relationship with the problematic parent. Such exclusion increases intractable conflict and litigation and deprives children of adequate parenting from any source.

NOTES

1. Gardner, The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sexual Abuse (Cresskill, N.J.: Creative Therapeutics, 1987).

2. The Family and Children’s Evaluation Team, comprised of Claire Purcell, Ph.D., and Leona M. Kopetski, MSSW, pioneered the team approach to child custody evaluations in Colorado. From 1975 to 1995, the Team evaluated both parents and all of the children in approximately 600 cases. Kopetski, the author of this article, originated the concept that both parents must be evaluated by the same examiner in a custody evaluation and was a founder of the Interdisciplinary Committee on Child Custody.

3. Clawar and Rivlin, Children Held Hostage (Section of Family Law, American Bar Association, 1991).

4. Popper, “Science: Conjectures and Refutations,” in Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science (Klemke, Hollinger, and Kline, eds.) (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, rev. ed. 1988) at 19-26.

5. Bowlby, “Omission, Suppression, and Falsification of Family Context,” in Separation (N.Y.: Basic Books, 1973) at 313-21; Loftus, “When a Lie Becomes Memory’s Truth: Memory Distortion After Exposure to Misinformation,” in 1 Current Directions in Psychological Science 121-23 (Aug. 1992).

6. Bowlby, “Focusing on a Figure,” in Attachment (N.Y.: Basic Books, 1969) at 299-330. Bowlby was the first theorist to study and offer comprehensive information about attachment. Although many theorists have elaborated since, Bowlby is one of the very few who indicated that there are variations in attachment figures, that attachments change over time, and that it is normal to have multiple attachments beyond the first year and abnormal to need to cling to one attachment beyond that time. See also “Patterns of Attachment and Contributing Conditions,” id. at 330-49.

This newsletter is prepared by the CBA Family Law Section. This month’s article was written by Leona M. Kopetski, MSSW, who worked as a clinical social worker specializing in the field of custody evaluation in addition to maintaining a private practice in psychotherapy. She is now retired and living in Seeley Lake, Montana, (406) 677-3278.

Identifying Cases of Parent Alienation Syndrome–Part I by Leona M. Kopetski.

Parental Alienation Syndrome:A ‘Hidden’ Facet of Custody Disputes by L. Cook

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 15, 2010 at 1:06 am

Parental Alienation Syndrome:
A ‘Hidden’ Facet of Custody Disputes

by Lisa Cook

Name: Lisa Cook
S.I.N.: 94111036
Date: April 5, 1995
Course: Children & the Law
Professor: Judge Williams

…extending through the years of childhood and adolescence in his [or her] relations with both parents, [a child] builds up working models of how attachment figures are likely to behave towards him in any variety of situations; and on those models are based all his expectations, and therefore all his plans, for the rest of his life.

John Bowlby, Separation, Anxiety, and Anger

Introduction

Custody determinations are not simple. In fact, there are often complications which are not readily discernible to judges, lawyers, counsellors, or even the parents and children. Such a “complication” occurs when a divorcing parent or parents attempt to brainwash or program their children during a custody dispute. This issue has not been given frank or frequent treatment in either law or psychiatry. However, it has the potential to be the most destructive aspect in custody disputes.

It is apparent, from the limited studies that have been done, that mothers are usually the source of the brainwashing.1 Does this mean that there is a distinct gender differential at play? Two alternate and opposing explanations are available: women simply obtain custody with a greater prevalence this gives the mother the time and physical nexus necessary for successful brainwashing2; or out of a fear of losing sole custody due to the trends of joint custody and reverse discrimination in Family Law, mothers resort to brainwashing tactics.3

Both explanations, however, stem from a common basis: women are generally perceived as the “losers” in a divorce unless they get custody of the children.

Thus, the main catalyst for brainwashing is a combination of fear and loss – because a parent is alienated from the life they knew, they become alienating.4 Consequently, a father can brainwash his children just as easily as a mother provided he finds himself in a vulnerable position.5 The result is that the alienating parent becomes so self-oriented that he consciously or unconsciously detaches himself from the true dynamics of the situation. Tables 1, 2, 3, 5, & 6, in the appendix indicate that parents who brainwash tend to have the following characteristics: Upper-middle class with 2.5 children living in suburbia working in a professional occupation with a fairly high education level. From this one could conclude that brainwashing requires intelligence and skill. However, it may be that parents in a higher social class perceive their children as being another possession they could lose in the divorce. On a related note, they may be trying to keep up appearances as the “perfect” parent – having custody is an important part of this “role.” But one must not make generalizations.

Lower class, less educated parents do brainwash their children – though less frequently. Whether this is a product of social class or intelligence is uncertain. Perhaps the difference is in the brainwashing techniques – lower class parents may not brainwash with the same kind of formality and structure as the upper class, educated parents. Their techniques may not correspond with Clawar’s techniques. This could skew the data. While there is no final explanation for the data, they indicate that brainwashing is not a rare phenomenon. It has also been found that spouses who have a history of physically, socially-psychologically abusing their partner employ brainwashing simply as a new tool of abuse.7 Spousal abuse does not seem to have any social class boundaries. Thus, it is virtually impossible to determine a “brainwasher” profile. The fact is that any divorcing parent involved in a custody dispute – if sufficiently alienated from their own world – could have the potential to become alienating.

Theories

There are multiple theories accounting for brainwashing during custody. However, whether any, all, or a combination of these theories apply to a particular family will depend, to a large extent, on: (1) the distinct personalities of the child and parent and (2) situational factors.8

Parents may brainwash as a result of the typical animosity associated with any custody dispute – as a reaction to situational conflict. However, more sophisticated theories have been devised to explain the phenomenon. Alignment is one such theory.9 It is akin to the recently coined terms Parental Alienation Syndrome (P.A.S.) and the S.A.I.D. (He said, She said, Who said?) syndrome – both of which are similarly defined and had their origins in the United States.10 P.A.S. (or S.A.I.D.) is defined as

…a series of conscious programming techniques such as brainwashing as well as subconscious and unconscious processes by the alienating parent combined with the child’s own contribution denigrating the allegedly hated parent [often referred to as the lost, target, or alienated parent].11

P.A.S. manifests itself in several ways.12 The child usually gives frivolous or absurd rationalizations for deprecating the target parent. There is a loss of the ambivalence found in normal human relationships – the target parent is objectified by the alienating parent as an evil entity. In Humphries v. Humphries (1986), 59 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 1 at 3, the child had to call her natural father “the man” and her stepfather “Mr. Daddy.” Children will do what their parents tell them out of fear, to gain respite from their parent’s relentless interrogations or as the primary way to please their parents. Consequently,

P.A.S. children ‘express themselves like perfect little photocopies of the alienating parent and can see no good in the lost parent and no bad in the loved parent. The process resembles amnesia, wherein the child’s good memories appear to be completely destroyed.13

As a counterpart to this, brainwashed children feel little guilt for their actions.14 There are, however, two more serious manifestations-of P.A.S.: refusal of visitation and sexual abuse allegations.

Refusal of visitation is often so multi-determined that it is difficult to link the refusal directly with P.A.S. Johnston indicates that estimating the

…extent to which disengagement results from voluntary withdrawal of the parent or from being pushed out or excluded by the child [is onerous], because the dropping out is likely to be a subtle process of reaction and counteraction to the mutual disappointment inherent in a failed relationship.15

This emphasizes that P.A.S. is primarily a product of the pain associated with divorce. Parents and children become caught in a cycle. For instance, as the frequency of refusals to visit increase, parental disputes heighten, parents become more skeptical of the value of visitation, and the rejected parent engages in counter-rejection.16 It is this spiral effect which complicates the diagnosis of P.A.S. False sex abuse allegations against the target parent entail similar complexities.

Though the allegations may be false, they are usually “based upon a core of reality.”17 Normal physical affection or bathing a child can be construed by the alienating parent as having sexual overtones. Nonetheless, unlike refusal of visitation, there appear to be criteria which can be applied in the case of sexual allegations.18 Gardner has a seventy point criteria test [22 criteria for the accused, 21 for the child, and 27 for the accuser].19 As the number of positive indicators increase, the greater the likelihood that the allegation is valid.20 For instance,

The alleged perpetrator’s having a large collection of child pornographic materials is a very strong indicator of a true accusation. But a child may say ‘My daddy took a big knife and put it into my wee-wee hole and my poo-poo hole. There was a lot of bleeding. My mommy was there and she got very angry at my daddy and she gave him time out.’ Such a statement argues strongly for a false accusation.21

This sounds like common sense. In fact, most, of the criteria seem to be based on fairly obvious observations and differences between true and false incest victims can be found in their disclosures. Fakers tend to reveal details of the incest almost spontaneously and there are no significant changes in mood or affect. In addition, fakers often use adult terminology and make few retractions or restatements. Most telling, however, is that a true victim

…will rarely describe the sexual activity in the [abuser's] presence, out of fear and guilt, while the faker will do this if the [alienator] is also present…[the alienator] often control[s] the child by monitoring his or her responses through eye contact and subtle facial expressions.22

Though criteria can be applied, this does not remove all complexity. P. (G.L.) v. P. (J.M.) (1990), 27 R.F.L. (3d) 64 recognized that

The person making the complaint, usually the mother, is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. If the complaint is made for the first time in the course of a custody case, there is a tendency to disbelieve the allegation. If the allegation cannot be proven, the mother is viewed as vicious and destructive. Some judges have suggested that an unwarranted allegation of sexual abuse may be grounds to deny custody. [However, this reasoning is not based on the allegations being viewed as a manifestation of P.A.S.]. On the other hand, if a mother suspects abuse, but does not report or raise the issue, she runs the risk of being branded a poor parent and being subject to C.A.S. supervision.23

An even more problematic issue is that divorcing parents might be using the fact that reporting child abuse is in vogue as an apparently easy means of attacking their ex-spouses. The irony is that though the sex abuse allegations may be false, the children are being abused by becoming the pawn in their parent’s “games.”24 What is even more frightening is that

The number of virtual allegations of abuse may be expected to increase in the future because of their more subtle nature, the greater difficulty in disproving them, and because judges and lawyers familiar with P.A.S. are becoming increasingly skilled at detecting [its more obvious manifestations such as those illustrated in Table 8A of the appendix].25

Parents also resort to various brainwashing techniques in attempts to “win” their child over so that they can win them at the custody hearing. Clawar lists several techniques which he refers to as syndromes – suggesting that these tactics have a strong psychological component. Parents often use a combination of these techniques.26 An analysis of Table 8C in the appendix suggests that these techniques are not so effective that the children being brainwashed cannot detect them. Why, then, does the brainwashing continue? The children are afraid to confront their parents – without their parents they might not have a home to live in, food to eat, or clothes to wear. The “Who Me”, Middleman, and Circumstantial syndromes were most easily detected by children – perhaps because the child is more of a direct participant in these techniques. However, for the most part, the “no” awareness percentages were relatively high – some children may be able to detect the brainwashing but this may depend on age, maturity, and past life experiences.

Clawar also indicates some of the motivational factors connected with brainwashing: revenge, jealousy and self-righteousness; fear of losing the child, one’s identity and a sense of history; attempts to maintain the marital relationship through conflict; a desire for emotional and proprietary control and dominance.27 Underlying each of these motivations is an emotional need. This is further supported by the fact that the brainwashing becomes more intense when “situational factors intervene such as changes in location, holidays, court work, or prosperity of the target parent.”28 Also, the hostility of the alienating parent never seems to be proportional to the seriousness of the alienated parent’s actions.29 Related to this idea of “emotional need” is the proposition that brainwashing could be the result of a mental disorder.

The alienating parent may have a mental disorder which is caused by the emotional turmoil of divorce or the disorder could be inherent – distinguishing between the two is difficult. However, data from the Custody Project at the University of Toronto shows that in 72 percent of the families, at least one parent was psychiatrically disturbed.30 It has also been found that the presence of a mental disorder is connected to the propagation of a false sex abuse accusation.31 Nonetheless, there are no straightforward answers despite apparent linkages. This is evidenced in Lapierre v. Lapierre (1991), 34 R.F.L. 129 at 145:

I do not know if this action on her part was the act of a person filled with hatred, or if it was an act of gross bad judgment, or if this evidence was the evidence of-a mentally ill person…

There is also the added confusion of whether pre-divorce influences on children can be separated from the impact of brainwashing:

There are now a number of studies which show that long before parents separate, there are differences in the behaviour of their children as compared with those in other marriages where a divorce does not take place.32

These studies are prospective – before it is known there will be a divorce – so they are not biased by hindsight. Children with a deceased parent do not seem to be as adversely affected as those with separated or divorced parents. But there is variation among individual children.33 Thus, no definitive conclusions can be drawn although the effects on children – of either the brainwashing or the divorce or separation itself – are definite. P.A.S. children exhibit the same kinds of symptoms as abused children – depression, acting-out behaviours, fear of social situations. Basically, they are maladjusted.

There seems to be an overlap between several of these theories. For instance, minus a pre-existing mental disorder, can all of the “theories” be partially explained as being a reaction to the legal process?

There is ample reason to believe that much of the anger and disarray that accompany divorces are not so much a product of grief over the failed relationship as they are the result of what spouses perceive the other doing as part of the legal process.34

Since the legal process is both adversarial and often procedurally convoluted, there are several detrimental reactions which parties to a divorce may experience. The justice system is often wrongly idealized:

Children often invest hope in the judicial process; they fantasize that the judge can put a stop to the brainwashing.35

Clients [parents] become ever more dependent on the judgments made by their lawyers and less able to take initiative on their own.36

This relates to the decision-oriented nature of the legal process – even in custody disputes there is an implicit attempt to distinguish guilt from innocence.37 As a result, the positions of the parties harden to the point where the truth becomes no more than a paradigm for courtroom success. But what about the fact that between 97 to 99 percent of all divorces are settled prior to trial.38 Does this not obviate some of the negativity associated with the adversarial process?

Part of the routine is the use of the impending trial to generate anxiety in the clients that causes them to make the concessions necessary to compromise and settle the case.39

This suggests that even if a case is settled, it is generally a forced settlement – out of fear that a trial would be “unsuccessful.” But what is success? According to Margulies, a successful divorce is one in which “all farnily members are thriving five years after the divorce.”40 However, this definition is not obvious to most lawyers or clients – they want immediate success. Due to this mind-set, it is not surprising that parents resort to brainwashing – it becomes just another “legal” tactic.

Legal Implications

Gardner believes that the more recent judicial preference for joint custody has contributed to P.A.S.’s prevalence: the alienating parent fears either that shared parenting will be too difficult or that joint custody will keep past conflicts alive. The latter point is paradoxical since brainwashing – as a solution to parental fear – does not prevent conflicts, it merely produces new ones. Nevertheless, the answer is not to return to a sole custody system – children need both parents – but for the court to recognize P.A.S. Other than in Quebec, the Canadian legal system has not explicitly recognized an identifiable syndrome such as P.A.S. An article in the Montreal Gazette (November 30, 1992) entitled “Dirty Tricks penalized in Custody Battles: Courts frown on parents who turn kids against spouses” indicates how the legal system in Quebec is aware of the severe implications of P.A.S. for children. In R..M. v. B. R.. [Unreported, 1994] Quebec C.A., the court made three important pronouncements regarding P.A.S.: (1) P.A.S. is neither purely objective and scientific nor purely legal; (2) the court must examine the parent’s conduct in the context of the child’s interest; and (3) expert evidence on P.A.S. should be given extensive weight. It is also significant that most of the Quebec P.A.S. cases went to the Court of Appeal.41 This emphasizes the initial “doubt” surrounding the validity of P.A.S. Nonetheless, the penalty imposed upon alienating parents has been severe – loss of custody. It seems as though Quebec children’s-rights advocates have been the main source of getting P.A.S. recognized in As well, in Sherbrooke, Quebec there is a group called PAIN – Parental Alienation Information Network. The ACAB group in St. John’s, Newfoundland seems to be following this model, though on a lesser scale.

Nonetheless, there have been some advances in the Common Law provinces. In Rutherford v. Rutherford (1986), 4 R.F.L. (3d) at 459 the court did show insight into the rationale underlying P.A.S.:

The process [of brainwashing] may be so subtle and so slow that it escapes notice until too late…I hope the parties will take a step back and examine their own actions and motives rather than simply the actions and motives they perceive in the other…

Other courts have taken different attitudes. Some courts have simply labelled a parent’s brainwashing behaviour as peculiar. “This foolish man did so much in such a diabolical fashion that it all becomes almost unbelievable.”42 Other courts seem to be making excuses for a parent’s behaviour: “…neither party is without imperfections.”43 In Humphries v. Humphries (1986), 59 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 1 at 6 there was a sense of flitility:

I cannot by order change Mrs. H.’s attitude nor has time. I cannot by order prevent her from communicating in many indirect ways the negative feeling she has about Mr. Humphries to her daughter. I conclude that I must sacrifice Rhiannon’s long term gain from access to her father to her current emotional health.

Instead, the judge is sacrificing Rhiannon to the mental tortures imposed by Mrs. H.’s brainwashing. Lapierre v. Lapierre (1991), 34 R.F.L. 129 at 156 similarly held: “I am not here to solve the problems of P., however caused. I am here to stand as parens patriae to the children.” Though it is positive that the court emphasized the child’s interests, the child’s interests will not be adequately addressed as long as the court fails to address P.A.S.

At times, the courts appear to be so innovative that the real issue — the brainwashing — is either ignored or treated as a secondary problem which will somehow resolve itself:

…there will be less reason for conflict between their parents [if decisions regarding visitations are left to the children]. A great deal of the trouble in the past has been caused by the rigid timetable…I have more confidence in them to behave reasonably than I have in their parents…44

Similarly, the courts turn away from P.A.S. for it does not seem to fit conveniently into a legal framework:

While there is no denying that courts have a difficult job at best, on balance it would appear that the prevailing tendency has been toward delaying judgment in the hope that the problem will go away, solve itself, or at the very least prove that no judgment is preferable to a wrong judgment.45

But the role of the court in cases of P.A.S. must go beyond simply determining who gets custody and when P.A.S. must be given direct consideration. Judges must not only specifically refer to it in their decisions – P.A.S. should be the basis for a major portion of their ratio:

…the precedent of clear, forceful judgment may deter some parents from beginning the alienation of their children.46

If parents who engage in P.A.S. know that aware judges may give custody to the innocent parent, and perhaps even apply sanctions against parents who use a child to prevent the other parent’s access to the child, the P.A.S., which is itself a form of child abuse, may suffer a fatal and well-deserved setback.47

Currently, however, this is not the trend. In fact, the judge in Humphries v. Humphries (1986), 59 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 1 at 5 would not order access “merely to ensure that intransigent behaviour in other parents is discouraged.” It is not surprising that deterrence is not a priority given that the seriousness of P.A.S. has not been judicially recognized.

In the United States, the courts are taking more steps towards acknowledging P.A.S.48 In Laurel Schutz v. Richard Schutz (1985), Judge Feder used strong, though somewhat metaphorical, language regarding P.A.S.:

The court has no doubt that the cause of the blind, brainwashed, bigoted, belligerence of the children toward the father grew from the soil nurtured, watered and tilled by the mother. The court is thoroughly convinced that the mother breached every duty she owed as the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent of instilling love, respect and feeling in the children for their father. Worse, she slowly dripped poison into the minds of these children, maybe even beyond the power of this court to find the antidote.49

Judge Feder’s emphasis on a parent’s “duty” is significant. From this perspective, P.A.S. is not just misbehaviour – it is the breach of a legal duty. By placing P.A.S. in a legal context, the American courts appear to have generated some sort of respect for P.A.S.

This is only a first step, however – the legal system must interface with the field of psychiatry and related fields so that conflicting assumptions and practices can be reconciled. Otherwise, the ratio of the dissent in Schutz or the Canadian ambivalence will continue to prevail:

Judge Hendry’s opinion [dissent in Schutz] was that the trial court’s order went beyond the mother’s legal duty to encourage legal visitation by requiring her to express opinions she does not hold and thus infringing on her rights of free speech.50

It is paradoxical that the court speaks of a violation of the parent’s rights when the child’s rights are being equally affected. This kind of judgment makes P.A.S. seem like a figment of the imagination. The judge appears to be condoning brainwashing by framing it as a “right of free speech.” Though this is an extreme example of judicial ignorance, it is not far from the more common judicial mistakes regarding P.A.S. In fact, reducing P.A.S. to pure legality – as in the majority in Schutz – is not ideal. The focus must not be on pure legality.

In general, the legal system appears to de-emphasize the distinction between physical access and social-psychological access – permission to love and identify with the other parent. Even when the court does highlight this distinction, it does not place it directly in the context of P.A.S. For instance, in Smith v. Smith (1991), 34 R.F.L. 367 at 369 the court referred to the “psychological safety of the children” and that the parents “manipulated the children to the point where they constantly live on an emotional roller-coaster.” Once again, the court uses metaphors instead of applying P.A.S.

Any argument that the law is normative should not dissuade proponents of P.A.S.:

…’normative’ in law seems to mean very little other than a specific preference, often in turn based on individualistic value judgments.51

Essentially, judicial interpretation of the law seems to be given priority over judicial interpretation of the facts in conjunction with informational authority on P.A.S. from the social sciences. Consequently, the court seems to be hiding from the evidentiary problems associated with P.A.S. cases.

Evidentiary Dilemmas

Evidentiary issues relating to custody disputes become even more intricate when P.A.S. enters the scene. Interviews with children may reveal verbal compliance but it must be t’evaluated against a behavioral context and with a full understanding of the development of the child’s assertions.”52 Brainwashed children tend to mimic what the alienating parent has told them. Even if a parent is not detected as being responsible for the child’s attitudes, parents often engage surrogate programrners as a means to avoid detection – usually members of the extended family, a new spouse or new in-laws.53 In addition, detection itself is not an elementary task. This can be illustrated by specific examples of statements made by brainwashed children accompanied by a detection commentary. It should be noted that there is a great deal of overlap between the various commentaries and that any differences are the product of subtle psychological analysis.54 Table 7 in the appendix indicates that the methods most capable of detection involved either subtle linguistic or factual turns – contradictory statements, inappropriate or unnecessary information, use of indirect statements – or highly emotional, personalized tactics – character assault, restrictions on permission to be loved, good parent/bad parent, comparative martyr role, anxiety arousal. Thus, in this context, knowledge and love are no longer parental virtues – they are distorted into brainwashing mechanisms.

Thus, detection is not a matter that can be left solely to a judge or lawyer. In fact, sometimes lawyers act in a collusive nature – whether knowingly or unknowingly: (1) to unscrupulously extend the litigation and their profits rather than resolve the conflict and P.A.S. or (2) due to their ignorance of P.A.S., they misinterpret the evidence and their client’s motivations. As well, children often act in a collusive nature as a consequence of being brainwashed:

Children suffering with P.A.S. may present the judge with a convincing picture.. these children have a way of ‘snow balling’ even experienced psychologists and psychiatrists.55

Parents who brainwash also tend to do quite well on the witness stand – they have learned how to manipulate others and colour their behaviours in socially acceptable ways. Another related evidentiary complication pertains to the child’s experiences with previous interviewers:

The greater the number of previous interviews, the greater the likelihood the child’s description will become routinized and will resemble the litany typically provided in early interviews by the child…56

[In Thatcher v. Thatcher (1980), 16 R.F.L. (2d) 263 at 273, there was evidence] that Regan, already having been seen by four psychiatrists, had become quite experienced and sophisticated in these interviews.

In addition, suggestibility during the interviewing process must be accounted for. It may be difficult to distinguish this suggestibility from the alienating parent’s suggestions.

Another detection hurdle is that many alienating parents use a potpourri of techniques to brainwash which do not fall within any identifiable theory. Evidence of this comes from the interviews with ACAB members. One alienating parent used repetition of a single phrase “Daddy wouldn’t let this happen to you [the brainwashing], if he loved you.” Another parent would get the stepfather to beat up the child so that the alienated father would get mad and call the police. Once the police arrived, the alienated father was the one who was arrested for disturbing the peace – putting his character into jeopardy for any future assessments. Another alienating parent tried to get the alienated parent to sign a t’contract’t – with no.lawyer involvement – wherein the alienating parent would ask for no child support or maintenance if the alienated parent would never have anything to do with the child. It is clear that these techniques would not be easily recognized unless the family was under surveillance almost twenty-four hours a day.

There are possible methods to overcome these evidentiary twists. If kept on the witness stand for an extra long period of time, the alienating parent may eventually make inconsistent statements which will reveal their true actions and ultimate goals.57 Similarly, special cross-examination or interviewing techniques may be used. For instance, Gardner has provided a series of explicit questions for judges to use when dealing with children.58 Whether such direct questions will produce genuine answers may depend on the degree of brainwashing present. A more effective method may be the use of corroborating evidence:

[If the parent is] aware that the evaluator would have other sources of information regarding the child – from the other parent, from clinical interviews with the children, and from outside agencies, such as schools, pediatricians, and protective services – [this may limit] an inclination to distort.59

However, the effectiveness of this method may depend on the strength of the alienating parent’s conviction. But in Radford v. Cassiano, [Unreported, 1995] Ont.C.J. – Prov. Div., the presence of a psychological assessment resulted in the alienating parent withdrawing her claim to terminate access after the third day of trial.

Specific methods have been illustrated in various cases. In W. (K.M.) v. W. (D.D.), [Unreported, 1993] Ont. C.J. – Prov. Div., the court included questions of an adverse nature and avoided asking leading questions.60 Lawyers must be careful not to use strong language without having any real foundation for it – without making any reference to P.A.S. This happened in R.. v. R..W. [Unreported, 1993] Ont. C.J. – Gen. Div., wherein the judge stated:

The defence is inviting this court to believe that for four days Mrs. W. would have drilled these lies into the child’s mind.

If counsel had explained that P.A.S. involves brainwashing that extends beyond four days, perhaps the judge would not have misconstrued counsel’s attempt at portraying the truth as an attempt to attack the other party’s character or credibility. Lacaille v. Manger, [Unreported, 1994] Ont. C.J. – Prov. Div., stresses that the court must make allowances for the fact that children:

…do not necessarily see the world as adults do…a flaw, such as a contradiction, in a child’s testimony should not be given the same effect as a similar flaw in the testimony of an adult.

This makes detecting P.A.S. even less straightforward – is the flaw an indicator of P.A.S. or merely the “slip’ of a child probably on the witness stand for the first time?

Two other “methods” are based on the personal interests of children and their parents, respectively. Eighty percent of brainwashed children want the process detected and terminated; 70 percent felt relief when it was discovered. Consequently, 90 percent of these children cooperate in investigations either covertly or overtly. Some children even use secret language to inform others: “Once she starts talking about my dad, she can’t seem to stop.”61 Some alienated parents have taken a more direct approach to counter P.A.S. MERGE [Movement for the Establishment of Real Gender Equality] suggests codifying the amount of access to which a father is entitled.62 In this way, P.A.S. would not interfere with a father’s natural right to have contact with his children. Feminist movements have volleyed for a similar right for alienated mothers.

Given the psychological elements of P.A.S., expert evidence is quite essential to its accurate detection. However, such evidence creates extensive controversy. While the court does encourage the admission of all relevant evidence, expert evidence regarding custody dispute issues has not been held to be definitive:

…psychologists should be clear that their job is to assist in gathering information, not to determine the result of the case…clarification of roles is important…experts should not offer social and moral judgments in the guise of scientific solutions.63

In R.. v. R.. W., [Unreported, 1993] Ont. C.J. – Gen. Div., the trial judge simply rejected the defence’s theory that the allegations of sexual abuse were contrived “without relating his findings to the evidence.” To make matters worse, he placed the onus upon the alienated parent to satisfy the court that the other parent brainwashed the child to believe that the alienated parent was guilty of sexual abuse. However, Lapierre v. Lapierre (1991), 34 R.F.L. 129 at 138 basically held that expert evidence has validity provided it does not overstep its function:

[Expert evidence is] to be just that, assistance. It is for the court, and the court alone, to determine the matter. Yet, were it not for those professional glimpses through wispy veils, I would have, without hesitation whatsoever, labelled P. as an out and out liar.

Nevertheless, “blind adherence to diagnostic criteria could be as damaging as ignoring these criteria.”64 For instance, psychological expertise sometimes becomes psycho-legal expertise wherein

. . .the psychologist [is] cast as the hired gun engaged to put forth to the court the negative opinion of the contesting parent under the guise of an expert.65

It is interesting that expert evidence is questioned because it might be a “guise” when, in fact, the evidence is being tendered to disclose the guise of the alienating parent. Nonetheless, there are situations where expert evidence would not advance a correct assessment of P.A.S. In W. (K.M.) v. W. (D.D.), [Unreported, 1993] Ont. C.J. – Prov. Div., the judge severely criticized a psychologist’s assessment and preferred a Children’s Aid Society worker’s opinion.66 The judge described it as a “‘blitzkrieg assessment’ conducted in 6 hours on one day.” Dr. Albin even admitted that

…he was selective in the information contained in his report.. He disavowed the evidence of other investigators and set himself up as the only viable assessor…

An additional consideration is that no expert is perfect – even the best trained experts will not always reach conclusions of absolute certainty.67

The problem is that the majority of judges do not take the less restrictive view found in Lapierre v. Lapierre (1991), 34 R.F.L. 129. Nanji v. Nanji (1987), 8 R.F.L. (3d) 221 held the court is not to “rubber stamp expert opinion.” In itself this is not detrimental but, in practice, judges go further than simply limiting the weight given to expert evidence. They equate their discretion with knowledge of the facts and equate knowledge of the facts with an intimate understanding of the family dynamics. But how can a judge know and understand all of the substantial incidents which have accumulated during critical stages of a child’s life? In Thatcher v. Thatcher (1980), 16 R.F.L. (2d) 263 at 271 the judge perceived social status as being synonymous with good parenting:

…one expects from a member of the legislature a greater respect for the law than has been demonstrated by him throughout this conflict. One would expect a father, particularly one of such eminence, to show by example to his sons that the law is to be obeyed and the truth told.

Despite the fact that this reasoning did prevent Mr. Thatcher from getting access,

P.A.S. should have been applied instead. But P.A.S. is neither a legal term nor does it fall within legal precedent. This should not be a determining factor. In Martiniuk v. Martiniuk (1978), 2 R.F.L. (2d) 39 at 47 Hughes J. explained the process behind his reasoning:

No book of knowledge contains clear-cut answers as to whether I have reached a correct 6r incorrect decision. Like so many decisions that have to be made in matrimonial matters, knowledge of the law, limited as it may be, is of a secondary nature and has played little part in the decision arrived at.

I cling to no precedent nor authoritative text as supporting the result I have arrived at. In deciding this problem, it has been a matter, after weighing and considering all of the evidence, of drawing on such experience, reason, and common sense that I have at my command, admittedly limited in each instance.

I am mindful that in light of the evidence of Dr. Shepel and his supporting brief that perhaps there is some risk involved in deciding as I have. On balance, I have concluded that cannot deter me from ordering as I feel I must do, and, of course, responsibility for the decision must rest with me.

Though Hughes J. takes responsibility for his decision and makes legal knowledge subservient to comrnon sense and experience, he does not mention P.A.S. Further, it is unlikely that his experiences – being “admittedly limited” – would include P.A.S.

As long as this cycle continues, P.A.S. will remain an ominous term which seems to have no reality outside a social science textbook. This cycle has another negative implication for P.A.S. progress:

…losing parties in a custody or visitation question have a natural, vested interest in contesting the findings of a psychologist. Because trial courts are ordinarily given wide latitude in making custody determinations, complaints regarding the professional behaviour of practitioners may be one of the few avenues open for appeal to a litigant who has lost an opening legal round over custody.68

If P.A.S. has its foundations in psychology and psychological testimony is either ignored, devalued, or openly criticized, then it would seem that P.A.S. has little chance of survival – let alone initial recognition.

Solutions

“The key to the solution usually lies within the child.”69 However, as illustrated by the evidentiary dilemmas, the child’s true mental state is often inaccessible. As well, often the brainwashing does not have to continue – eventually, the child internalizes the alienating parent’s thoughts and opinions. In the absence of the brainwashing, P.A.S. may appear to be eradicated when it has actually become a permanent state of mind. Thus, as stated above, the child must be the focus of any solution. Gardner’s radical treatment – to be used in extreme cases of P.A.S. – seems to reflect this reality. The treatment involves:

…forcibly removing the child from the custody of the [alienating] parent and placing him or her with the ‘hated’ other parent…with supervised access reinstated gradually.70

But when P.A.S. is placed in a legal context – either in the courtroom or settlement proceedings – Gardner’s intervention has resulted in

…the major portion of the blame for the problem being placed upon the parent who is believed to fuel the child’s alienation. That is, less attention is being paid to what the child brings to the situation, whereas the hated parent is viewed entirely as the victim.71

Gardner’s rationale is that the degree of alienation is directly proportional to the time spent alienating. Thus, removal of the child from the alienator should stop the alienation – but this does not mean that the alienating effects are automatically eliminated. For the most part, however, the courts seem to have moved in Gardner’s direction. In Martiniuk v. Martiniuk (1978), 2 R.F.L. (2d) 39 at the court held that

To deny the father his access rights, given the conduct of the mother and her common law husband, would be tantamount to allowing the parties in error to ‘beat the system.’

In Herbeniuk v. Herbeniuk (1985), 44 Sask. R. 52 at 60 a similar approach was taken:

I am not, however, satisfied that the expressed concerns justify a complete denial of access. This, in my view, would merely serve to punish the children for their father’s indiscretions.

Though these cases do not reflect a willingness to reverse custody – as Gardner suggests – the emphasis on not denying access to the alienated parent appears to be a less radical version of the “radical intervention.” Rutherford v. Rutherford (1986), 4 R.R.L. (3d) at 458-459, however, reveals that the more likely — and disturbing — scenario is that

…access will be terminated if it proves sufficiently unsettling to the child, even where the problem may be laid squarely at the feet of the custodial parent.

This is an unfortunate product of being unaware of P.A.S.

The Family Systems framework seems to be more preventative than Gardner’s intervention solution. This framework is premised on the notion that the family is a dynamic system which requires cohesion and continuity even after a divorce or separation. Its supporters contend that

Through participating in the decision-making process, members of the family are more likely to be supportive of the child custody arrangement – [hence, less conflict and less brainwashing].72

Psychological interventions can also be preventative if instigated early enough. According to Roger Ulrich,

Awareness of our own needs and attitudes is our most effective instrument for maintaining our own integrity and control over our own reactions.73

Alienating parents lack such insight into their behaviour. Thus, eradicating the alienation must also involve environmental modifications and knowledge of the actual brainwashing techniques, the motives behind them and their effects. Consequently,

Talk therapy with no focus, no measurements, and no time line is often a waste of time in [brainwashing] cases…it may be counterproductive because nothing may be discovered when, in fact, there are real social causes of the problems. Also, surfacing issues without an awareness of the causal agents may lead to serious mistakes in diagnosis and recommendations to parents and/or the courts.74

Attribution therapy has also been recommended for P.A.S. situations. If the alienating parent can learn how to make interactive attributions – not blaming a single party or incident -regarding the reasons for the divorce, then it is less likely that they would brainwash.75 However, even this forrn of therapy may not be completely effective:

It is still unclear whether interactive explanations for divorce lead to better post-divorce adjustment or whether people who make interactive attributions in general are just happier, more confident, and more active people, or whether both are true. [Perhaps the outcomes are personality-oriented].76

To further limit the effectiveness of psychological interventions, approximately 15 percent of children felt that mental health experts could not help their situation:

So what can anybody do? This has been going on for years. We’ve seen more therapists than I can count. Nothing against you, but if you don’t agree with my mom [or dad], she’ll [or he'll] try to get you fired too!77

Thus, even court ordered changes in therapists may be futile for the alienating parent will simply seek out another therapist who supports his or her position. On rare occasions, the court acts as a kind of therapist. This was evident in Metz v. Metz (1991), 34 R.F.L. 255 at 260:

…the parents must earn their children’s affections rather than depend upon the court to order the children to associate with them at certain times.

Nanji v. Nanji (1987), 8 R.F.L. (3d) 221 at 224 corresponds with Metz:

If I have misjudged Mr. Nanji or if there is a change of heart, the appropriate adjustment can be made. I am even hopeful that the parties might work something out between themselves.

Basically, court orders cannot be a substitute for the facilitation of an understanding between the parties – it is the latter process which will eventually break the P.A.S. impasse. However, this attitude does not frequent many ratios and even Metz and Nanji do not incorporate P.A.S. into their reasoning.

Nonetheless, the court is usually guided by the Best Interests Test. While this test is theoretically sound, it is not the best means to deal with P.A.S.78 Many courts have held that “if [the] attitude persists against the non-custodial parent, [then] the child should stay with the custodial [alienating] parent.”79 However, this is a superficial application of the Best Interests Test for the child is being forced to stay with an abusive parent simply because brainwashing is not currently within the court’s definition of abuse. For instance, assertions about parent-contact preferences must be proven via careful interviewing techniques since 65 percent of children change their assertions immediately when asked the right questions in the right sequence:

Interviewer: If mom said it was okay, would it help you to see dad more often?
Child: She’d never say it, no way.
Interviewer: But if she would?
Child: Yeah, I guess so.80

Most alienating parents try to use the Best Interests Test to their own advantage. This is referred to as the Independent Thinker phenomenon – “I want him to see his father [or mother], but if he doesn’t want to, I will fight to ensure that his decision is respected.”81

Another discrepancy in the. application of the Best Interests Test is that there is no consistency regarding the age-preference connection. In Lapierre v. Lapierre (1991), 34 R.F.L. 129 the wishes of children aged seven and ten were not considered determinative By contrast, a child of eleven in Metz v. Metz (1991), 34 R.F.L. 255 had his preferences respected even though it was apparent that a parent may have influenced his choice. Smith v. Smith (1991), 34 R.F.L. 367 at 370 takes a more realistic approach than Metz:

Unfortunately, Michael is at an age (12) when he is able to make certain decisions for himself, but is not yet free from the influences of others…

Radford v. Cassiano, [Unreported, 1995] Ont. C.J. – Prov. Div. is perhaps the most extreme application of the Best Interests Test and its approach could be quite damaging where P.A.S. is an issue:

…preferences of children of this age (6 and 7 years old) are generally not determinative of the issue, but when they are so strongly held, apparently arising from their own wishes and being reasonable under the circumstances, they should be taken into consideration…82

However, a P.A.S. child will generally have strong views because of the intensity of the brainwashing and these views may appear reasonable because the alienating parent’s aim is to convince others that the other parent is bad. Perhaps if the best interests of the child were considered in the home rather than being placed within the strictures of a legal test, then P.A.S. would not even be an issue.

The Custody Project at the Department of Psychiatry (University of Toronto) has attempted to combine the psychiatric and legal approaches. Custody Project involves a direct link between court-initiated referrals and child psychiatrists. However, there must be consent between all family members to receive counselling. As well, court-initiated referrals usually take place after litigation has begun., It is in this regard that Custody Project is most innovative:

[If initiated once the litigation has begun], it was hypothesized that this would be months at least after the emotional crisis of separation. On the basis that intervention might be more effective much earlier in the separation process, the members agreed to take referrals initiated by lawyers in the hope that these would be prior to litigation.83

Perhaps this kind of referral system would help reduce the percentage of brainwashed children who reach the point of no return to less than its current 5 percent.84

Given the Custody Project’s positive outcomes one would assume that mediation would be effective in P.A.S. situations. However, most P.A.S. cases reactivated after an agreement was reached even if legal sanctions such as the guilty party pays legal and therapy fees were attached. Catherine Foster, a mediator at the Unified Family Court in St. John’s, emphasized that mediation is not equal to treatment – it is front-end preventative and, in this sense, it is limited. There are three other reasons why mediation generally fails:

(1) The ‘day’ in court serve[s] as an avenue for the programmers and brainwashers to carry on their crusade to demonstrate the ‘truth’…84

(2)…one of the feuding parties is insincere and has little wish to solve the problem. The reason is that insincerity, conscious or unconscious, is one of the hallmarks of the alienating parent.86

(3).. the lack of a swift, forceful court judgment is often perceived by the alienator as denoting approval of the alienating behaviour.87

Mediation’s only advantage regarding P.A.S. is that the brainwashing might be insinuated during the mediation process. This insight may assist therapists, lawyers, or judges in their subsequent assessments.

But are any of these solutions feasible? Though each theory has its flaws, at least each theory is, by its very existence, acknowledging that custody disputes are not clear-cut. Even Gardner’s theory – which explicitly deals with P.A.S. – is not so encompassing and definitive that it can stand on its own. If the virtues of each of the previously mentioned solutions could be unified into a single theory, perhaps P.A.S. could be controlled, if not countered. However, the direct experiences of alienated parents illustrate how few “solutions” are actually being implemented.

Interviews with some members of the ACAB group underline how the “authorities” appear to be oblivious to finding solutions. They felt that more accountability and less apathy on the part of the police, social services, and the courts is essential. But is this an emotional overreaction or a reaction to a real problem? Would these individuals feel invisible, like non-persons, if they were genuinely receiving help? For instance, Mr. A told of a social worker’s naivete or deliberate blindness during a home assessment. His daughter was asleep when the social worker came for the visit. But after a brief discussion the mother brought the social worker to the daughter’s room. The daughter immediately showed the worker a doll and how her father touched her. The social worker believed, without doubt, that this was unsolicited. In addition, home assessments are usually conducted over extremely short time periods [1-1/2 to 2 hours] and often the assessor has no real qualifications [in Mr. A.'s case, the assessor only had a Bachelor of Nursing and a Masters of Education - nothing relating to social work or psychology].

As a consequence of like scenarios, many of the ACAB members have resorted to representing themselves — at least then they can expose the flaws in such “evidence” and raise P.A.S. without having to deal with their lawyer telling them that P.A.S. is fool’s gold. Some members have even proposed solutions:

(1) Consistent use of the polygraph on the alienating parent and on the brainwashed children.

(2) Develop a Children’s Law which is a distinct branch of Family Law.

(3) Place stricter requirements on the content, timing, and enforcement of court orders. For instance,even when sexual abuse charges are dropped, supervised access is maintained for abnormally long periods of time.

(4) The legal system and the mental health system should not fall into the trap of believing that the child is in a ‘stage’ and will probably change their mind about the alienated parent when they get older. The courts should be more informed about child development theories.

These solutions, if implemented, could bring P.A.S. to the forefront. However, in the absence of legal authority, it is unlikely that the courts will be quick to adopt the recommendations of a support group – there is the risk of group self-interest. Nonetheless, with time, perhaps such groups as ACAB will gain more respect from the courts. Maybe then, P.A.S. will gain similar respect.

Conclusions

Whether P.A.S. is a new phenomenon or one which has always been present, it deserves more attention. While there is the danger of placing too much authority in a “syndrome,” there is the even greater risk of allowing innocent children to be victimized in their own homes by their “caregivers.” Children do not choose that their parents divorce -they are victims of circumstance and if that circumstance results in P.A.S. their plight becomes that much worse. Cartwright expresses this idea eloquently:

We often speak of preserving family values, but even disintegrated [divorced] nuclear families have values and rights which must be preserved and respected to prevent further disintegration and total collapse. To do less is to sacrifice entire generations of children on the altar of alienation, condemning them to familial maladjustment and inflicting on them lifelong parental loss.88

This parallels John Bowlby’s words quoted from Separation, Anxiety, and Anger at the outset of the essay.

Underlying all of the theories are three fundamental ideas: (1) brainwashing is a complex product of pain, emotional need, and a desire to “win”; (2) the legal context of divorce intensifies the brainwashing; (3) brainwashing can easily be disguised because it is generally founded on a core of reality. P.A.S. will never become more than a theory, however, if its practical, legal implications are not resolved. P.A.S. must be recognized by the legal system yet, at the same time, it must not be transformed into a legal term. If P.A.S. is to make its way into the courtroom it must be shown the way by lawyers and judges. But, once inside, it has to speak for itself. Once P.A.S. has reached this point, evidentiary dilemmas will be less impenetrable – P.A.S. will be open to discussion which will heighten understanding.

Thus, to search for a solution to P.A.S. is illusory. P.A.S. is multi-faceted in terms of its onset, development, and outcomes. At this point, awareness of the existence of P.A.S. should be given optimum importance. Although this awareness may not encourage an immediate awareness in alienating parents, it may eventually create an atmosphere wherein parents will not feel the need to alienate. Perhaps this will happen when the legalities surrounding divorce become less alienating — when the truth is not being sacrificed for ‘justice” in custody battles. Only then can the parameters of P.A.S. be fully explored., Only then will custody battles have a chance of becoming custody evaluations.

APPENDIX

Sample Description:
Children with Programming/Brainwashing Parents

Number (N) 700
Age Range of Children Infancy through twenty years of age

Source: Clawar, Stanley S., et al. Children Held Hostage. Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago: American Bar Association, 1991 at 174-180.

TABLE 1
Social-Class Breakdown Using Income, Education, and Occupation as Class Indicators

Class % N
Upper-upper 10 70
Middle-upper 10 70
Lower-upper 20 140
Upper-middle 30 210
Middle-middle 20 140
Lower-middle 5 35
Upper-lower 2 14
Middle-lower 2 14
Lower-lower 1 7
Total 100 700

TABLE 2
Occupations of Parents

Occupation Mothers Fathers
% N % N
Professional 15 105 30 210
Business 25 175 40 280
Skilled 20 140 19 133
Semi-skilled 15 105 5 35
Unskilled 15 105 5 35
Unemployed 10 70 1 7
Total 100 100 100 100

TABLE 3
Family Size, by Number of Children

Range 1-6
Median 2.5

TABLE 4
Sex of Children

% N
Female 51 357
Male 49 343
Total 100 100

TABLE 5
Educational Levels of Parents

LEVEL Mothers Fathers
% N % N
Middle School 1 4 1 7
High School 14 100 10 70
Some College 40 280 20 140
Four-year college (completed) 30 208 40 280
Advanced Study (beyond four years of college) 16 108 29 203
Total 101 700 100 700

TABLE 6
Urban/Suburban Distribution

% N
Urban 15 105
Suburban 80 560
Rural 5 35
Total 100 700

TABLE 7
Most Common Detection Factors Present, by Percentage of Cases

Detection Factors % of Cases
Contradictory statements 70
Inappropriate and unnecessary information 85
Character assault 60
Collusion or one-sided alliance 50
Child as spy or conduit of information 30
Use of indirect statements 70
Restrictions on permission to be loved 90
Unchildlike statements 30
Good parent v. bad parent 55
Comparative -martyr role 80
Fear of contact with other parent 20
Anxiety arousal 60
Cohort in secret-keeping 30
Child as mirror image of programmer 20
Confusion of birth parent’s importance 21
Manifestation of guilt 40
Scripted views 45
unmanageability for no apparent reason 15
Radical changes and dysfunctional behavior manifested in other spheres 44
Nonverbal messages 38
Coaching behavior 28
Brain twirling 15
Children threatens parent 8
Child as parent’s best friend 12
Physical survival 10

TABLE 8A
Brainwashing Techniques

(1) Denial-of-existence syndrome: Never talks about the other parent; desecrate photos of other parent; do not acknowledge child’s positive experiences with other parent.
(2) The ‘Who, Me?’ syndrome: Parent tries to convince the child that she must be misinterpreting the brainwashing parent – a form of denial.
(3) Middle-Man syndrome: Speaking to the child about issues that should first have been discussed with the other parent – a form of exclusion.
(4) Circumstantial syndrome: By manipulating, rearranging, changing and commenting on time, the parent tries to gain dominance in the child’s eyes.
(5) ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him’ syndrome: Create and exaggerate differences between themself and the other parent in front of the children.
(6) The Ally syndrome: Sympathy is the key.
(7) The Morality syndrome: Attack morality of other parent to elevate own inorality
(8) ‘Threat of withdrawal of love’ syndrome & ‘I’m the only one who really loves you’ syndrome: self-explanatory.
(9) ‘You’re an endangered species’ syndrome & Physical Survival syndrome: Judgmental, opinionated, negative commentary about the target parent after the child returns from a visitation.
(10) Rewriting-reality syndrome: This is basically the intent behind all of the above techniques.

Source: Clawar, Stanley S. Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago: American Bar Association, 1991 at 15-36.

TABLE 8B
Percentage of Parents, by Sex, Using Certain Brainwashing Techniques

Techniques M F
1. Denial-of-existence syndrome 5 50
2. The ‘Who me?’ syndrome
a. Extended family 12 40
b. Career 2 30
c. Living arrangements and travel 22 60
d. Activities 15 43
e. Associates 25 52
3. Middleman syndrome 20 60
4. Circumstantial syndrome 12 40
5. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him/her’ syndrome 11 40
6. Ally syndrome 16 85
7. Morality syndrome 10 60
8. Threat-of-withdrawal-of-love syndrome 5 42
9. ‘I’m the only one who really loves you’ syndrome 10 60
10. ‘You’re an endangered species’ syndrome 15 39
11. Rewriting reality syndrome 20 60
12. Physical survival syndrome 5 4

* Higher for Females, except for Physical survival Syndrome (but only a narrow margin).

TABLE 8C
Percentage of Children Aware of Brainwashing Techniques Employed by Parents

Aware: the children understand that the messages sent were inappropriate attempts to influence their views and behaviors.

Techniques (as in Table 8B) Awareness
Yes No
1. Denial-of-existence 10 90
2. “Who Me”
a. Extended Family 5 95
b. Career 4 96
c. Living arrangements and travel 60 40
d. Activities 70 30
e. Associates 75 25
3. Middleman 86 14
4. Circumstantial 62 38
5. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him/her” 48 52
6. Ally 30 70
7. Morality 50 50
8. Threat-of-withdrawal-of-love 9 91
9. “I’m the only one who really loves you.” 5 95
10. “You’re an endangered species” 4 96
11. Rewriting reality 5 95
12. Physical survival 10 90

TABLE 9
Percentage of Parents Who Programme/Brainwash, by Intensity Level

Intensity Level (on average) %
More than once per day 20
About once per day 20
More than once per week 10
Once per week 10
Occasionally 20
No detection of programming/brainwashing 20

TABLE 10
Detection Techniques & Commentaries

Character assault (with moral overtones):
Evaluator/Therapist/Judge: What do you like about being at Mom’s? (open-ended and positive question)
Child: Mommy has lots of boyfriends who sleep over. Daddy says she’s a whore because the Bible says so.
Commentary: Representative of externally imposed definition with negative moral judgments on the target parent. Note child did not answer the question – a frequent occurrence for programmed children.

Use of indirect statements:
E/T/J: How did this weekend go? Does Mom/Dad have an opinion about the time you spend at Mom’s/ Dad’s?
Child: When I get home, Mom says things like, ‘Too bad you had to go with your dad this weekend -you missed a great ski trip. I bet you only watched TV, as usual.’ Mom’s right, he’s boring.
Commentary: Rather than encouraging a child to enjoy the time spent with a parent, the parent convinces the child that he will experience boredom. He will also be programmed to be thinking about what he’s missing, thereby mentally remaining in the mother’s home even though he is physically with his father.

Child appears as a mirror image of the programmer:
E/T/J: Why do you think your father is trying so hard to make sure he has more time with you?
Child: Dad doesn’t really love me or want me to live with him – he just wants custody to hurt mom.
Commentary: Most children who are aware of their parents’ custody conflict do not interpret the legal battles as indicating;that they are not loved or that one parent wants to hurt the other, unless they have been so informed.

Brain Twirling:
E/T/J: On the one hand, you say that the joint custody was good in a lot of ways. On the other hand, you say you don’t want it anymore. How come?
Child: I always thought I wanted joint custody (equal time in this case), and it was working in the beginning. But then my dad started so much trouble with Mom, it just isn’t worth it anymore.
Commentary: A programmer sends the child confused messages of both support and disdain for the relationship the child is having with the target parent. If both positive and negative messages are sent to the child about the target parent, the child will usually be most influenced by the negative ones. Also, the child needs civility and often creates an alliance with the programmer in an attempt to stop the intrapsychic and social conflict.

Coaching Behavior: E/T/J is at a home visit
Child: [Upon entering her father's home, a four-year-old exclaims this to the evaluators who are present for a home visit]:
E/T/J: How do you know that?
Child: My mommy told me to tell you he did.
Commentary: The repetition of an idea by the programmer is one of the more easily detectable clues. Evaluators often can elicit this programming by asking direct questions, as in this case. However, at other times it is necessary to lead up to the source indirectly. Protectionistic responses by the child include ‘I just know, that’s all,’ or ‘It’s true.’ Pursuing the base of the information – actual observation, parental brainwashing, conjecture, other adults, overhearing a conversation – takes discretion and knowing when to drop a topic and return later. Rapport is often a key element in obtaining full disclosure.

Child threatens parent (reverse situation):
E/T/J: I heard you say that you wanted to tell the judge certain things about your mom. What’s the story?
Child: Yeah, I told my Mom she better do what I want, because my dad told me I should tell him whenever Mom does something wrong, because the judge will punish her.
Commentary: Parents can become the powerless ones in custody conflicts. Children move in to fill the “power vacuum” with the help of a brainwashing parent. The target parent walks on eggshells with the child1 fearing that any disciplinary measures will be relayed and misinterpreted to the other parent and/or to the court.

TABLE 11
Gardner’s Questions for Judges in Interviewing Children

1. Describe your mother to me.
2. Describe your father to me.
3. What do you think about your father’s family?
4. Does your mother interfere with your visiting your father?
5. Why then don’t you want to visit with your father?
6. Does your mother harass you?
7. Does your father harass you?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BOOKS

Bala, Nicholas. ICPA Update Vol.5: Child Abuse and the Law.

Clawar, Stanley S., et al. Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago: American Bar Association, 1991.

Gardner, Richard A. Family Evaluation in Child Custody: Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, 1989.

Gardner, Richard A. The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Proftssionals. New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, 1992.

Goldwater, A. Developpements recents en droit familial. “Le syndrome d’alienation parentale.” Quebec: Les Editions Yvon Blais, 1991.

Johnston, Janet. Non-Residential Parenting: New Vistas in Family Living. California: Sage, 1993.

Langer, Ellen J. The Psychology of Control. California: Sage Publications, Inc., 1983.

Parry, Ruth S., et al. Custody Disputes Evaluation and Intervention. Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1986.

Ulrich, Roger, et al. Control of Human Behavior: Expanding the Behavioral Laboratory. Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1966.

INTERVIEWS

Foster, Catherine. Mediator at the Unified Family Court, St. John’s, Newfoundland. Feb.22, 1995.

ACAB Group. Support Group for Accused and Abused Parents involved in Custody Disputes, St. John’s, Newfoundland. Feb.25, 1995.

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Ash, Peter, et al. “Biased Reporting by Parents Undergoing Child Custody Evaluations.” Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, September 1991, Vol.30(5).

Bertoia, C., et al. “The Fathers’ Rights Movement: Contradictions in Rhetoric and Practice.” Journal of Family Issues, 1993, Vol.14.

Best, J. “Dividing the Child: Social and Legal Dilemmas of Custody.” Social Science Quarterly, 1994, Vol. 75 (1).

Cartwright, Glenn F. “Expanding the Parameters of Parental Alienation Syndrome.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, Fall 1993, Vol. 21(3).

Cooke, Gerald, et al. “Dealing with Sexual Abuse Allegations in the Context of Custody Evaluations.” American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 1991, Vol.9(3).

Dunne, John, et al. “The Parental Alienation Syndrome: An Analysis of Sixteen Selected Cases.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 1994, Vol.21(3/4).

Elliot, Jane, et al. “Parental Divorce and the Life Chances of Children.” Family Law, November 1991.

Emery, R. E. “Interparental Conflict and the Children of Discord and Divorce.” Psychological Bulletin, 1982, Vol.92.

Frost, Abbie K., et al. “The Effects of Marital Disruption on Adolescents: Time as a Dynamic.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, October 1990, Vol. 60.

Gardner, Richard A. “Differentiating Between True and False Sex-Abuse Accusations in Child-Custody Disputes.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 1994, Vol.21(314).

Gardner, Richard A. “Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation.” The Academy Forum, 1985, Vol. 29(2).

Green, Arthur. ’1True and False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Child Custody Disputes.” Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1986, Vol. 25(4).

Green, Arthur. “Factors Contributing to False Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in Custody Disputes.” Child and Youth Services, 1991, Vol.15(2).

Healy, Joseph, et al. “Children and their Fathers Afier Parental Separation.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, October 1990, Vol.60(4).

Johnston, J. R. “High Conflict Divorce.” Future and the Child, Spring 1994, Vol.4(1).

Laurence, Liam. “How Vindictive Mommies Break the Law.” Western Report, December 30, 1991.

Levy, D. “Review of Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals.” American Journal of Family Therapy, 1992, Vol.20(3).

MacDonald, Peter, et al. “Suffer the Children.” Western Report, February 5, 1990.

Margulies, Sam, et al. “Litigation, Mediation and the Psychology of Divorce.” The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Winter 1992, Vol.20.

McAnulty, Richard D. “Expert Psychological Testimony in Cases of Alleged Child Sexual Abuse.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1993, Vol.22(4).

Muchnian, Madelyn S. “Professional Controversies in Child Sexual Abuse Assessment.” The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Spring 1992, Vol.20.

Miller, G. “The Psychological Best Interests of the Child.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 1993, Vol. 19(1/2).

Palmer, Nancy R. “Legal Recognition of the Parental Alienation Syndrome.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, 1988, Vol.16(4).

Radovanovic, H., et al. “A Follow-Up of Families Disputing Child Custody Access: Assessment, Settlement, and Family Relationship Outcomes.” Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 1994, Vol.12(4).

Rothberg, B. “Joint Custody: Parental Problems and Satisfactions.” Multidisciplinary Journal of Family Study Research and Treatment, March 1983, Vol.22(1).

Saunders, Elisabeth B., et al. “Custodial Fathers, Custodial Mothers and their Former Spouses in Protracted Custody Disputes: Clinical Opinions and Data.” The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Winter 1987, Vol.15.

Saunders, Richard T. “Some Ethical and Legal Features of Child Custody Disputes: A Case Illustration and Applications.” Psychotherapy, Spring 1993, Vol.30(1).

Schudson, Charles. “Antagonistic Parents in Family Courts: False Allegations or False Assumptions About True Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse?” Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1992, Vol.1(2).

Von Hauff, Donna. “Framing a Father Fails in Court.” Western Report, March 4, 1991.

Wall, Jack C., et al. “An Integrated Approach to Child Custody Evaluation: Utilizing the “Best Interest” of the Child and Family Systems Frameworks.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 1994, Vol.21(3/4).

Warren, Amye, et al. “Inducing Resistance to Suggestibility in Children.” Law and Human Behavior, 1991, Vol.15(3).

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

Cornacchia, Cheryl. “Dirty Tricks Penalized in Custody Battles.” Montreal Gazette, November 30, 1992 at SA.

CASE LAW

Herbeniuk v. Herbeniuk (1985), 44 Sask. R. 52.

Humphries v. Humphries (1986), 59 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 1.

Lacaille v. Manger, [1994] O.J. No.2880 North Bay Registry No. FC153/93, Ontario Court of Justice – Provincial Division.

Lapierre v. Lapierre (1991), 34 R.F.L. 129. – 7

Martiniuk v. Martiniuk (1978), 2 R.F.L. (2d) 39.

Metz v. Metz (1991), 34 R.F.L. 255.

Nanji v. Nanji (1987), 8 R.F.L. (3d) 221.

Nickerson v. Nickerson (1 991), 34 R.F.L. 341.

P. (G.L.) v.P. (J.M.) (1990), 27 R.F.L. (3d) 64.

Powley v. Wagner and Roy (1987), 62 Sask. R. 222.

Ptashnik v. Ptashnik (1988), 12 R.F.L. (3d) 377.

R. v. R.W., [1993] O.J. No.855 DRS 94-02433, Action No. C7239, Ontario Court of Justice – General Division.

Radford v. Cassiano, [1995] O.J. No.105 Kingston Registry No.460/90, Ontario Court of Justice – Provincial Division.

Robinson v. Robinson (1985), 48 R.F.L. (2d) 264.

Rutherford v. Rutherford (1986), 4 R.F.L. (3d) 457.

Smith v. Smith (1991), 34 R.F.L. 367.

Thatcher v. Thatcher (1980), 16 R.F.L. (2d) 263. Voegelin v. Voegelin (1980), 15 R.F.L. (2d) 1.

W.(K.M.) v. W.(D.D.), [1993] O.J. No.1344 DRS 94-00129 Action No. D47/91, Ontario Coiirt of Justice – Provincial Division.

Zilka v. Zilka (1978), 5 Alta. L.R. (2d) 358.

Zivkovic v. Zivkovic, [1994] O.J. No.2958 Toronto Registry No. D1559/90 A3, Ontario Court of Justice – Provincial Division.

Parental Alienation Syndrome:A ‘Hidden’ Facet of Custody Disputes by L. Cook.

200,000 Children Suffer from Parental Alienation: THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION CONSIDERS PARENTAL ALIENATION DISORDER FOR THE DSM – 5

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 13, 2010 at 1:57 am

The Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome Educates with Upcoming October 2010 Conference

08.12.2010 – Mental health professionals have been waiting nearly twenty years for the American Psychiatric Association to revise its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly referred to as, ( the upcoming edition of ), the DSM -5. While the long wait for DSM -5 is nearly over, there is still consideration being given to a number of new diagnostic conditions, including one called Parental Alienation Disorder ( P.A.D. ).This diagnosis is also being considered for inclusion in the International Classification of Diseases (commonly referred to as the ICD -11). Many consider the diagnosis of Parental Alienation Disorder a landmark event for millions of children and families around the world.

The Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome, (http://www.cspas.ca), known for being one of the leading educational organizations on the topic of parental alienation, announced earlier this month their annual conference taking place at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC this coming October 2nd – October 3rd in the Stern Auditorium. The conference is expected to attract 600 mental health professionals, family law lawyers, family mediators and child abuse investigators.

One of the Keynote Speakers at the conference will be Dr. William Bernet, who is one of the principal author’s of the proposal for P.A.D. to be included in DSM-5. He stated, “Since there are various definitions for ‘parental alienation’, we do not know the exact prevalence of this mental condition. However, we know there are thousands of children of divorced parents who shun and avoid one of the parents because the children have a false belief that the parent is evil or dangerous.” Dr. William Bernet, M.D. added, “In order to identify these children and help them have a healthy relationship with both parents, the American Psychiatric Association should adopt a uniform definition for ‘parental alienation disorder’.”

P.A.D has strong public and professional support and members on the DSM -5 Task Force have received thousands of documents from mental health professionals, judges, lawyers and parents; a substantial amount of these documents include scientific data from psychological literature and research, including hundreds of studies and peer reviewed articles, case histories, and information from other psychological societies around the world.

nother important advocate for the inclusion of Parental Alienation Disorder is a family law lawyer from Toronto, Canada – Brian Ludmer. Mr. Ludmer says that the issue of recognition has been held back by polarizing political forces and feminist critics and states, “ Parental Alienation is a power dynamic, not a gender-based dynamic. Feminist critics miss the most obvious point: women suffer in every single case. Far more mothers are targeted parents than most realize.” Ludmer continues, “They tend to be quiet out of embarrassment and concern that they will be viewed as a poor mother. Where a father is the targeted parent, women still suffer – new partners, grandmothers, aunts and cousins, as well as friends of the family are all cut off from the children as well.” Brian Ludmer will join a panel of 10 other Speakers at the upcoming NYC – C.S.P.A.S conference.

The C.S.P.A.S The conference is specifically geared toward the interest of mental health and family law professionals, but it is open to the general public and interested parents are also expected to attend. To register for this conference and learn more about it please visit http://www.cspas.ca, or call 647-476-3170.

About C.S.P.A.S

Founded in 2008 by Joseph Goldberg, The Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome is an educational organization assisting mental health professionals, family law lawyers, family mediators and other professionals to better understand parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome / disorder. Their goal is to assist children and families in need of educational information and referrals to professionals with a specialized expertise for counseling, psychological or psycho-educational services. Parents and professionals in both the family law and mental health communities will be able to locate a number of experts in parental alienation by simply visiting their website. C.S.P.A.S also disseminates information and literature to professionals and to parents. They maintain a strictly educational position and have no political affiliations. The C.S.P.A.S. does not accept funding from any organization affiliated with parental rights, nor do they do they take any position in favor of or against equal parenting.

200,000 CHILDREN SUFFER FROM PARENTAL ALIENATION: THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION CONSIDERS PARENTAL ALIENATION DISORDER FOR THE DSM – 5 – Beautiful Planning Marketing Group – pitchengine.com.

Dad’s Daughter on Enforcing Visitation: ‘I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult’

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm
July 14th, 2010 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

“My daughter knows me and she loves me, and little girls need their fathers, so why can’t I be a parent to her?”

Good question.  This article makes a stab at answering it, but it has one glaring shortcoming (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/12/10).  The article is headlined “Child Visitation Rights Go Unenforced, Fathers Complain.”  That’s nothing new.  Non-custodial fathers have been griping about the failure of family courts to enforce visitation orders for years now, but to no apparent effect.  The piece’s glaring shortcoming is that in dealing with the issue of non-enforcement of visitation orders, it assumes that the only dads who face the problem are those who don’t pay child support.  None others are interviewed; none others are mentioned in any way.

Still, readers with some information about family courts and family law, can tease out some important information.  The article is organized around Elroy Thomas, a Cleveland barber who can’t seem to get to see his seven-year-old daughter even though he has an order saying he can.  It’s the same old story – his ex puts up roadblock after roadblock.  On Fathers Day, he brought a police officer along with him when he went to pick up his child.  The result?  Nothing.  His ex said the girl didn’t want to go and the officer said it wasn’t his problem.  Happy Fathers Day.

Read carefully, and you’ll see what happened to make Thomas fall behind on his child support.  He was a self-employed barber.  His ex is a teacher, but somehow, he owes her alimony in addition to child support.  The economic downturn forced him to close his business, but he couldn’t get a court to change either amount he owed his ex-wife.  So naturally, he fell behind.  That got him a 12-month jail sentence.  How that helped him to support his daughter, or keep him in her life is one we’ll all have to guess at.  Now his ex is preventing him from seeing his daughter at all and, without money to pay an attorney, Thomas has no way to correct the situation.

There’s a diabolical logic to his story.  If the goal is to separate dads from their children, the system of child custody works reasonably well. Look at it: begin with the court’s preference for maternal custody.  Add a child support level that the dad is probably capable of paying as long as the economy holds, but add alimony for a woman who is herself gainfully employed at a job that should support her and a child.  Then fail to provide a quick, easy and cheap way for him to modify his financial obligations to his ex when his gets laid off or has to close his business.  Make it a virtual requirement that he hire an attorney at the very time he can least afford one.   As an extra added insult, take away his driver’s license so that getting a job in a bad economy becomes even harder.  That way, the arrearages just build up and up.  Then put him in jail so that he can neither pay the mother nor see his child.   If he’s there long enough, maybe the child will think he doesn’t care and will begin to forget him.

As I said, it’s all perfectly logical and perfectly calibrated to make father-child relationships as difficult to maintain as possible.  Elroy Thomas has an older daughter, Ayeshia, who puts it in a nutshell.

“All this is doing is confusing my little sister, and it isn’t good for her psyche,” Ayeshia Thomas said. “She loves to be with us, and we’ve always had fun. I don’t know why it has to be so difficult.”

Ms. Thomas, it doesn’t have to be difficult.  A system that respected fathers even a little would do a number of things differently than this one does.  It would presume equally shared parenting after divorce.  That would be the single greatest thing a state could do to ensure that fathers and children continue their relationship after divorce.  It would enforce visitation orders as enthusiastically as it does child support orders.  The failure to do so frankly reveals the assumption that children don’t much need their fathers, that, if the money’s there, the dad’s got nothing else to offer. It would ensure that fathers’ obligations are set and maintained at levels they are able to meet.  That means that procedures to modify support levels based on inability to pay should be summary in nature and not require an attorney.  Special masters would be appointed who dealt solely with that issue; forms would be provided to the public and assistance given in filling them out.  Hearings would be informal and the type of evidence required for modification would be spelled out in advance.

In other words, procedures would be established that are much like those for issuing restraining orders and enforcing child support.

Enforcing visitation orders could be accomplished in a similar way – by summary procedures that don’t require an attorneyEnforcing those orders would mean that parents who violated them would pay a real price for doing so. As long as custodial parents know to a virtual certainty that they flout the court’s orders with impunity, they’ll continue to do so.

But none of that is provided to Elroy Thomas or any other father in Ohio.  Indeed, very little of it is provided to any father anywhere in the country.  Ohio has a system of mediation, but it’s only for the purpose of establishing a parenting order.  Again, the problem with parenting orders is that custodial mothers are free to ignore them.

Officials from the county’s Department of Justice Affairs said 8,941 people walked into their office last year to seek help with visitation rights. More than 90 percent were men seeking access to their kids.

Tellingly, the article never says what happened to those fathers or to their complaints.  My guess is that Elroy Thomas could tell us.

Thanks to Jane for the heads-up.

GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive.

The Twilight Zone of the “protective parent” or “legal kidnapping”

In Family Rights on August 5, 2010 at 11:00 pm

October 25, 2008 · Filed under Family Abductions, Opinion

I could just as easily substitute “mother” for parent above and make the same point. The truth is that “protective parent” essentially equals “mother.”

Custody decisions are not always easily done, and the system has gone from the tender years doctrine, which placed children with their mothers almost all the time, to a system for the “best interests of the child.” This is of course not easily defined. I would argue that in many situations some sort of shared parenting agreement is best. Sole custody should be reserved for a situation where one parent is clearly unfit. I accept there are errors in the system, but there always will be and it is impossible to be right one hundred percent of the time.

There are those that disagree with me, of course.

When I went for more research on Jesse Griffin-Sebublia’s case, I found this blog. It is in many ways the textbook model for the site devoted to the “protective mother.” Although they claim to be superior to the many “father’s rights” sites out there, they use the same slant to reverse the rhetoric. Mothers are better parents… just because. Or possibly because they can breastfeed. Maybe some combination of things.  Just trust us.

“Smith also said domestic abusers who fight for custody in U.S. courts win full custody, joint custody or unsupervised access 70% of the time, regardless of the evidence of the mother.”

This is a quote from this site, and a good evidence of statistic mining. By combining full, joint, and even unsupervised visitation, you will get the vast majority of all divorce cases. Joint custody is divided into legal and physical custody and joint legal is very common, even without the presence of joint physical. Supervised visitation is a rare thing in any divorce case. The fact that the remaining thirty percent, if this is to be believed, either get no access or supervised access is a large amount. And of course one does not know whether this counts actual substantiated cases or merely any case where some allegation is made. But if one just looks at it and doesn’t think about the wording, it does look shocking. This is of course the point.

Thomas Szaz, a controversial writer who believes there is no such thing as mental illness, is cited on this site as essential reading. Yet when it is convenient for their case they cite the American Psychological Association. The reader here will notice an agenda. Of course all people have an agenda, but when one is willing to ignore contradictory information to get the agenda across, it’s time to stop and think.

All allegations of abuse are assumed to be true as well, taking away the “innocent until proven guilty” idea that is the basis of our court system. And the examples they always use come from mothers. I suppose Juan Lozano is not interesting enough, being a man. (And before you ask, no, I don’t think Bianca’s mother was abusive towards her.)

I would argue that the whole site easily goes too far, but one example really sticks out in my mind. In an article the blogmaster has posted about single fathers, a man who has custody of his six year old daughter mentions some of the troubles he encounters in this role. For example, he has to take her into the men’s bathroom when out with her, and gets some flak for this. The blog comments:

All the BS in this country’s family court system needs to be stopped. Does this excerpt sound like the best interest of this little girl is being kept at the top of everyone’s agenda…to see men using urinals at the age of six?

For starters, it is assumed right away that the best interest of his daughter is not being kept because she has to see men using urinals. I would laugh here if I didn’t know the person was being serious. And why is it assumed that she would be better off with her mother? She could have a history of drug abuse, untreated mental illness, or she just didn’t want custody. She could even have a child abuse history. After all, women can and do abuse children, and yet they are labeled when abducting “protective” by many. Because of their gender. A parent should be judged on more than merely possessing two X chromosomes.

Do you see why I chose the title of “twilight zone” yet? These are the types of people who supported April Griffin but went silent when Jesse was found badly neglected at the very least. I will add I do not know if this particular blog owner supported her or not, but some of the more generalized content on her site is identical to sites that supported her, and they typically have the same agenda.

I will say that not all people who speak out against the above are people I support. The Children of the Underground Watch site is somewhat helpful, but I will not link to it on For the Lost because it contains certain statements about the Unitarian church I find offensive. Likewise, although I believe Richard Gardner’s book for children about divorce is useful, and that he was right in that a child can become irrationally alienated from a parent, I agree with almost nothing else he says. (If you want to read good writing about alienation, Richard Warshak’s writing is gender-balanced, clear, and to the point.)

It is of course also easy to paint detractors as being pro-abuse. I suspect merely by posting this I will receive such allegations, and I will have to live with that.

American Psychiatric Association Considers Parental Alienation for the DSM-5 | Benzinga.com

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm

NEW YORK, NEW YORK–(Marketwire – Aug. 3, 2010) – The Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome, (www.cspas.ca), today announced that their upcoming Annual Conference will take place in NYC. The conference is titled “Parental Alienation Syndrome: Past Present and Future”. Many consider this conference to be a landmark event in the history of mental health, in part because the American Psychiatric Association is now giving consideration to Parental Alienation Disorder (P.A.D.) for inclusion in the next edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, more often referred to as the DSM-5. There are some countries around the world that already recognize Parental Alienation as a diagnostic condition. As a recent example of this global shift, Spain’s Psychological Association did so in 2008.

“P.A.D. is a widespread disorder that is little understood and warrants serious study and attention by the mental health and legal community.”, states Dr. Amy J. Baker, a highly respected researcher in the field of parental alienation and the author of peer reviewed articles and books on the subject.”Inclusion of P.A.D. in the A.P.A.’s diagnostic book will go a long way towards creating awareness and helping children and families affected by this disorder.”

Parental Alienation Disorder has been defined as a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, (the preferred parent), and rejects a relationship with the other parent, (the alienated parent), without legitimate justification. The child’s maladaptive behavior & refusal to see one of the parents is driven by the false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous or an unworthy person.

The C.S.P.A.S conference will take place in NYC on October 2nd and 3rd at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Stern Auditorium. This conference is specifically geared towards the interests of mental health and family law professionals, but is also open to the general public. To register for this conference you can visit the C.S.P.A.S. website at http://www.cspas.ca

“We expect approximately 600 mental health professionals to register and attend the conference and of course everyone has a common interest in updating their clinical understanding of parental alienation because of so many new patients being referred for treatment.” stated Founder of the C.S.P.A.S. – Joseph Goldberg at a recent press conference.

In 2009 the C.S.P.A.S conference made headlines around the globe including the front page of the National Post Newspaper, Canada’s most widely circulated national daily publication. To register for this groundbreaking event, or learn more about C.S.P.A.S. please visit http://www.cspas.ca or call call 647-476-3170.

About C.S.P.A.S

Founded in 2008 by Joseph Goldberg, The Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome is an educational organization assisting mental health professionals, family law lawyers, family mediators and other professionals to better understand parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome / disorder. Their goal is to assist children and families in need of educational information and referrals to professionals with a specialized expertise for counseling, psychological or psycho-educational services. Parents and professionals in both the family law and mental health communities will be able to locate a number of experts in parental alienation by simply visiting their website. C.S.P.A.S also disseminates information and literature to professionals and to parents. They maintain a strictly educational position and have no political affiliations. The C.S.P.A.S. does not accept funding from any organization affiliated with parental rights, nor do they take a position in favor of or in opposition to equal parenting. For more information visit http://www.cspas.ca.

American Psychiatric Association Considers Parental Alienation for the DSM-5 | Benzinga.com.

Fatherlessness – The Root Causes of Crime

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm
by David MacRae


Over the last fifty years, almost every country in Western Europe and North America has experienced an enormous increase in crime rates. Neighborhoods that once were safe at night have become dangerous during the day. Random acts of violence, once almost unknown, have become common.
We have this notion that this is an American problem. It is not. While Americans are definitely have a problem with murder, overall crime rates are actually higher in many other countries including Canada, Great Britain, France and Sweden. Certain kinds of violent crime are actually more common elsewhere. Home invasions are far more common in Britain. The Montreal area has recently experienced a rash of them, resulting in several deaths.

The good news is that rates seem to have stabilized in the nineties. The bad news is that appears to be largely a demographic issue. Most perpetrators of crime are young men. As the baby boom ages passes from its teens and twenties into its forties and fifties, there are simply fewer people in the appropriate group than there once were. But if you look in the places where you find young people, you find that things are perhaps worse than they ever were. High schools have turned from places of learning into armed camps. Increasingly, girls are imitating their boyfriends and joining in the party. There is a reason why teacher burnout rates are so high. Shell shock.

Social conservatives tend to say that the reason for crime is criminals. The answer therefore is longer sentences, the abolition of juvenile courts and a return to the death penalty. While clearly we are all ultimately responsible for our actions, this answer is unsatisfying. It does not explain why crime has risen. Conservatives then answer that it is because of a breakdown in moral values. Perhaps this is true, but it’s not an answer either. Why did values break down?

At the root of the problem

Liberals (and here I use the word in its North American sense – as a euphemism for socialists), answer that the reason for crime is « child poverty » and « discrimination ». Kids who come from « disadvantaged backgrounds » are pre-disposed to anti-social behaviours. The answer therefore is the same one that liberals always have to any problem: get the government to spend more of other people’s money on it. Welfare, subsidized daycare. You name it.

The idea that child poverty is responsible for crime has always been silly. To start with, poverty (as opposed to squalor) has been virtually eliminated in the Western world. Furthermore many countries in which real poverty does exist, such as India and China, don’t exhibit this social pathology. The reality is that, aside from the industrialized West, crime is limited to those areas of the world where the political and judicial system has broken down such as Russia and most of sub-Saharan Africa. None of this is very surprising when you consider that the human animal was designed to live in a world where poverty, want and famine were the norm, not the exception.

Yet for all this talk about the root causes of crime, there is one factor which overwhelms all of the others: fatherlessness. The link between fatherlessness and crime is so strong « that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime », as Barbara Defoe Whitehead notes in her famous article from Atlantic Monthly « Dan Quayle was Right ».


« In 1983, the US Department of Health and Human Services found that 60% of child abuse is inflicted by mothers with sole custody of their children. Almost all of the rest comes from other members of her entourage, especially boyfriends and second husbands. »


Consider these facts:

  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (U.S. Center for Disease Control);
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes (U.S. Bureau of the Census);
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978);
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988);
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992).

In fact, you can pick a social ill at random and you will find that the correlation with fatherlessness is clear and direct. Depression. Suicide. Dropping out of school. Teenage pregnancy. Drug use. In sum, fatherless children are:

  • 5 times more likely to commit suicide;
  • 32 times more likely to run away;
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders;
  • 14 times more likely to commit rape;
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school;
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances;
  • 9 times more likely to end up in a mental institution;
  • 20 times more likely to end up in prison(1).

Fatherless children are also, according to one British study, about 33 times more likely to be abused. In 1983, the US Department of Health and Human Services found that 60% of child abuse is inflicted by mothers with sole custody of their children. Almost all of the rest comes from other members of her entourage, especially boyfriends and second husbands.

Under these circumstances, you would think that there would be an enormous amount of research under way in an attempt to understand what is happening. The media would be demanding answers. Are men abandoning their children, as is commonly supposed, or are they being forced out? Or simply treated as a convenient source of sperm? How does child support affect the issue? Is there a difference between unwed and divorced mothers? Is there a difference between welfare mothers and the others? How does continued father contact affect things? Is there an identifiable group of single mothers who do significantly better than others – or significantly worse? And most of all, why do single father families not exhibit the same sort of pathology?

But nothing happens. On the contrary, the facts are suppressed.

Facts or propaganda

A few days ago (June 7), an article appeared in La Presse summarizing a telephone survey in which the Quebec Health Ministry asked 2469 mothers about child abuse in their families. Various correlations are made between child abuse and mother tongue (!), between child abuse and family size, between child abuse and poverty. Yet family structure is never mentioned once. Nor is welfare. Furthermore, we never learn who is actually performing this abuse. The article uses contorted constructions in the passive voice to avoid the topic such as: « 79% des enfants ont vécu de “l’agression psychologique” au moins une fois pendant l’année » (quotes in the original). It’s also interesting to note that the word « parent » appears eight times in the article, including the title, always without specifying who it refers to. « Mother » only appears three times, always when talking about who was surveyed. « Father » does not appear at all.

The ambiguities in La Presse’s article merely reflect those in the survey itself. Whole sentences are taken directly from the government’s press release. It is remarkable to see how poorly this survey is designed. Of course, it is pretty clear that it is really a propaganda tool, not an attempt to understand child abuse. Let’s take a look at it.

To start with, father-only households are simply ignored. The premise of the survey is that we only talk to women so this family-type is simply wished out of existence. At least the combination of father and stepmother is considered. There, after all, we find a woman in the house who we can talk to. With perhaps more justification, other families without a mother are all lumped together (although it is well-known that grandmothers supply far better care to children than foster mothers).

Worse than this, the survey makes no distinction whatever between different types of parents, fathers vs. mothers or natural parents vs. step-parents. All questions simply refer to parents. What is the point of a survey about child abuse which doesn’t ask about who is doing the abusing? No wonder, La Presse mixes them up!

It is well known that children of violent parents are significantly more likely to be violent towards their own children; we learn our parenting techniques from our own parents. In an attempt to quantify this relationship, the survey also asks whether the mother’s own parents (and those of her spouse, if any) were ever violent towards a sister, brother or mother. Note that the possibility of violence towards the father is specifically excluded. This being so, it is unsurprising that the survey finds fathers to be about 50% more violent than mothers.

What is surprising is that the mother’s own parents are found to be much more violent than those of her partner! This amazing fact is supplied without comment. Imagine it. The parents of women are more violent than those of men. This despite the fact that the survey also finds that boys are more likely to be victims of familial violence than girls. Perhaps it might be worthwhile talking to Mr. Partner the next time around to find out why this might be. Maybe his perception of his relationship with his parents might be different than that of an outsider.

Finally, the survey does ask the mothers about family structure but nowhere in any of the 124 pages of the report does it make any comments about how this affects the results. It seems almost self-evident that stepfamilies would either be better or worse situations than mother-only ones. There are simply too many differences for the two to be the same. Yet no comment is made whatsoever. One can only ask why.

The report does make one and only one recommendation: that the survey be repeated every three years in order to « educate » parents about child abuse. The bureaucratic instinct strikes again! Perhaps it’s time to start asking the right questions instead of repeating the same old ones.

1. See “Fatherless Homes Breed Violence” (Courtesy Mark Hall, Fathers Manifesto) and Daniel Anneus’ The Case for Father Custody (another goldmine for information of this kind).  >>

THE ROOT CAUSES OF CRIME.

Parental Alienation Oppponents Defeated Again in California

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Liberty, Marriage, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorder, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights, Restraining Orders on July 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm
July 26th, 2010 by Glenn Sacks, MA, Executive Director

Fathers and Families and its legislative allies have succeeded in killing one of the worst family law bills in modern history–California’s AB 612. The bill, put forward by the well-funded advocacy group Center for Judicial Excellence (and supported by the California National Organization for Women), would have banned Parental Alienation from being mentioned in any way, shape, or form in a California family court. Because of California’s tremendous influence in shaping the laws of other states, this loss would have led to a mushrooming of similarly damaging legislation in other states.

Fathers and Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson helped cobble together a coalition of family law professional organizations and experts to oppose the bill. We were able to bottle the bill up in the Senate Judiciary Committee last year and keep it there until last week, when it died. To learn more about the bill, see our co-authored column Preventing courts from considering parental alienation will harm kids (Capitol Weekly, 2/25/10).

The defeat of AB 612 is a victory for the family court reform movement and for children everywhere. Victories cost money, as does our deep, professional involvement inside the political system—please support our successful work by making a tax-deductible contribution by clicking here.

This is the second time in two months that Fathers & Families has been instrumental in defeating a Center for Judicial Excellence bill—in June, we helped kill AB 2475, which was also related to Parental Alienation. To learn more, see F & F Helps Defeat Radical Bill from Opponents of Recognizing Parental Alienation.

Whereas Fathers & Families’ family court reform bills have been moving swiftly through the California legislature, the Center for Judicial Excellence is now 0-2 in the 2009-2010 legislative session.

The CJE claims that there’s a “crisis” in family courts, and that courts are handing over custody of children to physically and sexually abusive fathers. They promote reforms which will make it easier to deny parents shared custody or visitation rights based on unsubstantiated abuse claims. As we’ve noted before, there is no empirical basis supporting this claim. The vast majority of the cases that groups like the CJE put forward as alleged examples of this “crisis” of abusive fathers winning child custody are being badly misrepresented–to learn more, click here.

The events surrounding AB 2475 and AB 612 are further validation of Fathers and Families’ emphasis on the need for the family court reform movement to employ full-time legislative representatives and engage in the political process on a professional level. To support this work with your tax-deductible gift, please click here.

Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers and Families

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Chair of the Board, Fathers and Families

Effects of Fatherlessness – Part 1

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on July 31, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Effects on children of removing a father from the life of a child.

Based on our clinical experience with a number of latency aged and adolescent girls whose parents divorced during their oedipal years, we postulate that particular coping patterns emerge in response to the absence of the father, which may complicate the consolidation of positive feminine identification in many female children, and is observable during the latency years. We illustrate both the existence of these phenomena and implications for treatment:

  1. intensified separation anxiety
  2. denial and avoidance of feelings associated with loss of father
  3. identification with the lost object
  4. object hunger for males.”

“In an earlier study by Kalter and Rembar at [Children's Psychiatric Hospital, University of Michigan], a sample of 144 child and adolescent patients, whose parents had divorced, presented [for evaluation and treatment] with three most commonly occurring problems:

63% Subjective psychological problem (defined as anxiety, sadness, pronounced moodiness, phobias, and depression)

56% Poor grades or grades substantially below ability and/or recent past performance

43% Aggression toward parents

Important features of the subgroup of 32 latency aged girls were in the same order:

69% indicating subjective psychological distress 47% academic problems 41% aggression toward parents.

Clinical Observations on Interferences of Early Father Absence in the Achievement of Femininity by R. Lohr, C. g, A. Mendell and B. Riemer, Clinical Social Work Journal, V. 17, #4, Winter, 1989


“In summary, 30% of the children in the present study experienced a marked decrease in their academic performance following parental separation, and this was evident three years later. Access to both parents seemed to be the most protective factor, in that it was associated with better academic adjustment…Moreover, data revealed that noncustodial parents (mostly fathers) were very influential in their children’s development…These data also support the interpretation that the more time a child spends with the noncustodial noncustodial parent the better the overall adjustment of the child.”

Factors Associated with Academic Achievement in Children Following Parental Separation, L. Bisnaire, PhD; P. Firestone, PhD; D. Rynard, MA Sc American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60(1), January, 1990


“While in most instances adolescents from recently disrupted household were more negatively affected by their parents’ divorce, some findings did identify long-term effects of earlier disruption. Adolescent girls who had experienced parental divorce when they were younger than six or between six and nine years old reported becoming involved with alcohol or drugs in proportions higher than did girls from intact families. Adolescent girls whose experience of divorce occurred before they were six more frequently reported skipping school than did girls from intact families or girls whose parents divorced when they were between the ages of six and nine.”

“These findings underscore the vulnerability of adolescents whose parents have divorced within the last five years. The impact of the marital disruption was most pronounced among girls, who skipped school more frequently, reported more depress ehavior, and described social support in more negative terms than did boys from recently disrupted homes.”

The Effects of Marital Disruption on Adolescents: Time as a Dynamic A. Frost, PhD; B. Pakiz, EdM, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60(4), October, 1990


“Among teenage and adult populations of females, parental divorce has been associated with lower self-esteem, precocious sexual activity, greater delinquent-like behavior, and more difficulty establishing gratifying, lasting adult heterosexual relationships. It is especially intriguing to note that, in these studies, the parental divorce typically occurred years before any difficulties were observed..

“At the time of the marital separation, when (as is typical) father leaves the family home and becomes progressively less involved with his children over the ensuing years, it appears that young girls experience the emotional loss of father egocentrically as a rejection of them. While more common among preschool and early elementary school girls, we have observed this phenomenon clinically in later elementary school and young adolescent children. Here the continued lack of involvement is experienced as an ongoing rejection by him. Many girls attribute this rejection to their not being pretty enough, affectionate enough, athletic enough, or smart enough to please father and engage him in regular, frequent contacts”.

“Finally, girls whose parents divorce may grow up without the day to day experience of interacting with a man who is attentive, caring and loving. The continuous sense of being valued and loved as a female seems an especially key element in the development of the conviction that one is indeed femininely lovable. Without this regular source of nourishment, a girl’s sense of being valued as a female does not seem to thrive.”

Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children: A Developmental Vulnerability Model Neil Kalter, Ph.D., University of Michigan, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57(4), October, 1987


“….when the non-custodial parent is perceived as “lost,” the young adult is more depressed. When a divorce occurs, the perception of the non-custodial father has been shown to change in a negative direction, while the perception of the mother (whether custodon-custodial) remains relatively stable. ”

“Because divorce is a process, not an isolated event, the effects of the divorce may be cumulative and early intervention would therefore be beneficial.

The continued involvement of the non- custodial parent in the child’s life appears crucial in preventing an intense sense of loss in the child…. The importance of the relationship with the non-custodial parent may also have implications for the legal issues of custodial arrangements and visitation. The results of this study indicate that arrangements where both parents are equally involved with the child are optimal. When this type of arrangement is not possible, the child’s continued relationship with the non-custodial parent remains essential.”

Young Adult Children of Divorced Parents: Depression and the Perception of Loss, Rebecca L. Drill, Ph.D., Harvard University. Journal of Divorce, V. 10, #1/2, Fall/Winter 1986


“The impact of parental divorce and subsequent father absence in the wake of this event has long been thought to affect children quite negatively. For instance, parental divorce and father loss has been associated with difficulties in school adjustment (e.g. Felner, Ginter, Boike, & Cowen), Social Adjustment (e.g. Fry & Grover) and personal adjustment (e.g. Covell & Turnbull)…”

“The results of the present study suggest that father loss through divorce is associated with diminished self-concepts in children…at least for this sample of children from the midwestern United States.”

Children’s Self Concepts: Are They Affected by Parental Divorce and Remarriage Thomas S. Parish, Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 1987, V 2, #4, 559-562


“It is ironic, and of some interest, that we have subjected joint custody to a level and intensity of scrutiny that was never directed towa the traditional post-divorce arrangement (sole legal and physical custody to the mother and two weekends each month of visiting to the father.) Developmental and relationship theory should have alerted the mental health field to the potential immediate and long range consequences for the child of only seeing a parent four days each month. And yet until recently, there was no particular challenge to this traditional post-divorce parenting arrangement, despite growing evidence that such post-divorce relationships were not sufficiently nurturing or stabilizing for many children and parents.”

“There is some evidence that in our well-meaning efforts to save children in the immediate post-separation period from anxiety, confusion, and the normative divorce-engendered conflict, we have set the stage in the longer run for the more ominous symptoms of anger, depression, and a deep sense of loss by depriving the child of the opportunity to maintain a full relationship with each parent.”

Examining Resistance to Joint Custody, Monograph by Joan Kelly, Ph.D. (associate of Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D) From the 1991 Book Joint Custody and Shared Parenting, second edition, Guilford Press, 1991.

Effects of Fatherlessness #1.

The Politics of Family Destruction

In Family Rights on July 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm

This is a reprint of an article from 2002.  It still is true today.

By Stephen Baskerville

The debate on the family is becoming increasingly politicized. President George W. Bush proposes federal programs to promote marriage and fatherhood and to enlist churches. Liberals respond that government does not belong in the family but then advocate federal programs of their own.

Yet the more polarized the issues become the less willing we are to look at the hard politics of the family crisis. Family policy is still discussed in terms set by therapists and social scientists: the rate of divorce and unwed motherhood, the level of poverty, the impact on children, the social costs. As if we don’t know.

As a social scientist, I do not deny the value of data (I intend to marshal some myself). But therapeutic practitioners have established such a hold over family policy that they have paralyzed our capacity to act. Writing on single motherhood in Commentary magazine, the eminent political scientist James Q. Wilson grimly concludes, “If you believe, as I do, in the power of culture, you will realize that there is very little one can do.” Like many others (including the Bush administration), Wilson is reduced to advocating counseling and “education.”

What seems missing here is old-fashioned politics, the kind that did not hesitate to make moral judgments and even express outrage. The politics of the prophets, for example.

The facts are well-established among social scientists, but a kind of ideological correctness on both left and right seems to keep us from confronting the full implications of what we know. We are afraid to challenge the accepted clichés about marriage breakdown, even when it becomes clear that they don’t correspond to the evidence.

We should begin, therefore, with the uncontested but seldom-mentioned facts. First, marriages do not simply “break down” by themselves. Legally, someone—and it is usually one—consciously ends it by filing official documents and calling in the government against his or her spouse. According to Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, the authors of Divided Families, some 80 percent of divorces are unilateral. One spouse usually wishes to keep the family together.

When children are involved, the divorcing parent is overwhelmingly likely to be the mother. Scholarly studies by Sanford Braver, Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen, and others estimate that between 67 and 75 percent of such divorces are instigated by the mother. Feminists and divorce attorneys report that the number is closer to 90 percent. Few of these divorces involve grounds like desertion, adultery, or violence. “Growing apart” or “not feeling loved or appreciated” are the usual explanations.

The divorcing parent is likely to get custody of the children and coerced financial payments from the divorced parent. Brinig and Allen even concluded that of 21 variables, “who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce.”

Clearly more is at work here than husbands and wives deciding to go their separate ways. Under no-fault laws, divorce has become a means not only of ending a marriage but of seizing monopoly control of the children, who become weapons conferring leverage backed by penal sanctions. The devastating effects of divorce and fatherlessness on both children and society are now so well-known that there is no need to belabor them here. What is seldom appreciated is the broader threat the divorce regime poses to ethical and constitutional government. In fact, there is today no better example of the link between personal morality and public ethics—between the fidelity of private individuals and the faithfulness of public servants—or the connection of both with the civilized order.

Significantly, as secular political sophisticates focus narrowly on the sociological, it is Pope John Paul II who has come closest to the root of the problem. In January, he issued what many saw as a surprisingly strong statement against divorce that specifically singled out lawyers and judges for criticism. For his pains he was attacked by lawyers, journalists, and politicians from both the left and right. Yet his characterization of divorce as a “festering wound” with “devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague” is as accurate politically as it is socially.

Since the advent of no-fault divorce, a multibillion-dollar industry has grown up around the divorce courts: judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, mediators, counselors, social workers, and bureaucratic police. All these people have a professional and financial stake in divorce. In fact, despite pieties to the contrary, public officials at all levels of government—including elected leaders in both parties—now have a vested interest in increasing the number of single-parent homes.

The politics of divorce begins in family court, a relatively new and little-examined institution. Family courts are usually closed to the public and their proceedings are usually unrecorded. Yet they reach further into private lives than any other arm of government. Though lowest in the hierarchy, they are “the most powerful branch of the judiciary,” according to Judge Robert Page of the New Jersey family court. “The power of family court judges is almost unlimited,” Page writes.

Secret courts have long been recognized as an invitation to chicanery. “Where there is no publicity, there is no justice,” wrote British philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham. “It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.” Judges claim the secrecy protects family privacy, though in fact it seems to provide a cloak to violate family privacy and other protections with impunity.

Family court judges are appointed and promoted by commissions dominated by bar associations. That means they are answerable to those with an interest in maximizing the volume of divorce litigation. Though family courts complain of being “overburdened,” it is clearly in their interest to be overburdened, since judicial powers and salaries are determined by demand. The aim of the courts, therefore, is to increase their workload by attracting customers, and the divorce industry has erected a series of financial and emotional incentives that encourage people to divorce. “With improved services, more persons will come before the court seeking their availability,” Page explains. “As the court does a better job more persons will be attracted to it as a method of dispute resolution.” Doing a “better job” really means attracting more divorcing parents with generous settlements.

A substantial body of federal and state case law recognizes parenthood as an “essential” constitutional right “far more precious than property rights” (May v. Anderson). In Doe v. Irwin, a federal court held that parenthood “cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions.” Yet such apparently unequivocal principles are never applied in divorce cases, where judges routinely remove children from forcibly divorced parents without providing any reason.

Once a parent loses custody, he or she no longer has any say in where the children reside, attend school or day care, or worship. Worse, the parents who have been stripped of custody are in many ways treated as outlaws. A personalized criminal code is legislated around them by the judge, controlling their association with their children, their movements, and their finances. Unauthorized contact with their children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents have been arrested for running into their children in public places such as sporting events and church, for making unauthorized telephone calls, and for sending unauthorized birthday cards.

Parents whose spouses want a divorce are ordered to surrender personal diaries, correspondence, financial records, and other documents normally protected by the Fourth Amendment. Their personal habits, movements, conversations, writings, and purchases are all subject to inquiry by the court. Their home can be entered and their visits with their children monitored in a “supervised visitation center.” Anything they say to their spouses, family, friends, counselors, and others can be used against them in court. Their children, too, can be used as informers.

Forcibly divorced parents are also ordered, on pain of incarceration, to hire cronies of the judge. In what some see as little less than a shakedown, family courts routinely order forcibly divorced and legally unimpeachable parents to pay attorneys, psychotherapists, and other professionals with the threat of jail for not complying.

Family law is now criminalizing constitutionally protected activities as basic as free speech, freedom of the press, and even private conversations. In many jurisdictions it is now a crime to criticize judges, and parents have been arrested for doing so. Following his congressional testimony critical of the family courts in 1992, Jim Wagner of the Georgia Council for Children’s Rights was stripped of custody of his two children, ordered to pay $6,000 to lawyers he did not hire, and jailed when he could not pay.

The principal tool for enforcing divorce and keeping ejected parents away from their children is a restraining order. Orders separating parents from their children for months, years, and even life are routinely issued without the presentation of any evidence of wrongdoing. They are often issued at a hearing where the parent is not present; they are sometimes issued with no hearing at all. “The restraining order law is one of the most unconstitutional acts ever passed,” says Massachusetts attorney Gregory Hession, who has filed a federal suit on civil rights grounds. “A court can issue an order that boots you out of your house, never lets you see your children again, and takes your money, all without you even knowing that a hearing took place.”

Hession’s description is confirmed by judges themselves. “Your job is not to become concerned about the constitutional rights of the man that you’re violating as you grant a restraining order,” New Jersey Judge Richard Russell told his colleagues at a training seminar in 1994. “Throw him out on the street, give him the clothes on his back and tell him, see ya around…. We don’t have to worry about the rights.”

Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association, wrote in a column in the association’s newsletter that divorce-connected restraining orders are doled out “like candy.” “Everyone knows that restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply,” and “the facts have become irrelevant,” she reports. “In virtually all cases, no notice, meaningful hearing, or impartial weighing of evidence is to be had.” Yet a government analysis found that fewer than half of all orders involved even an allegation of physical violence.

It doesn’t take much to violate such restraining orders. “Stories of violations for minor infractions are legion,” the Boston Globe reported on May 19, 1998. One father was arrested “when he put a note in his son’s suitcase telling the mother the boy had been sick over a weekend visit.” Another was arrested “for sending his son a birthday card.” Parents are arrested for attending their children’s worship services, music recitals, and sports activities—events any stranger may attend. National Public Radio broadcast a story in 1997 about a father arrested in church for attending his daughter’s first communion. During the segment, an eight-year-old girl wails and begs to know when her father will be able to see her or call her. The answer, because of a “lifetime” restraining order, is never. Even accidental contact in public places is punished with arrest.

Restraining orders are in fact more likely to cause than to prevent violence, since laws separating parents from their children can provoke precisely the violence they are designed to prevent. “Few lives, if any, have been saved, but much harm, and possibly loss of lives, has come from the issuance of restraining orders,” retired Dudley district court justice Milton Raphaelson wrote last year in the Western Massachusetts Law Tribune. “It is the opinion of many who remain quiet due to the political climate. Innocent men and their children are deprived of each other.”

Domestic violence has now been federalized in a legislative agenda whose conscious aim is to promote easy divorce. Donna Laframboise of Canada’s National Post wrote that federally funded battered women’s shelters in the United States and Canada constituted “one-stop divorce shops” whose purpose was not to shelter women but to secure custody for divorcing mothers. The Violence Against Women Act, renewed by Congress in 2000, “offers abundant rewards” for making false accusations, writes Professor Susan Sarnoff of Ohio State University, “including the ‘rights’ to refuse custody and even visitation to accused fathers, with virtually no requirements of proof.” The law’s definition of domestic violence is so broad that “it does not even require that the violence be physical.”

Authorities bully some women into taking out restraining orders by threatening to take away their children. The February 20, 2001, edition of the Massachusetts News described how Heidi Howard was ordered by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services to take out a restraining order against her husband and divorce him, though neither parent was charged with any wrongdoing. When she refused, the social workers seized her children. Reporter Nev Moore claims to have seen hundreds of similar cases. Government officials can now impose divorce not only on one unwilling parent but on both.

While the domestic violence industry is driven by federal funding, the main financial fuel of the divorce machinery is “child support,” which subsidizes and encourages unilateral divorce. Bryce Christensen of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society argues for a “linkage between aggressive child-support policies and the erosion of wedlock.”

Those accused of failing to pay child support—”deadbeat dads”—are now the subject of a national demonology. Yet a federally funded study by Sanford Braver, published as Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths, found government “estimates” of nonpayment are produced not from any official statistics but entirely from surveys of custodial parents. Braver concluded that “the single most important factor relating to nonpayment” is unemployment.

Braver is not alone. Columnist Kathleen Parker has concluded that “the ‘deadbeat dad’ is an egregious exaggeration, a caricature of a few desperate men who for various reasons—sometimes pretty good ones—fail to hand over their paycheck, assuming they have one.” Deborah Simmons of the Washington Times likewise found “scant evidence that crackdowns…serve any purpose other than to increase the bank accounts of those special-interest groups pushing enforcement.”

Child support enforcement is now a massive industry, where revolving doors, financial transfers, and other channels connect family courts with legislators, interlocking executive agencies on the federal, state, and local level, with private contractors.

To encourage divorce, child support must be set high enough to make divorce attractive for mothers, and setting it is a political process conducted by officials and groups that thrive on divorce. About half the states use guidelines devised not by the legislature but by courts and enforcement agencies. Yet even legislative enactment is no guarantee of impartiality, since legislators may divert enforcement contracts to their own firms.

The ethical conflicts extend to the private sector, where collection firms also help to decide the levels of what they are to collect. Not only does an obvious conflict of interest impel them to make the burdens as high as possible to increase their take in absolute terms (and to encourage divorce), but the firms can set the levels high enough to ensure the arrearages on which their business depends.

While working as a paid consultant with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during the 1980s, Robert Williams helped to establish uniform state guidelines in the federal Child Support Guidelines Project. Predictably, Williams’s guidelines sharply increased support obligations in many states. Economist Mark Rogers charges in Family Law Quarterly that they resulted in “excessive burdens” based on a “flawed economic foundation.” Williams himself acknowledges that “there is no consensus among economists on the most valid theoretical model to use in deriving estimates of child-rearing expenditures.” Donald Bieniewicz, author of an alternative guideline published by HHS, writes, “This is a shocking vote of ‘no confidence’ in the…guideline by its author”—a guideline used to incarcerate parents without trial.

Governments also profit from child support. “Most states make a profit on their child support program,” according to the House Ways and Means Committee, which notes that “states are free to spend this profit in any manner the state sees fit.” With substantial sums at stake, officials have no incentive to discourage divorce, regardless of their party affiliation. Notwithstanding rhetoric about strengthening the family, neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers are likely to question any policy that fills the public coffers.

The trampling of due process in child support prosecutions parallels that in domestic violence cases, since a parent may legally be presumed guilty until proven innocent, and the parent will not necessarily have a lawyer or a jury of his or her peers. “The burden of proof may be shifted to the defendant,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which approves these methods. “Not all child support contempt proceedings classified as criminal are entitled to a jury trial,” adds NCSL, and “even indigent obligors are not necessarily entitled to a lawyer.”

In the decades since the inception of no-fault divorce, family law has gradually become an ethical cesspool. Attorneys such as Hession charge that tapes and transcripts of hearings are routinely altered in family court. Hession’s forensic evidence was published last year in the Massachusetts News. When his client, Zed McLarnon, complained about the tampering and other irregularities, he was assessed $3,500 for attorneys he had not hired and jailed without trial by the same judges whose tapes were allegedly doctored. “This is criminal misconduct,” attorney Eugene Wrona says of similar practices in Pennsylvania, “and these people belong in jail.” In May 1999, Insight magazine exposed a “slush fund” for Los Angeles family court judges into which attorneys and court-appointed “monitors” paid. These monitors are hired by the court to watch parents accused of spousal or child abuse while they are with their children.

The corrupting power of forced divorce now extends beyond the judiciary, validating the pope’s observation that its consequences spread “like the plague.” In 2000, four leading Arkansas senators were convicted on federal racketeering charges connected with divorce. One scheme involved hiring attorneys to represent children during divorce, a practice generally regarded as a pretext to appoint cronies of the judge. In the April 29, 1999, edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, John Brummett wrote that “no child was served by that $3 million scam to set up a program ostensibly providing legal representatives to children in custody cases, but actually providing a gravy train to selected legislators and pals who were rushing around to set up corporations and send big checks to each other.”

The affair illustrates one reason legislators protect judges and their associates in the courts. Divorce attorneys are prominent in state legislatures. Tony Perkins, who sponsored Louisiana’s celebrated “covenant marriage” law, reports that similar measures have failed in some “seemingly sympathetic legislatures” because of “opposition from key committee chairmen who were divorce lawyers.”

The potential of child support to become what one Arkansas player termed a “cash cow,” providing officials with “steady income for little work,” has been exploited elsewhere. The Washington Post reported in July 2000 that a top adviser to Prince George’s County, Maryland, executive Wayne Curry received contracts without competitive bidding for child support enforcement within days of leaving the county payroll. In March 2002, Maryland announced a criminal investigation of Maximus, which runs Baltimore’s program. The alleged misconduct included collecting money from parents even after their children had reached adulthood and then refusing to refund it. The whistle-blower expressed fear for her personal safety, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Throughout the United States and abroad, child support enforcement has been plagued with corruption. Kansas awarded a contract to Glenn and Jan Jewett, who were involved in bingo operations in Las Vegas and spent time in federal prison for drug trafficking, forgery, concealing stolen property, and writing bad checks. The DuPage County, Illinois, child support system has been under investigation for fraud. “A string of foul-ups plaguing Ohio’s child support system,” included “millions of dollars worth of improperly intercepted income tax refunds and child support payments,” according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and WHIO television in Dayton. In Wisconsin, “Parents who owe nothing have been billed thousands of dollars,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including a man billed for children in their 40s, who “was compelled to prove his innocence.”

In October 1998 the Los Angeles Times investigated fraud and due process violations in the L.A. child support enforcement system. Deputy District Attorney Jackie Myers had left office in 1996 because, he said, “I felt we were being told to do unethical, very unethical things.” In December 1999, Insight reported on the case of a father left by the district attorney’s office with $200 a month to care for a family of four. One month, the district attorney “took all but $1 of his $1,200 paycheck.”

Following the Times series, HHS was moved to investigate criminal fraud in the city’s system, but the General Accounting Office found the investigation “consisted of just two phone calls”—one to “one of the DA office employees who had engaged in misconduct.” HHS apparently “did not interview any of more than a dozen people who a confidential informant claimed had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing within the child support program.”


The divorce industry depends on the widespread violation of what most people still hold to be the most solemn promise one makes in life. It is no coincidence that public officials whose livelihoods depend on encouraging citizens to betray their private trust will not hesitate to betray the trust conferred on them by the public. Likewise, a society where private citizens are encouraged not to honor their commitments is a society that will not hold public leaders to their promises. Maggie Gallagher’s observation that marriage has become “the only contract where the law now sides with the party who wants to violate it” raises the question of whether we are willing to allow our government to be an active party to deceit and faithless dealing.

Our present divorce system is not only unjust but fundamentally dishonest. For all the talk of a “divorce culture,” it is not clear that most people today enter the marriage contract with the intention of breaking it. “If the marital vows were changed to ‘…until I grow tired of you,’ or ‘…for a period of five years unless I decide otherwise,’ and the state were willing to sanction such an agreement, then divorce would not be such a significant event from a moral point of view,” attorney Steven L. Varnis writes in Society. “But there is no evidence that the content of marital vows or marital expectations at the time of marriage has changed.” Varnis may be only half right, but even so, the point is that the marriage contract has become unenforceable and therefore fraudulent. Until this changes, it seems pointless and even irresponsible to encourage young people to place their trust and their lives in it.

One may argue that government should not enforce the marriage contract, or any contracts for that matter (though the Constitution holds otherwise). But I am not aware of anyone who suggests the government should be forcibly abrogating contracts, let alone luring citizens into contracts that it then tears up. If we truly believe our present divorce policy is appropriate, we should at least have the honesty to tell young people up front that marriage provides them with no protection. Let us inform them at the time of their marriage that even if they remain faithful to their vows, they can lose their children, their home, their savings and future earnings, and their freedom. Not only will the government afford them no protection; it will prosecute them as criminals, though without the due process of law afforded to formally accused criminals. And let us then see how many young people are willing to start families.

It is one thing to tolerate divorce, as perhaps we must do in a free society. It is another to use the power of the state to impose it on unwilling parents and children. When courts stop dispensing justice, they must start dispensing injustice. There is no middle ground.

Stephen Baskerville teaches political science at Howard University and is author of Not Peace But a Sword: The Political Theology of the English Revolution.

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The Politics of Family Destruction.

Life Without Father – By David Popenoe

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on July 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Life Without a Father

By David Popenoe
Reader’s Digest (Canada) November 1997, page 117

What a man contributes to child rearing may surprise you

THE DECLINE of fatherhood is one of the most unexpected and extraordinary social trends of our time. In just three decades — 1960 to 1990 — the number of children living apart from their biological fathers [that is: natural fathers] nearly doubled. By the turn of the century almost 50 percent of North American children may be going to sleep each evening without being able to say good night to their dads.
There was a time in the past when fatherlessness was far more common than it is today, but death was to blame — not divorce, desertion or out-of-wedlock births. Most of today’s fatherless children have fathers who are perfectly capable of shouldering the responsibilities of fatherhood. Who would ever have thought that so many of them would choose to relinquish those responsibilities?
A surprising suggestion emerging from recent social-science research is that it is decidedly worse to a child to lose a father in the modern, voluntary way than through death. The children of divorced and never-married mothers are less successful by almost every measure than the children of widowed mothers.
Out-of-wedlock births may surpass divorce as a cause of fatherlessness later in the 1990s. They accounted for 32 percent of all U.S. births in 1995; by the year 2000 they may account for 40 percent of the total. And there is reason to believe that having an unmarried father is even worse for a child than having a divorced father.

MEN ARE not biologically attuned to being committed fathers. Left culturally unregulated, men’s sexual behaviour can be promiscuous, their paternity casual, their commitment to families weak. In recognition of this, cultures have used sanctions to bind men to their children, and of course the institution of marriage has been culture’s chief vehicle.
Our experience in late-20th-century society shows what happens when such a sanction breaks down. The decline of fatherhood is a major force behind many of the most disturbing problems that plague us.
In the mid-1950s, only 27 percent of American girls had sexual intercourse by age 18; in 1988, 56 percent of such girls-including a tenth of 15-year-olds-had become sexually active. Fatherlessness is a contributing factor.
Teen suicide has nearly tripled in the United States. Alcohol and drug abuse among teenagers continues at a very high rate. Scholastic Assessment Test scores declined 75 points between 1960 and l990. The absence of fathers seems to be one of the most important causes of these trends.
Few people doubt the fundamental importance of mothers, but what do fathers do? Much of what they contribute is simply the result of being a second adult in the home. Bringing up children is demanding, stressful and exhausting. Two adults can support and spell each other. They can offset each other’s deficiencies and build on each other’s strengths.
Fathers also bring an array of unique qualities. Some are familiar: the father as protector, for example, and role model. Teenage boys without fathers are notoriously prone to trouble. The pathway to adulthood for daughters is somewhat easier, but they still must learn from their fathers, in ways they cannot from their mothers, how to relate to men. They learn from their fathers about heterosexual trust, intimacy and difference. They learn to appreciate their own femininity from the one male who is most special in their lives. Most important, through loving and being loved by their fathers, they learn that they are love-worthy.
Current research gives much deeper — and more surprising — insights into the father’s role in child rearing. One significant overlooked dimension of fathering is play. From their children’s birth through adolescence, fathers tend to emphasize play more than caretaking. The father’s style of play is likely to be both physically stimulating and exciting. With older children it involves more team work, requiring competitive testing of physical and mental skills. It frequently resembles a teaching relationship: Come on, let me show you how.
Mothers play more at the child’s level. They seem willing to let the child direct play.
Kids, at least in the early years, seem to prefer to play with daddy. In one study of 2 ½-year-olds who were given a choice, more than two thirds chose to play with their father.
The way fathers play has effects on everything from the management of emotions to intelligence and academic achievement. It is particularly important in promoting self-control. According to one expert, “children who roughhouse with their fathers quickly learn that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable.” They learn when to “shut it down.” At play and in other realms, fathers tend to stress competition, challenge, initiative, risk taking and independence. Mothers, as caretakers, stress emotional security and personal safety. On the playground fathers often try to get the child to swing ever higher, while mothers are cautious, worrying about an accident.
We know, too, that fathers’ involvement seems to be linked to improved verbal and problem-solving skills and higher academic achievement. Several studies found that the presence of the father is one of the determinants of girls’ proficiency in mathematics. And one pioneering study showed that along with paternal strictness, the amount of time fathers spent reading with them was a strong predictor of their daughters’ verbal ability.
For sons, the results have been equally striking. Studies uncovered a strong relationship between fathers’ involvement and the mathematical abilities of their sons. Other studies found a relationship between paternal nurturing and boys’ verbal intelligence.
We don’t often think of fathers in connection with the teaching of empathy, a character trait essential to an ordered society of law-abiding, co-operative and compassionate adults. But at the end of a 26-year study, a trio of re-

[A graph was inserted here in the original article. The graph, called
CANADIAN CHILDREN LIVING
APART FROM THEIR FATHERS,
shows the following data
1961   9.0%
1995 17.3%
Source: Statistics Canada, 93 312; and Census of Canada]

searchers at Harvard University reached a “quite astonishing” conclusion: Of those they examined, the most important childhood factor in developing empathy was paternal involvement in child care.
It is not clear why fathers are so important in instilling this quality. Perhaps merely by being with their children they provide a model for compassion. Perhaps it has to do with their style of play or mode of reasoning. Whatever the cause, it is hard to think of a more important contribution that fathers can make to their children.
The benefits of active fatherhood do not all flow to the child. Child rearing encourages men to develop those habits of character — including prudence, cooperativeness, honesty, trust and self-sacrifice — that can lead to achievement as an economic provider. Having children typically impresses on men the importance of setting a good example. Who has not heard at least one man say that he gave up an irresponsible way of life when he married and had children?
On the face of it, there would seem to be at least one potentially positive side to fatherlessness: Without a man around the house, the incidence of child abuse might be expected to drop. Unfortunately, reports of child neglect and abuse have skyrocketed since the mid ’70s. One of the greatest risk factors in child abuse, investigations found, is family disruption, especially living in a female-headed, single-parent household.
Why does living in a fatherless household pose such hazards for children? Explanations include poverty and the fact that children receive less supervision and protection from men their mothers bring home. Children are also more emotionally deprived, which leaves them “vulnerable to sexual abusers, who commonly entrap them by offering affection, attention and friendship,” wrote David Finkelhor, an expert on child abuse.
Another group that has suffered in the new age of fatherlessness is, of course, women. In this new era the oft-quoted quip that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle no longer seems quite so funny. There is no doubt that many women get along very well without men in their lives, and that having the wrong men in their lives can be disastrous. But just as it seems to play a role in assaults on children, fatherlessness appears to be a factor in generating more violence against women.
Partly this is a matter of arithmetic. As the number of unattached males in the population goes up, so does the incidence of violence towards women.

IN ORDER to reinstate fathers in the lives of their children, we must undo the cultural shift of the last few decades towards radical individualism. Marriage must be re-established as a strong social institution.
Many practical steps can be taken. Employers, for example, can provide generous parental leave and experiment with more flexible work hours. Religious leaders can reclaim moral ground from the culture of divorce and non-marriage by resisting the temptation to equate “committed relationships” with marriage. Marriage counsellors can begin with a bias in favour of marriage, stressing the needs of the family at least as much as the needs of the client. As for the entertainment industry, pressure already is being brought to curtail the glamorization of unwed motherhood, marital infidelity and sexual promiscuity.
We should consider a two-tier system of divorce law: Marriages without minor children would be relatively easy to dissolve, but marriages with children would be subject to stricter guidelines. Longer waiting periods for divorcing couples with children might be called for, combined with mandatory marriage counselling.
If we are to progress towards a more just and humane society, we must reverse the tide that is pulling fathers apart from their families. Nothing is more important for our children or for our future as a society.

How important do you think fathers are to family life? We welcome your views. Write to Readers Reply at the address on page 8 or post your comments on our web site at http://www.readersdigest.ca. Your views may be included in a future issue.

[Snail-mail address:
Excerpts Editor
Reader’s Digest
215, Redfern Ave.
Westmount, Que.
H3Z 2V9

Note: I checked their website but could not find a specific e-mail address that seemed appropriate. I suppose that some of the ones shown will do, if the recipient will forward the message to the appropriate party. --WHS]

FROM LIFE WITHOUT FATHER. COPYRIGHT © 1996 BY DAVID POPENOE PUBLISHED BY THE FREE PRESS A DIVISION OF SIMON & SCHUSTER, INC., NEW YORK, N.Y., AND DlSTRIBUTED IN CANADA AT $34 BY DISTICAN INC, 35 FULTON WAY, RlCHMOND HILL, ONT. L4B 2N4 PHOTO: [not shown] © RICHARD LEE

DAVID POPENOE is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
===<end of article>===

In response to the article, I sent the following message to Reader’s Digest:

Dear Reader’s Digest,

Re: Life Without Father, November 1997

Thank you for publishing the outstanding article by David Popenoe.  It is too bad that the article contained two paragraphs that didn’t ring quite true in the context, although they are in line with the “politically correct” view that men are to be blamed for everything bad that has befallen us over the last thirty year and before that.

In his second paragraph David Popenoe stated:

“There was a time in the past when fatherlessness was far more common than it is today, but death was to blame — not divorce, desertion or out-of-wedlock births.  Most of today’s fatherless children have fathers who are perfectly capable of shouldering the responsibilities of fatherhood.  Who would ever have thought that so many of them would choose to relinquish those responsibilities?”

A number of things are not right with that.

Never in modern history has fatherlessness been more common than it is now, not even as a result of the massive numbers of casualties during the First World War, and never before in the history of mankind was fatherlessness pandemic at anything approaching today’s rates in the whole world, especially not in all of western civilization.

One statistic might serve to provide some clarification in that regard.  In my home-town (Duesseldorf, Germany, pop 540,000 before W.W.II and 350,000 at end of W.W.II) immediately after the end of W.W.II, “Almost 10% of the children had lost their fathers, the fathers of 4.5% of the children were missing in action and of 7.8% in prison of war camps;” [Source: In Schutt und Asche, page 100 (Volker Zimmermann, Grupello Verlag, ISBN 3-928234-28-5, (my translation) --WHS].  I’m certain that other people will be able to provide far more comprehensive statistics pertaining to historical levels of fatherlessness.

There is nothing wrong with the statement contained in the second sentence in the paragraph.  It clearly illustrates the insanity of today’s society in substituting fathers with government care, by pushing fathers out of their children’s life.  I’m glad that Prof. Popenoe makes an excellent case for the wrongfulness of that policy in the rest of his article.  However, the last sentence in the paragraph is an outrageous insult to all fathers who are fighting a hopeless battle for the right of their children to have a father in their lives.  Those fathers are being emotionally and financially devastated by our bureaucracies in the process of that battle.  After all, it is not mostly fathers who walk out of their children’s lives that causes our epidemic of fatherlessness.  In three out of four cases it is the mother who pushes the father out of the children’s lives and files for divorce — most often in the mistaken belief that a life without a provider and protector in the family will provide greater freedom and  more income.

What Prof. Popenoe should have clarified instead in that paragraph is that never in the history of mankind have men been vilified to the extent that they are being vilified today, and that as a result of that vilification a constant stream of anti-father and anti-family legislation is being produced that increasingly makes it impossible for far too many fathers to play an active role in their children’s lives.

Let’s hope that Prof. Popenoe will also write an article on single motherhood and the problems faced by children who grow up in the care of single mothers together with their half-siblings who are often the children of two or more different men.  That might compensate for the impact that his fourth paragraph has on his readers.  He stated there:

“MEN ARE not biologically attuned to being committed fathers.  Left culturally unregulated, men’s sexual behaviour can be promiscuous, their paternity casual, their commitment to families weak.  In recognition of this, cultures have used sanctions to bind men to their children, and of course the institution of marriage has been culture’s chief vehicle.”

Why did Prof. Popenoe find it necessary to single out men for their tendency to be promiscuous? Is it not true that the need for “sanctions to bind men to their children” within the institution of marriage applies just the same to women?  Else, why is it that women have children out of wedlock and by men not part of their marriage, or have children by many different men?  Promiscuity it not an exclusive male domain.  The effect of promiscuity on children is just as devastating if the mother is promiscuous without having her sexuality regulated by marriage.  Men and women are as equally likely to be promiscuous as they are equally likely to be violent.  Both men and women are members of the same species.  It took the institution of marriage to bring about the civilizing of the human race.  That brought order into chaos.  Will the reverse not happen if our families are being destroyed?  It seems to me that Prof. Popenoe made a very good case for the family.  Let’s hope that we will hear more of his views, but, let’s hope also that he’ll hold back a bit on the male-bashing.

Sincerely,

Walter H. Schneider
P.O. Box 62
Bruderheim, Alberta, Canada
T0B 0S0
Tel: (780) 796-2306

Fatherhood.

The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services | Nancy Schaefer – Kidjacked

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, child abuse, Child Custody, child trafficking, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, custody, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on July 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Although Georgia Sen. Nancy Schaefer is no longer with us, her report “The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services” lead to her losing the re-election for her state senate seat, and perhaps ultimately to her death.  What Senator Schaefer exposed in Georgia is true not only for her state by the remaining 49 states and territories of the United States, and true for the rest of the western world.  Isn’t it about time we stopped selling children in the name of protecting them?

By: Nancy Schaefer
Senator, 50th District

Georgia  Capitol

From the legislative desk of Senator Nancy Schaefer 50th District of Georgia

My introduction into child protective service cases was due to a grandmother in an adjoining state who called me with her tragic story. Her two granddaughters had been taken from her daughter who lived in my district. Her daughter was told wrongly that if she wanted to see her children again she should sign a paper and give up her children. Frightened and young, the daughter did. I have since discovered that parents are often threatened into cooperation of permanent separation of their children.

The children were taken to another county and placed in foster care. The foster parents were told wrongly that they could adopt the children. The grandmother then jumped through every hoop known to man in order to get her granddaughters. When the case finally came to court it was made evident by one of the foster parent’s children that the foster parents had, at any given time, 18 foster children and that the foster mother had an inappropriate relationship with the caseworker.

In the courtroom, the juvenile judge, acted as though she was shocked and said the two girls would be removed quickly. They were not removed. Finally, after much pressure being applied to the Department of Family and Children Services of Georgia (DFCS), the children were driven to South Georgia to meet their grandmother who gladly drove to meet them.

After being with their grandmother two or three days, the judge, quite out of the blue, wrote up a new order to send the girls to their father, who previously had no interest in the case and who lived on the West Coast. The father was in “adult entertainment”. His girlfriend worked as an “escort” and his brother, who also worked in the business, had a sexual charge brought against him.

Within a couple of days the father was knocking on the grandmother’s door and took the girls kicking and screaming to California.

The father developed an unusual relationship with the former foster parents and soon moved back to the southeast, and the foster parents began driving to the father’s residence and picking up the little girls for visits. The oldest child had told her mother and grandmother on two different occasions that the foster father molested her.

To this day after five years, this loving, caring blood relative grandmother does not even have visitation privileges with the children. The little girls are in my opinion permanently traumatized and the young mother of the girls was so traumatized with shock when the girls were first removed from her that she has not recovered.

Throughout this case and through the process of dealing with multiple other mismanaged cases of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), I have worked with other desperate parents and children across the state because they have no rights and no one with whom to turn. I have witnessed ruthless behavior from many caseworkers, social workers, investigators, lawyers, judges, therapists, and others such as those who “pick up” the children. I have been stunned by what I have seen and heard from victims all over the state of Georgia.

//
//

In this report, I am focusing on the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). However, I believe Child Protective Services nationwide has become corrupt and that the entire system is broken almost beyond repair. I am convinced parents and families should be warned of the dangers.

The Department of Child Protective Services, known as the Department of Family and Children Service (DFCS) in Georgia and other titles in other states, has become a “protected empire” built on taking children and separating families. This is not to say that there are not those children who do need to be removed from wretched situations and need protection. This report is concerned with the children and parents caught up in “legal kidnapping,” ineffective policies, and DFCS who do does not remove a child or children when a child is enduring torment and abuse. (See Exhibit A and Exhibit B)

In one county in my District, I arranged a meeting for thirty-seven families to speak freely and without fear. These poor parents and grandparents spoke of their painful, heart wrenching encounters with DFCS. Their suffering was overwhelming. They wept and cried. Some did not know where their children were and had not seen them in years. I had witnessed the “Gestapo” at work and I witnessed the deceitful conditions under which children were taken in the middle of the night, out of hospitals, off of school buses, and out of homes. In one county a private drug testing business was operating within the DFCS department that required many, many drug tests from parents and individuals for profit. In another county children were not removed when they were enduring the worst possible abuse.

Due to being exposed, several employees in a particular DFCS office were fired. However, they have now been rehired either in neighboring counties or in the same county again. According to the calls I am now receiving, the conditions in that county are returning to the same practices that they had before the light was shown on their deeds.

Having worked with probably 300 cases statewide, I am convinced there is no responsibility and no accountability in the system.

I have come to the conclusion:

  • that poor parents often times are targeted to lose their children because they do not have the where-with-all to hire lawyers and fight the system. Being poor does not mean you are not a good parent or that you do not love your child, or that your child should be removed and placed with strangers;
  • that all parents are capable of making mistakes and that making a mistake does not mean your children are always to be removed from the home. Even if the home is not perfect, it is home; and that’s where a child is the safest and where he or she wants to be, with family;
  • that parenting classes, anger management classes, counseling referrals, therapy classes and on and on are demanded of parents with no compassion by the system even while they are at work and while their children are separated from them. This can take months or even years and it emotionally devastates both children and parents. Parents are victimized by “the system” that makes a profit for holding children longer and “bonuses” for not returning children;
  • that caseworkers and social workers are oftentimes guilty of fraud. They withhold evidence. They fabricate evidence and they seek to terminate parental rights. However, when charges are made against them, the charges are ignored;
  • that the separation of families is growing as a business because local governments have grown accustomed to having taxpayer dollars to balance their ever-expanding budgets;
  • that Child Protective Service and Juvenile Court can always hide behind a confidentiality clause in order to protect their decisions and keep the funds flowing. There should be open records and “court watches”! Look who is being paid! There are state employees, lawyers, court investigators, court personnel, and judges. There are psychologists, and psychiatrists, counselors, caseworkers, therapists, foster parents, adoptive parents, and on and on. All are looking to the children in state custody to provide job security. Parents do not realize that social workers are the glue that holds “the system” together that funds the court, the child’s attorney, and the multiple other jobs including DFCS’s attorney.
  • that The Adoption and the Safe Families Act, set in motion by President Bill Clinton, offered cash “bonuses” to the states for every child they adopted out of foster care. In order to receive the “adoption incentive bonuses” local child protective services need more children. They must have merchandise (children) that sell and you must have plenty of them so the buyer can choose. Some counties are known to give a $4,000 bonus for each child adopted and an additional $2,000 for a “special needs” child. Employees work to keep the federal dollars flowing;
  • that there is double dipping. The funding continues as long as the child is out of the home. When a child in foster care is placed with a new family then “adoption bonus funds” are available. When a child is placed in a mental health facility and is on 16 drugs per day, like two children of a constituent of mine, more funds are involved;
  • that there are no financial resources and no real drive to unite a family and help keep them together;
  • that the incentive for social workers to return children to their parents quickly after taking them has disappeared and who in protective services will step up to the plate and say, “This must end! No one, because they are all in the system together and a system with no leader and no clear policies will always fail the children. Look at the waste in government that is forced upon the tax payer;
  • that the “Policy Manuel” is considered “the last word” for DFCS. However, it is too long, too confusing, poorly written and does not take the law into consideration;
  • that if the lives of children were improved by removing them from their homes, there might be a greater need for protective services, but today all children are not always safer. Children, of whom I am aware, have been raped and impregnated in foster care and the head of a Foster Parents Association in my District was recently arrested because of child molestation;
  • that some parents are even told if they want to see their children or grandchildren, they must divorce their spouse. Many, who are under privileged, feeling they have no option, will divorce and then just continue to live together. This is an anti-family policy, but parents will do anything to get their children home with them.
  • fathers, (non-custodial parents) I must add, are oftentimes treated as criminals without access to their own children and have child support payments strangling the very life out of them;
  • that the Foster Parents Bill of Rights does not bring out that a foster parent is there only to care for a child until the child can be returned home. Many Foster Parents today use the Foster Parent Bill of Rights to hire a lawyer and seek to adopt the child from the real parents, who are desperately trying to get their child home and out of the system;
  • that tax dollars are being used to keep this gigantic system afloat, yet the victims, parents, grandparents, guardians and especially the children, are charged for the system’s services.
  • that grandparents have called from all over the State of Georgia trying to get custody of their grandchildren. DFCS claims relatives are contacted, but there are cases that prove differently. Grandparents who lose their grandchildren to strangers have lost their own flesh and blood. The children lose their family heritage and grandparents, and parents too, lose all connections to their heirs.
  • that The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1998 reported that six times as many children died in foster care than in the general public and that once removed to official “safety”, these children are far more likely to suffer abuse, including sexual molestation than in the general population.
  • That according to the California Little Hoover Commission Report in 2003, 30% to 70% of the children in California group homes do not belong there and should not have been removed from their homes.

Final Remarks

On my desk are scores of cases of exhausted families and troubled children. It has been beyond me to turn my back on these suffering, crying, and sometimes beaten down individuals. We are mistreating the most innocent. Child Protective Services have become adult centered to the detriment of children. No longer is judgment based on what the child needs or who the child wants to be with or what is really best for the whole family; it is some adult or bureaucrat who makes the decisions, based often on just hearsay, without ever consulting a family member, or just what is convenient, profitable, or less troublesome for a director of DFCS.

I have witnessed such injustice and harm brought to these families that I am not sure if I even believe reform of the system is possible! The system cannot be trusted. It does not serve the people. It obliterates families and children simply because it has the power to do so.

Children deserve better. Families deserve better. It’s time to pull back the curtain and set our children and families free.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy” Proverbs 31:8-9


Learn More…


Recommendations

  1. Call for an independent audit of the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) to expose corruption and fraud.
  2. Activate immediate change. Every day that passes means more families and children are subject to being held hostage.
  3. End the financial incentives that separate families.
  4. Grant to parents their rights in writing.
  5. Mandate a search for family members to be given the opportunity to adopt their own relatives.
  6. Mandate a jury trial where every piece of evidence is presented before removing a child from his or her parents.
  7. Require a warrant or a positive emergency circumstance before removing children from their parents. (Judge Arthur G. Christean, Utah Bar Journal, January, 1997 reported that “except in emergency circumstances, including the need for immediate medical care, require warrants upon affidavits of probable cause before entry upon private property is permitted for the forcible removal of children from their parents.”)
  8. Uphold the laws when someone fabricates or presents false evidence. If a parent alleges fraud, hold a hearing with the right to discovery of all evidence.

Exhibit A

December 5, 2006

Jeremy’s Story

(Some names withheld due to future hearings.)

As told to Senator Nancy Schaefer by Sandra (Xxxx), a foster parent of Jeremy for 2 ½ years.

My husband and I received Jeremy when he was 2-weeks-old and we have been the only parents he has really ever known. He lived with us for 27-months. (Xxxx) is the grandfather of Jeremy, and he is known for molesting his own children, for molesting Jeremy and has been court ordered not to be around Jeremy. (Xxxx) is the mother of Jeremy, who has been diagnosed to be mentally ill, and also is known to have molested Jeremy. (Xxxx) and Jeremy’s uncle is a registered sex offender and (Xxxx) is the biological father, who is a drug addict and alcoholic and who continues to be in and out of jail. Having just described Jeremy’s world, all of these adults are not to be any part of Jeremy’s life, yet for years DFCS has known that they are.

DFCS had to test (Xxxx) (the grandfather) and his son (Xxxx) (the uncle) and (Xxxx) to determine the real father. (Xxxx) is the biological father although any of them might have been. In court, it appeared from the case study, that everyone involved knew that this little boy had been molested by family members, even by his own mother, (Xxxx). In court, (XXX), the mother of Jeremy, admitted to having had sex with (Xxxx) (the grandfather) and (Xxxx) (her own brother) that morning. Judge (Xxxx) and DFCS gave Jeremy to his grandmother that same day. (Xxxx), the grandmother, is over 300 lbs., is unable to drive, and is unable to take care of Jeremy due to physical problems. She also has been in a mental hospital several times due to her behavior.

Even though it was ordered by the court that the grandfather (Xxxx), the uncle (Xxxx) (a convicted sex offender), (Xxxx) his mother who molested him and (Xxxx) his biological father, a convicted drug addict, were not to have anything to do with the child, they all continue to come and go as they please at (Xxxx address), where Jeremy has been “sentenced to live” for years. This residence has no bathroom and little heat. The front door and the windows are boarded. This home should have been condemned years ago. I have been in this home. No child should ever have to live like this or with such people.

Jeremy was taken from us at age 2 ½ years after (Xxxx) obtained attorney (Xxxx), who was the same attorney who represented him in a large settlement from an auto accident. I am told, that attorney (Xxxx), as grandfather’s attorney, is known to have repeatedly gotten (Xxxx) off of several criminal charges in White County. This is a matter of record and is known by many in White County. I have copies of some records. (Xxxx grandfather), through (Xxxx attorney’s) work, got (Xxxx), the grandmother of Jeremy, legal custody of Jeremy. (Xxxx grandfather) who cannot read or write also got his daughter (Xxxx) and son (Xxxx) diagnosed by government agencies as mentally ill. (Xxxx grandfather), through legal channels, has taken upon himself all control of the family and is able to take possession of any government funding coming to these people.

It was during this time that Jeremy was to have a six-month transitional period between (Xxxx grandmother) and my family as we were to give him up. The court ordered agreement was to have been 4-days at our house and 3-days at (Xxxx grandmother). DFCS stopped the visits within 2-weeks. The reason given by DFCS was the child was too traumatized going back and forth. In truth, Jeremy begged us and screamed never to be taken back to (Xxxx) his grandmother’s house, which we have on video.

We, as a family, have seen Jeremy in stores time to time with (Xxxx grandmother) and the very people he is not to be around. At each meeting Jeremy continues to run to us wherever he sees us and it is clear he is suffering. This child is in a desperate situation and this is why I am writing, and begging you Senator Schaefer, to do something in this child’s behalf. Jeremy can clearly describe in detail his sexual molestation by every member of this family and this sexual abuse continues to this day.

When Jeremy was 5 years of age I took him to Dr. (Xxxx) of Habersham County who did indeed agree that Jeremy’s rectum was black and blue and the physical damage to the child was clearly a case of sexual molestation.

Early in Jeremy’s life, when he was in such bad physical condition, we took him to Egleston Children Hospital where at two-months of age therapy was to begin three times a week. DFCS decided that the (Xxxx grandparent family) should participate in his therapy. However, the therapist complained over and over that the (Xxxx grandparent family) would not even wash their hands and would cause Jeremy to cry during these sessions. (Xxxx the grandmother), after receiving custody no longer allowed the therapy because it was an inconvenience. The therapist reported that this would be a terrible thing to do to this child. Therapy was stopped and it was detrimental to the health of Jeremy.

During (Xxxx grandmother) custody, (Xxxx uncle) has shot Jeremy with a BB gun and there is a report at (Xxxx) County Sheriff’s office. There are several amber alerts at Cornelia Wal-Mart, Commerce Wal-Mart, and a 911 report from (Xxxx) County Sheriff’s Department when Jeremy was lost. (Xxxx grandmother), to teach Jeremy a lesson, took thorn bush limbs and beat the bottoms of his feet. Jeremy’s feet got infected and his feet had to be lanced by Dr. (Xxxx). Then Judy called me to pick him up after about 4-days to take back him to the doctor because of intense pain. I took Jeremy to Dr. (Xxxx) in Gainesville. Dr. (Xxxx) said surgery was needed immediately and a cast was added. After returning home, (Xxxx), his grandfather and (Xxxx), his uncle, took him into the hog lot and allowed him to walk in the filth.

Jeremy’s feet became so infected for a 2nd time that he was again taken back to Dr. (Xxxx) and the hospital. No one in the hospital could believe this child’s living conditions.

Jeremy is threatened to keep quiet and not say anything to anyone. I have videos, reports, arrest records and almost anything you might need to help Jeremy.

Please call my husband, Wendell, or I at any time.
Sandra and (Xxxx) husband (Xxxx)

Exhibit B

Failure of DFCS to remove six desperate children

A brief report regarding six children that Habersham County DFCS director failed to remove as disclosed to Senator Nancy Schaefer by Sheriff Deray Fincher of Habersham County.

Sheriff Deray Fincher, Chief of Police Don Ford and Chief Investigator Lt. Greg Bowen Chief called me to meet with them immediately, which I did on Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sheriff Fincher, after contacting the Director of Habersham County DFCS several times to remove six children from being horribly abused, finally had to get a court order to remove the children himself with the help of two police officers.

The children, four boys and two girls, were not just being abused; they were being tortured by a monster father.

The six children and a live in girl friend were terrified of this man, the abuser. The children never slept in a bed, but always on the floor. The place where they lived was unfit for human habitation.

The father on one occasion hit one of the boys across his head with a bat and cut the boy’s head open. The father then proceeded to hold the boy down and sew up the child’s head with a needle and red thread. However, even with beatings and burnings, this is only a fraction of what the father did to these children and to the live-in girlfriend.

Sheriff Fincher has pictures of the abuse and condition of one of the boys and at the writing of this report, he has the father in jail in Habersham County.

It should be noted that when the DFCS director found out that Sheriff Fincher was going to remove the children, she called the father and warned him to flee.

This is not the only time this DFCS director failed to remove a child when she needed to do so. (See Exhibit A)

The egregious acts and abhorrent behavior of officials who are supposed to protect children can no longer be tolerated.

Senator Nancy Schaefer
50th District of Georgia

Senator Nancy Schaefer
302 B Coverdell Office Building
18 Capitol Square, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Phone: 404-463-1367
Fax: 404-657-3217
Senator Nancy Schaefer
District Office
P O Box 294
Turnerville, Georgia 30580
Phone: 706-754-1998
Fax: 706-754-1803

Please forward to anyone interested

Posted: December 5, 2007

The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services | Nancy Schaefer – Kidjacked.

Constitutional Right to Be a Parent

In Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on July 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Below are excerpts of case law from state appellate and federal district courts and up to the U.S. Supreme Court, all of which affirm, from one perspective or another, the absolute Constitutional right of parents to actually BE parents to their children.


The rights of parents to the care, custody and nurture of their children is of such character that it cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions, and such right is a fundamental right protected by this amendment (First) and Amendments 5, 9, and 14. Doe v. Irwin, 441 F Supp 1247; U.S. D.C. of Michigan, (1985).

The several states have no greater power to restrain individual freedoms protected by the First Amendment than does the Congress of the United States. Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 S Ct 2479; 472 US 38, (1985).

Loss of First Amendment Freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury. Though First Amendment rights are not absolute, they may be curtailed only by interests of vital importance, the burden of proving which rests on their government. Elrod v. Burns, 96 S Ct 2673; 427 US 347, (1976).

Law and court procedures that are “fair on their faces” but administered “with an evil eye or a heavy hand” was discriminatory and violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 US 356, (1886).

Even when blood relationships are strained, parents retain vital interest in preventing irretrievable destruction of their family life; if anything, persons faced with forced dissolution of their parental rights have more critical need for procedural protections than do those resisting state intervention into ongoing family affairs. Santosky v. Kramer, 102 S Ct 1388; 455 US 745, (1982).

Parents have a fundamental constitutionally protected interest in continuity of legal bond with their children. Matter of Delaney, 617 P 2d 886, Oklahoma (1980). .

The liberty interest of the family encompasses an interest in retaining custody of one’s children and, thus, a state may not interfere with a parent’s custodial rights absent due process protections. Langton v. Maloney, 527 F Supp 538, D.C. Conn. (1981).

Parent’s right to custody of child is a right encompassed within protection of this amendment which may not be interfered with under guise of protecting public interest by legislative action which is arbitrary or without reasonable relation to some purpose within competency of state to effect. Regenold v. Baby Fold, Inc., 369 NE 2d 858; 68 Ill 2d 419, appeal dismissed 98 S Ct 1598, 435 US 963, IL, (1977).

Parent’s interest in custody of her children is a liberty interest which has received considerable constitutional protection; a parent who is deprived of custody of his or her child, even though temporarily, suffers thereby grievous loss and such loss deserves extensive due process protection. In the Interest of Cooper, 621 P 2d 437; 5 Kansas App Div 2d 584, (1980).

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that severance in the parent-child relationship caused by the state occur only with rigorous protections for individual liberty interests at stake. Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 F 2d 1205; US Ct App 7th Cir WI, (1984).

Father enjoys the right to associate with his children which is guaranteed by this amendment (First) as incorporated in Amendment 14, or which is embodied in the concept of “liberty” as that word is used in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Mabra v. Schmidt, 356 F Supp 620; DC, WI (1973).

“Separated as our issue is from that of the future interests of the children, we have before us the elemental question whether a court of a state, where a mother is neither domiciled, resident nor present, may cut off her immediate right to the care, custody, management and companionship of her minor children without having jurisdiction over her in personam. Rights far more precious to appellant than property rights will be cut off if she is to be bound by the Wisconsin award of custody.” May v. Anderson, 345 US 528, 533; 73 S Ct 840, 843, (1952).

A parent’s right to care and companionship of his or her children are so fundamental, as to be guaranteed protection under the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. In re: J.S. and C., 324 A 2d 90; supra 129 NJ Super, at 489.

The Court stressed, “the parent-child relationship is an important interest that undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection.” A parent’s interest in the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children rises to a constitutionally secured right, given the centrality of family life as the focus for personal meaning and responsibility. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 US 645, 651; 92 S Ct 1208, (1972).

Parent’s rights have been recognized as being “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free man.” Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 US 390; 43 S Ct 625, (1923).

The U.S. Supreme Court implied that “a (once) married father who is separated or divorced from a mother and is no longer living with his child” could not constitutionally be treated differently from a currently married father living with his child. Quilloin v. Walcott, 98 S Ct 549; 434 US 246, 255^Q56, (1978).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (California) held that the parent-child relationship is a constitutionally protected liberty interest. (See; Declaration of Independence –life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution — No state can deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor deny any person the equal protection of the laws.) Kelson v. Springfield, 767 F 2d 651; US Ct App 9th Cir, (1985).

The parent-child relationship is a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 f 2d 1205, 1242^Q45; US Ct App 7th Cir WI, (1985).

No bond is more precious and none should be more zealously protected by the law as the bond between parent and child.” Carson v. Elrod, 411 F Supp 645, 649; DC E.D. VA (1976).

A parent’s right to the preservation of his relationship with his child derives from the fact that the parent’s achievement of a rich and rewarding life is likely to depend significantly on his ability to participate in the rearing of his children. A child’s corresponding right to protection from interference in the relationship derives from the psychic importance to him of being raised by a loving, responsible, reliable adult. Franz v. U.S., 707 F 2d 582, 595^Q599; US Ct App (1983).

A parent’s right to the custody of his or her children is an element of “liberty” guaranteed by the 5th Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Matter of Gentry, 369 NW 2d 889, MI App Div (1983).

Reality of private biases and possible injury they might inflict were impermissible considerations under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Palmore v. Sidoti, 104 S Ct 1879; 466 US 429.

Legislative classifications which distributes benefits and burdens on the basis of gender carry the inherent risk of reinforcing stereotypes about the proper place of women and their need for special protection; thus, even statutes purportedly designed to compensate for and ameliorate the effects of past discrimination against women must be carefully tailored. the state cannot be permitted to classify on the basis of sex. Orr v. Orr, 99 S Ct 1102; 440 US 268, (1979).

The United States Supreme Court held that the “old notion” that “generally it is the man’s primary responsibility to provide a home and its essentials” can no longer justify a statute that discriminates on the basis of gender. No longer is the female destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family, and only the male for the marketplace and the world of ideas. Stanton v. Stanton, 421 US 7, 10; 95 S Ct 1373, 1376, (1975).

Judges must maintain a high standard of judicial performance with particular emphasis upon conducting litigation with scrupulous fairness and impartiality. 28 USCA § 2411; Pfizer v. Lord, 456 F.2d 532; cert denied 92 S Ct 2411; US Ct App MN, (1972).

State Judges, as well as federal, have the responsibility to respect and protect persons from violations of federal constitutional rights. Gross v. State of Illinois, 312 F 2d 257; (1963).

The Constitution also protects “the individual interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters.” Federal Courts (and State Courts), under Griswold can protect, under the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” phrase of the Declaration of Independence, the right of a man to enjoy the mutual care, company, love and affection of his children, and this cannot be taken away from him without due process of law. There is a family right to privacy which the state cannot invade or it becomes actionable for civil rights damages. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479, (1965).

The right of a parent not to be deprived of parental rights without a showing of fitness, abandonment or substantial neglect is so fundamental and basic as to rank among the rights contained in this Amendment (Ninth) and Utah’s Constitution, Article 1 § 1. In re U.P., 648 P 2d 1364; Utah, (1982).

The rights of parents to parent-child relationships are recognized and upheld. Fantony v. Fantony, 122 A 2d 593, (1956); Brennan v. Brennan, 454 A 2d 901, (1982). State’s power to legislate, adjudicate and administer all aspects of family law, including determinations of custodial; and visitation rights, is subject to scrutiny by federal judiciary within reach of due process and/or equal protection clauses of 14th Amendment…Fourteenth Amendment applied to states through specific rights contained in the first eight amendments of the Constitution which declares fundamental personal rights…Fourteenth Amendment encompasses and applied to states those preexisting fundamental rights recognized by the Ninth Amendment. The Ninth Amendment acknowledged the prior existence of fundamental rights with it: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The United States Supreme Court in a long line of decisions, has recognized that matters involving marriage, procreation, and the parent-child relationship are among those fundamental “liberty” interests protected by the Constitution. Thus, the decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113; 93 S Ct 705; 35 L Ed 2d 147, (1973), was recently described by the Supreme Court as founded on the “Constitutional underpinning of … a recognition that the “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment includes not only the freedoms explicitly mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but also a freedom of personal choice in certain matters of marriage and family life.” The non-custodial divorced parent has no way to implement the constitutionally protected right to maintain a parental relationship with his child except through visitation. To acknowledge the protected status of the relationship as the majority does, and yet deny protection under Title 42 USC § 1983, to visitation, which is the exclusive means of effecting that right, is to negate the right completely. Wise v. Bravo, 666 F.2d 1328, (1981).

FROM THE COLORADO SUPREME COURT, 1910
In controversies affecting the custody of an infant, the interest and welfare of the child is the primary and controlling question by which the court must be guided.  This rule is based upon the theory that the state must perpetuate itself, and good citizenship is essential to that end.  Though nature gives to parents the right to the custody of their own children, and such right is scarcely less sacred than the right to life and liberty, and is manifested in all animal life, yet among mankind the necessity for government has forced the recognition of the rule that the perpetuity of the state is the first consideration, and parental authority itself is subordinate to this supreme power.  It is recognized that:  ‘The moment a child is born it owes allegiance to the government of the country of its birth, and is entitled to the protection of that government.  And such government is obligated by its duty of protection, to consult the welfare, comfort and interest of such child in regulating its custody during the period of its minority.’  Mercein v. People, 25 Wend.  (N. Y.) 64, 103, 35 Am. Dec. 653; McKercher v. Green, 13 Colo. App. 271, 58 Pac. 406.  But as government should never interfere with the natural rights of man, except only when it is essential for the good of society, the state recognizes, and enforces, the right which nature gives to parents [48 Colo. 466] to the custody of their own children, and only supervenes with its sovereign power when the necessities of the case require it.
The experience of man has demonstrated that the best development of a young life is within the sacred precincts of a home, the members of which are bound together by ties entwined through ‘bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh’; that it is in such homes and under such influences that the sweetest, purest, noblest, and most attractive qualities of human nature, so essential to good citizenship, are best nurtured and grow to wholesome fruition; that, when a state is based and builded upon such homes, it is strong in patriotism, courage, and all the elements of the best civilization.  Accordingly these recurring facts in the experience of man resulted in a presumption establishing prima facie that parents are in every way qualified to have the care, custody, and control of their own offspring, and that their welfare and interests are best subserved under such control.  Thus, by natural law, by common law, and, likewise, the statutes of this state, the natural parents are entitled to the custody of their minor children, except when they are unsuitable persons to be intrusted with their care, control, and education, or when some exceptional circumstances appear which render such custody inimicable to the best interests of the child.  While the right of a parent to the custody of its infant child is therefore, in a sense, contingent, the right can never be lost or taken away so long as the parent properly nurtures, maintains, and cares for the child.
Wilson v. Mitchell, 111 P. 21, 25-26, 48 Colo. 454 (Colo. 1910)


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Constitutional Right to Be a Parent.

Why Standard Visitation Should NOT Be Standard – Divorce

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on July 26, 2010 at 11:15 pm

When a nuclear family separates, it usually separates into a “custodial” family and a “non-custodial” family. The custodial family is the parent with whom the children reside on a day-to-day basis. Most often, it’s the Mother. The non-custodial family is the other parent – usually Dad – and the children when they are with him.

Dad usually gets “visitation” with his children. Some states refer to it as “parenting time,” recognizing that he maintains his status as parent, but still distinguishing that his time with his children is regulated. For families which – prior to the separation – had Dad in the home, seeing the children every day, interacting with the kids on a regular basis, probably the single most traumatic event is when the kids realize that they won’t see Dad every day. The single most on-going trauma occurs to kids when the visitation schedule is interfered with by Mom.

Now, this does not occur in every case, but it happens often enough. “Standard” visitation is alternating weekends and one evening per week. This is imposed because Moms, courts, and experts put forth that more frequent visitation is “disruptive” to the children and that kids should not be “bounced back and forth.”

For kids that have gone from seeing Dad 30 times a month to 8 times a month, there IS nothing more disruptive! For kids that have gone from learning from, and being loved on a daily basis, by TWO parents to the sole CONTROL of one parent, there is NO bouncing that is more disruptive. If Dad is denied ONE weekend, his time with his children is reduced by 25%. Somehow, THAT disruption is never considered. Also never considered is the REAL disruption that occurs on the “one night per week”: kids get bundled up, travel with Dad, get unbundled, eat dinner, maybe do homework, get bundled up again, travel back, get unbundled at Mom’s house, and get ready for bed. Doesn’t it make more sense to stay OVERNIGHT with Dad on this visit?

Where the children had Dad in the house on a daily basis, Courts need to consider schedules that provide the kids with more regular visit – daily after school, or every other day, or more mid-week overnight visitations. Kids who do not see their father are more likely to be abused by a boyfriend or step-father, abuse drugs,or engage in criminal activity. Frequent visitation may be one way to stem this terrible tide. http://onestop.easystorecreator.net

Erik Carter is an experienced family law litigator. He has created a website to help non-custodial fathers at http://onestop.easystorecreator.net He has also written two books: “Aggressive Pleadings For The Non-Custodial Father” http://dadspleadings.easystorecreator.net and “Six Temptations Of Jesus Christ” http://www.knowledge-download.com/Six_Temptations

Why Standard Visitation Should NOT Be Standard – Divorce.

Judge Judy Weighs in on a Mother’s False Allegations of Domestic Violence

In Family Rights on July 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm

This video is making the rounds on some Facebook pages in which another mothers is accused of setting up a father for false allegations of abuse by the malicious use of protective orders.

Judge Judy who was a Family Court Judge strongly admonishes the women for misusing DV orders to try to take her child away from the dad because he dumped her for another woman.

There are a lot of crazy women out there, and I think this guy did right in getting rid of her because by her actions she is nuts. Watch these videos Part 1 and II.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsuOTV4n0xs

Gender Bias in Family Court

In Best Interest of the Child, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on July 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Gender Bias in Our Family Court System

by Pearle Harbour
gender bias in family court
family court © khz – Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

Our legal pendulum swings to yet another extreme. Gender bias runs rampant in our family court system. In the 1960′s women, fought hard to get laws passed to protect women against domestic violence. It took many painful years for our legal system to recognize women as victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment laws were passed and enforced to protect “true victims.” Many women lived through domestic violence; many died. Some went to jail for homicide; some were later pardoned. We, as women, finally got society to recognize violence against women.

Shame on all those women of the 1990′s who now use these laws to their advantage in family courts to bring men to their knees; and to erase fathers from the lives of their children! False allegations by women of child abuse, domestic violence, and stalking are almost never questioned by judges for fear of being politically incorrect.

Important UPDATE! See VAWA: Joe Biden’s Shame.

Women who feel justified in punishing men use these false charges indiscriminately. Children are forgotten and have become our newest victims with full cooperation from our Family Court system. Children need fathers too. A recent US Department of Education study, “Fathers Involved in Their Children’s Education” (free for a phone call – 1-800-424-1616, option 3) will bear out these truths.

Women have become educated in the ways of our legal system. A new study purports women are filing 70% of divorces today. The first person to file usually wins. The unfortunate person against whom false allegations are charged must prove their innocence while a plaintiff proves nothing. As a paralegal and a woman, I am no longer proud of those of female gender who abuse our legal system.

An innocent father involved in a nasty contested divorce from a woman who vows vengeance is helpless in Family Court. Important child support laws enacted are now strictly, and sometimes unfairly enforced. There are stories of fathers who lost their jobs from downsizing and/or circumstances beyond their control. When the mother of his children insists on back child support, he is thrown into jail. Child support is based on his “earning ability.” Debtor’s prison has become our most recent politically correct means to control men. Here again, our Family Courts condone whatever women allege, accuse, and dictate to control men.

Should a husband make the mistake of remarrying, further angering his ex-wife, a second wife’s income is used as “a way to show ability to pay.” The mother of their children, on the other hand, can marry another man. The “other man’s” income is never used to lower child support. Court’s rationale – “they are not his children, not his responsibility.” Since when did a mother bear no responsibility for her children? Today’s women are earning more, and are becoming a majority in our workforce. The stay at home mom of the 50′s rarely exists today. I knew of a man who ended up paying so much child support (plus child expenses) he had to move back home with his parents. Yet his ex-wife earned more than he did.

False allegations of child abuse by a vengeful ex-wife devastates not only children, but fathers. The wife files first to take advantage of all laws passed to protect true victims of abuse and violence. The wife charges everything from domestic violence to stalking to child abuse. Courts almost always believe a woman over a man today.

I know of a man who was falsely accused of child sexual abuse. By the time he was found innocent, he lost his job, his reputation, and everything he owned. Recent statistics do show women are becoming our primary child abusers, and yes, even killers of our children. Yet our Family Courts consistently believe, “the mother always makes the best parent.”

Some mothers today emotionally blackmail and intimidate their children into fabricating abuse by their father. I know a man who fought two years to get custody of his son from a proven mentally ill mother who abused their son. Each time the court insisted “the mother is the best parent.”

A large number of children are ordered to see a child psychologist when divorce is filed. Counselors and psychologists are encouraged by our system to give bad reports against a father. Fathers are automatically presumed capable of abuse before any mother.

Mothers are intentionally denying visitation to loving, child support paying fathers, who then spend money and time in court trying to get visitation enforced.
I know a man who hasn’t seen his son in 14 years, but religiously pays his child support. He stopped pursuing visitation in court when the mother threatened harm to the son. Is this fair? Why is there no press on “intentional denial of visitation”?

One of the saddest true stories I know of is a little nine year old boy who was put in a mental institution by his mother until he stopped saying, “I want to see my daddy.” There are too many stories of children committing suicide. I personally know of a woman who kept her teenage son up night after night crying about her divorce, repeatedly telling him “children ruin marriages.” Her son turned to drinking, drugs, and dropped out of college.

Divorce is a reality. It is currently a billion dollar a year business. Contested divorce is guerilla warfare whether people want to acknowledge it or not. Everyone wants fuzzy warm answers to harsh reality. There are none unless we all recognize the gender bias against males perpetuated in Family Court today, and the undeniable damage it does to our children.

Years ago women had a disadvantage in our domestic courts. Now they can feel quite happy knowing most women win. They can manipulate child support into “backdoor alimony,” deprive their children of their fathers, and ruin their husband. Truth no longer exists in our legal system.

Yes, we have come a long way. Women can be proud of the laws they fought hard for 30+ years ago. I am personally grateful for these laws. Let us not blaspheme those women who died for the very laws that many women are abusing today. We must stop abusing these laws, or one day our legal pendulum will swing back and our true victims will not be believed again.

You think you are beating men? You are beating yourself; destroying your children; and making the racketeers in our legal system rich. You are creating a generation of children who think love is conditional and possessive; who learn that violence by proxy and misuse of the law will make you a winner.

I will never be associated with any “feminist” movement which advocates false allegations, destroying children, and eliminating good fathers.

Let’s remember that it is children, not women, who are the real victims of the gender bias in our family courts.

Email: wewinluv@jax-inter.net

Copyright © 1998 Pearle Harbour. All rights reserved.
Not to be reprinted without the permission of the author.


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the on-line magazine for men with families.

Is the Child REALLY Yours? Falsely accused of being someone’s biological parent? Get your evidence today!

The Secret Alimony Hidden in Child Support Scientific proof exists that many child support awards are too high. By Roger F. Gay.

Fathers’ Rights Are Fathers’ Duties Why political action is the best thing you can do for yourself, your case — and above all your children. By Stephen Baskerville.

Domestic Armageddon Who profits from the maternal child-snatching epidemic? Two book reviews by Stephen Baskerville.

Just Let Me Be a Dad A review of Michelle D. Lovato’s book of practical advice for divorcing fathers.

Men Are Beasts Whereas false accusations by women are in fact rare, occurring no more often than do other false reports of crimes, such as bank robbery — Joint Congressional Resolution 182.

Class Dismissed Has America created a new class of citizens who are excluded from constitutional provisions regarding due process and debtors prison?

Father from Afar Fathers from afar must learn how to hear what is not said, feel what is not seen, and say what should be said.

Let No Man Put Asunder Is our traditional faith in justice being eroded by courts that operate as a child kidnapping and extortion racket?

Angels and Divorce Dean Hughson tells how a couple of angels helped save him in those critical hours following his divorce.

Gender Bias in Family Court A paralegal gives her insider’s view of women who make use of the child kidnapping and extortion racketeers in our justice system.

In the Best Interest of the Child Today’s fathers are more likely to seek custody. Many of them will need to prepare for a child custody evaluation.

Mother Accuses Father of Child Abuse What to do? Win! Advice from The Fathering Advisor with links to resources.

What Fathers Do Jack Kammer’s story shows us how fathers affect the lives of teenage boys.

My Dad Is a Hero …all of a sudden we were fugitives….Dad, I know you spent fathers’ day in jail this year, so no one else has to do what we had to do. You are my hero, dad, I love you.

Deserted Her mother said “Your father left you because he doesn’t love you.” Now she has learned the truth–her loving father was forced out of her life.

Gender Bias in Family Court.

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