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Brazilian President signs into Law which Defines and Punishes Parental Alienation – Crumbs: Hot – 27/8/2010

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorder, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 31, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Following the Sean Goldman case in Brazil, the Brazilian President, just signed into law, which defines and punishes acts of Parental Alienation in Brazil. I sometimes wonder if our President and Vice President are paying attention to the problems of parents and children in this country? Particularly with regard to the 4-6 million children that are alienated from the other parent?

Law 12 318

Sacionada law that defines and punishes parental alienation

See below for the full law 12.318/10 which provides for parental alienation.

_____________

Law No. 12 318, DE 26 AUGUST 2010

Provides for parental alienation and amending Art. 236 of Law No. 8069 of July 13, 1990.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC

I know that the Congress decrees and I sanction the following Law:

Article 1 This Law provides for parental alienation.

Section 2 is considered an act of parental alienation interference with psychological training of the child or adolescent promoted or induced by a parent, grandparent or by having the child or adolescent under his authority, custody or supervision so dismissive parent or adversely affecting the establishment or maintenance of ties with it.

Sole Paragraph. Exemplary are forms of parental alienation, and acts as declared by the judge or discovered by expertise, or charged directly with the aid of third parties:

I – opening campaign of disqualification of the parent’s conduct in the exercise of parenthood;

II – hinder the exercise of parental authority;

III – hinder contact with child or teen parent;

IV – to hamper the right of regulated family life;

V – the parent deliberately omit relevant personal information about the child or adolescent, including educational, medical and changes of address;

VI – to present false complaint against parent, family against this or against grandparents, to obstruct or hinder their coping with the child or adolescent;

VII – change the address to the remote site, without justification, in order to hamper the coexistence of the child or adolescent with the other parent, with this family or grandparents.

Article 3 The performance of an act of parental alienation hurts fundamental right of the child or adolescent family life healthier, prevent the implementation of affection in relationships with parent and the family group, is moral abuse against the child or adolescent and noncompliance with duties attached to parental authority or from guardianship or custody.

Article 4 Declared clue act of parental alienation, the application or letter at any time of procedure, or incidentally in autonomous action, the process will have priority processing, and the judge will determine, with urgency, after hearing the prosecutor, the interim measures for maintenance of psychological integrity of the child or adolescent, including to ensure their familiarity with parent or make an effective rapprochement between the two, if any.

Sole Paragraph. It will ensure the child or adolescent and the parent assisted minimum guarantee of visitation, except in cases where there is imminent risk of injury to physical or psychological integrity of the child or adolescent, certified by any professional designated by the judge for monitoring visits .

Article 5 If there is evidence of the practice act of parental alienation in autonomous action or incidental damages, the judge, if necessary, determine biopsychosocial or psychological expertise.

§ 1 The expert report will be based on extensive psychological evaluation or biopsychosocial, as appropriate, including even a personal interview with the parties, examination of documents in the file, the couple’s relationship history, split chronology of incidents, personality assessment involved and the investigation of how the child or adolescent is manifested about possible charges against the parents.

§ 2 The skill will be performed by professional or skilled multidisciplinary team, required in any case, proven by fitness professional or academic history to diagnose acts of parental alienation.

§ 3 The expert or a multidisciplinary team appointed to assess the occurrence of parental alienation will within 90 (ninety) days to submit the report, renewable only by judicial authorization based on detailed justification.

Article 6 Featured typical acts of parental alienation or any conduct that hamper the coexistence of child or adolescent parent, or incidental to autonomous action, the judge may, together or separately, subject to civil or criminal liability arising from and the extensive use of suitable legal instruments to inhibit or mitigate its effects, according to the severity of the case:

I – declare the occurrence of parental alienation and warn the seller;

II – expand the system of family life in favor of the alienated parent;

III – provide fine to seller;

IV – require counseling and / or biopsychosocial;

V – to determine the change of custody to joint custody or its reversal;

VI – to determine the setting of interim home of the child or adolescent;

VII – to declare the suspension of parental authority.

Sole Paragraph. Marked change of address abusive, impracticability or obstruction to family, the court may also reverse the obligation to take or remove the child or teen parent’s residence, during the alternating periods of family life.

Article 7 The allocation or change of custody will be given preference by the parent that enables the effective coexistence of the child or adolescent with the other parent in cases where it is impracticable to custody.

Article 8 The change of domicile of the child or adolescent is irrelevant to the determination of competence related to actions founded on right to family life, unless the result of consensus between the parents or a court decision.

Article 9 (VETOED)

Article 10. (VETOED)

Article 11. This Law shall enter into force upon its publication.

Brasília, August 26, 2010, 189 and 122 of the Independence of the Republic.

Luiz Inacio LULA DA SILVA

Luiz Paulo Teles Ferreira Barreto

Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi

________________
____________

Read more – News

  • 11/20/2009 – House Passes CCJ’s action against a parent who incite hatred child – click here.
  • 08.18.2009 – Parental Alienation can lead to loss of custody of the child – click here.

Read More – Articles

  • 13/8/10 – The “syndrome” that will turn law – Nebo Flávia Azevedo Antunes – click here.
  • 23/7/10 – SAP – Parental Alienation Syndrome – Luiz Fernando Valley Guilherme de Almeida / André Fernando Reusing Namorato – click here.
  • 21/7/10 – In brief, parental alienation is a crime – Denise Perissini Maria da Silvaclick here.

Sanctioned law that defines and punishes parental alienation – Crumbs: Hot – 27/8/2010.

The Federal Scheme to Destroy Father-Child Relationships

In Activism, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Parental Alienation Disorder, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parents rights, Restraining Orders, Title Iv-D on August 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Topic: Divorce & Child Custody Issues
The Federal Scheme to Destroy Father-Child Relationships


Federal entitlement programs are decimating the lives of children and trampling on the rights of fathers to the care and companionship of their kids. We must dismantle the Federal-State entitlement nexus that deprives men of their civil liberties. Here is what every man in America should know.


by Jake Morphonios
(conservative)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Congress would feign admit its own dubious contribution to the suffering of America’s children. Rather, these politicians promulgate the myth that they are helping children through federal and state welfare entitlement programs. It is, in fact, these very programs which are responsible for the out of control rampage against children. Here is how the scam works.

The federal government levies taxes against citizens to redistribute as welfare entitlements among needy applicants. Congress created the Social Security Act, a section of which is called Title IV. Title IV describes how tax dollars will be distributed among the States to subsidize their individual welfare programs. In order for States to tap into the federal treasure chest, containing billions of dollars, they must demonstrate that they are complying with Title IV mandates to collect child support revenues. In other words, to get money from the federal government, each State must become a child support collection and reporting agency.

Every unwed or single mother seeking welfare assistance must disclose on her application the identities of the fathers of her children and how much child support the fathers have been ordered by a family court to pay. She must also commit to continuously reporting the father’s payments so that the State can count the money as “collected” to the federal government’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. As with all bureaucracies, this process has developed into a monstrosity that chews up and spits out the very people it was designed to help.

States have huge financial incentives to increase the amount of child support it can report to the federal government as “collected”. To increase collection efforts, States engage in the immoral practice of dividing children from their fathers in family courts. Have you ever wondered why family courts award custody to mothers in 80%-90% of all custody cases, even when the father is determined to be just as suitable a parent? It is because the amount of child support ordered by the State is largely determined by how much time the child spends with each parent. This means that the State “collects” less child support if parents share equal custody. By prohibiting fathers from having equal custody and time with their children, the State’s child support coffers are increased and federal dollars are received.

Opponents try to paint loving fathers as “deadbeat dads” for daring to challenge the mother-take-all system of family law.  This is nothing more than diversionary propaganda.  The concern of fathers is not that they are unwilling to support their children financially. This is not an argument against paying child support. Any father that cares about his child will do everything in his power to provide for the child. The concern is, rather, that children are being separated from their fathers by family courts because the State stands to reap huge financial rewards as a result of the father’s loss of custody. The higher the order of child support, the more money the State can collect – even if the amount ordered by the court far exceeds the reasonable needs of the child or if the father is required to take second and third jobs to keep up with outrageous support orders and escape certain incarceration. The truth is that most fathers don’t care about the financial aspects of these family court verdicts nearly as much as they care about having their time with their children eliminated for nefarious government purposes.

The root of this evil is a State-level addiction to federal tax dollars being doled out as entitlement monies by a monolithic federal government. In the wake of this horror are millions of children drowning for lack of the care, guidance, and companionship of their fathers. Statistics and empirical evidence universally confirm that children forcibly separated from their fathers by family courts are considerably more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, develop drug addiction, engage in risky sexual activity, break the law, and commit suicide. This travesty must end.

Unconstitutional federal bureaucracy creates many of the societal ills it claims to be trying to solve. There are several steps incremental steps that could be taken to restore a child’s right to the companionship of both parents. For example, citizens should insist that States abide by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. No father should be automatically deprived of his fundamental right to the custody of his children without due process of law. Being a male is not a crime. Absent a finding of true danger from a parent, family courts should order shared parenting rights and equal time sharing for divorcing parents.  These rights are fundamental and should not be abridged.  The automatic presumption of custody-to-the-mother is unconstitutional.

The history of America is brim with examples of the federal government denying basic rights to its citizens. Women were denied the right to vote until the women’s suffrage movement secured the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Black Americans also were denied the right to vote and suffered myriad other cruel and humiliating indignities under the law until the civil rights movement brought about desegregation, put an end to Jim Crow legislation and compelled the enactment of the 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution. In each of these examples, society was slow to recognize that a problem even existed or that some of our laws were unjust. It took considerable time, concerted effort, self-sacrifice and perhaps even divine providence to realign concurrent societal paradigms with the principles of liberty and justice for all.

Our generation is not exempt from similar assaults on liberty. While many just causes may stake claims for redress of grievances, one group, more than any other, pleads for immediate support. The need to defend the rights of this group of American citizens, reeling from the unjust consequences of state-sponsored oppression, is before us. It is time to stand up for the rights of children and demand their equal access to both parents.

– – –

Jake Morphonios is a civil rights advocate and North Carolina State Coordinator for Fathers 4 Justice – US.  The political opinions of Mr. Morphonios do not represent those of Fathers 4 Justice.  Neither Mr. Morphonios nor F4J-US provide legal advice or assistance with individual cases.

Fathers seeking support or information, or other parties interested in becoming involved in the father’s rights movement may contact Mr. Morphonios at: jake.morphonios@nc.f4j.us


PLEASE THUMB THIS ARTICLE to help spread the word to others about this imporant issue.

The Federal Scheme to Destroy Father-Child Relationships.

The Nuclear Option: False Child Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody Disputes

In Activism, Best Interest of the Child, Brainwashed Children, child abuse, Child Custody, Children and Domestic Violence, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, kidnapped children, Liberty, Marriage, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on August 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Topic: Divorce & Child Custody Issues
The Nuclear Option: False Child Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody Disputes


There is a very simple trick, used all too frequently in family courts, that will almost always ensure the immediate elimination of a man’s constitutional rights.


by Jake Morphonios
(conservative)
Monday, February 18, 2008

In acrimonious divorce and child custody disputes emotions are tense and tempers flare. Buoyed by litigious attorneys, each side engages in strategic maneuvers to gain the greatest legal advantage. Sometimes a parent, fearing a loss of control or custody over a child, crosses the ethically acceptable bounds of legal warfare. An unfortunate but all too frequently used tactic by mothers is to accuse the father of sexually molesting their child. The mere accusation is sufficient to strip the father of all his custody rights and launch a criminal investigation. Even when no evidence is found to substantiate the allegation, family law courts typically “err on the side of caution” and award full custody to the mother. While national statistics reveal that the majority of all child sex abuse reports are legitimate, when such claims are made by a mother in the context of custody litigation, an estimated 77% of allegations are determined to be unfounded (Tong, 2002).A false child sex abuse allegation made during child custody litigation is a destructive legal stratagem.

Throughout the world, child sexual abuse is considered the ultimate crime. Not even murder generates the kind of raw emotional reaction that results from the sexual abuse of a child. Society acknowledges the innocence of children and responds to child abusers with extreme prejudice. The power of the accusation alone is often enough for public opinion to impeach the character of the alleged child abuser and guarantee legal victory for the mother. According to Jeffery M. Leving (1997), a leading father’ rights attorney, “the use of false sexual abuse allegations to win custody suits has become almost a standard tactic among disturbed mothers and unethical divorce lawyers” (pg 148).The accused may spend years rebuilding his reputation from the monumental damage caused by the accusation.

To investigate the effect of a false child abuse accusation, a child custody survey was conducted; the group was evenly divided between males and females. A scenario was presented in which a divorcing couple was contesting custody of the children. It was stated that both parents were fit and proper. The question posed regarded what custody arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. An overwhelming 94% of respondents indicated that joint legal and physical custody, shared between parents, would be in the child’s best interest, with 78% of respondents indicating that a 50/50 time sharing agreement was appropriate. Another scenario was presented. In the second scenario the father has been accused by the mother of sexually molesting their child. The Department of Social Services and the police conducted an investigation and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether or not the father committed sexual abuse. The question of custody is again asked. As a result of the unsubstantiated accusation against the father, 79% of the same respondents stated that sole legal and physical custody should be granted to the mother. Only 15% of respondents felt that the father should be permitted a minimum of 50% visitation with the children. In the final survey question regarding the respondent’s personal opinion of child molesters, 42% stated that they should be “locked away for life” and 48% responded that they should “burn in hell”. Why do so many mothers file false sexual abuse allegations during custody cases? They work. False accusers in this type of case rarely face prosecution.

The judicial system, likewise, responds to alleged child abusers swiftly and aggressively. Unfortunately for many falsely accused fathers, truth and justice are often niceties which are frequently ignored. Leving (1997) writes, “Based on well-meaning ‘better safe than sorry’ policy, abuse investigators often accept an abuse charge as fact and consider the accused abuser guilty until proven otherwise” (pg 150).This is a significant problem. The US Constitution guarantees that accused persons are to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. In this type of case, however, constitutional safeguards are abandoned. The burden of proof falls upon the accused to prove a negative, or, to conclusively show that an alleged event never occurred. This reversal of constitutional jurisprudence sets a dangerous precedent and ensures the conviction of many innocent men. The destructive power of a false child abuse allegation has been termed “the nuclear option” by law professionals (Tong, 1997).Once this nuclear bomb is dropped, all hope of civil reconciliation is lost. The custody battle escalates into a bitter war.

The prevalence of false accusations is a matter of debate. Disagreement over the proper ratio of false abuse statistics may range anywhere from 20% to 80%.It can be extremely difficult to correctly track the ration of true to false accusations because of the problem in identifying the intent of the accuser. In some instances a mother genuinely believes abuse has occurred. In other instances the mother may not be sure and simply doesn’t know what to do other than to file an allegation of abuse. However, when one considers all factors, including the number of retracted allegations, recantations and the preponderance of cases proven to be dishonest, a fair estimate settled upon by many studies is an average of 77% (Brennan & Brennan, 1994).

False reports of sexual abuse against children are often first reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) or some other governmental social service agency. A safety assessment is conducted by a CPS or social worker (Ney, 1995). During this brief assessment standard questions are asked of the mother regarding the alleged event. At the end of the assessment, even if no proof of wrongdoing is presented, procedure requires the social worker to recommend that full custody be given to the mother as a safety precaution until a full investigation is concluded. This assessment is included in an official complaint and presented to a district court judge. The judge will typically grant an Emergency Ex-Parte Order giving the mother temporary sole custody of the children and restrain the father from having any contact with his children, even when no additional evidence beyond the mother’s word exists. A hearing date is set and the legal battle begins.

The mother gains immediate advantages over the father. First, by giving the mother full custody of the children the court is setting a precedent that will be hard for the father to overcome. Most family court judges believe in maintaining the status quo, and subsequently order the children to continue residing with the mother rather than changing the children’s residence to that of the father (Hardwick, 2004).A second advantage for the mother is that the children are unable to communicate with their father and a process of alienation begins. The more time that passes without contact, the greater the alienation. During this period of alienation, a child may be coached by the mother to support the allegation against the father.

After the Emergency Ex-Parte Order has been granted, an investigation of the allegation begins. As part of the investigation, the child is examined by a medical doctor for physical signs of sexual abuse. It is rare that evidence is discovered. The child is also seen by social workers who use items such as anatomically correct dolls to try to encourage the child to talk about what happened. Even when the child states that nothing happened, the investigation continues. After a series of interrogations, which often serve to reinforce the false story in the child’s mind, the child may eventually say something or play with the dolls in such a way as to cause the social worker to suspect abuse (Tong, 1992).As part of this ongoing investigation by both CPS and local law enforcement, the reputation of the father is constructively destroyed by the investigation. Family relationships become strained. Employers tire of granting time off work to accommodate the father’s frequent court hearings. Social relationships are damaged, often never to be repaired.

The very process of being investigated causes many men to give up and grant the mother everything she wants from him. Sadly, many fathers are so traumatized by the horror of the process that they commit suicide (Seidenberg, 1997).False abuse expert, Dean Tong (2002), says of the emotional state of the accused:

Sleep is forever elusive, night-terror becomes common-place and depression is a constant companion. Rarely is there any support to be found within the community and rarely is there any sympathy for the falsely-accused. Throughout it all, you must bear the title “abuser,” until you prove otherwise, if you can. Disorientation, denial, shock, confusion, anxiety, and disbelief are constant. Lack of concentration is a chronic problem, exceeded only by the frustration of being denied the right to see your children. (pg 25)

Immediately, the father finds himself in a maze of confusing litigation. He spends thousands of dollars to retain an attorney. Police often request the father to take lie detector tests.  Even though he submits to and often passes several polygraph tests, it does him little good as the tests are not admissible in court. A single attorney is rarely sufficient to provide an appropriate defense in this type of case. Thousands of dollars must be spent to retain psychologists and other expert witnesses in the fields of sexual abuse. In an attempt to prove their innocence, many fathers submit to invasive psycho-sexual testing, such as the penile polygraph. In this particular test sensors are placed around the penis and variety of video images are displayed to the father, such as children playing in water or little girls in bathing suits. The subtlest of sexual responses while looking at images of children will condemn the father. The cost of testing, attorneys, expert witnesses and other legal fees in this type of case often exceeds $50,000.The father sometimes has to mortgage his home and sell his assets to afford a sufficient defense. Naturally, little money is leftover at the end to use in a custody case.

In most court districts throughout the United States, judges run for office as any other politician. If a judge takes, or fails to take, an action that leads to the abuse of a child by an alleged child abuser, his political career may be over. Political expediency is a strong, yet unspoken, factor in emotionally charged cases such with child sexual abuse (Seidenberg, 1997). When a father has been falsely accused of molesting his child, even when no evidence substantiates the claim, he often loses custody of his children because the court decides to “play it safe”. The father may not go to jail, but the temporary order preventing his access to his children is frequently made permanent. By no fault of his own, the father has lost his children, all because a mother chose to fight dirty in court. For the unfortunate father who loses his criminal case, he is locked away. Sentencing for child molesters is typically longer than sentencing for murder (Seidenberg, 1997).Men convicted of child molestation are constant targets of prison abuse by fellow inmates. Fathers, unjustly incarcerated, become bitter and less productive members of society.

The father is not the only victim in a false child sex abuse allegation. Children are also victimized. Not only does the child have to submit to numerous interrogations and invasive tests to determine if abuse occurred, but needless therapy is often prescribed. The child, knowing at first that nothing happened, is subjected to counseling that reinforces the story that abuse has occurred. In time, many children grow to believe and accept that their fathers molested them. The emotional trauma is life-long. This phenomenon has become so common that psychologists have given names to the syndromes that result from false abuse claims, including Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Sexual Abuse in Divorce (SAID).The allegation is, in itself, a form of child abuse (Wexler, 1990).The loss of self-esteem, the destruction of the father-child relationship, the mental and emotional damage and premature sexualizing of the child are all very real results of a false abuse accusation. Children who grow up believing they were sexually abused often develop deviant sexual interests and proclivities. No child should be treated so heinously by parents embroiled in a legal chess game.

A false child sexual abuse allegation, while usually ensuring the legal victory for the mother, is destructive to all parties involved. Child molestation is a terrible crime and false accusations play on the natural prejudices of society to the extent that victory can almost be guaranteed for the accuser. The loss of fathers in the lives of their children has many negative consequences for society as a whole. Laws need to be passed that protect the rights of the accused as in any other type of trial. Penalties for false accusers must be created and imposed. Social workers, judges, and others involved in the investigation of this type of allegation must be taught the syndromes that affect children when a false abuse claim is made. Sexual abuse claims made in the middle of custody proceedings must be viewed with some skepticism. Judges must be made aware of the usefulness of certain scientific tests, not currently admissible in court, which may help to vindicate the accused. Finally, an emphasis on more stable families will lead to fewer divorces, and, therefore, fewer false abuse claims. Until these, and other, reforms take place, innocent children will continue to be used as pawns in a senseless game of legal strategy.

References:

Brennan, Carleen, & Brennan, Michael (1994).Custody for Fathers: A practical guide through the combat zone of a brutal custody battle.Costa Mesa, CA: Brennan Publishing.

Hardwick, Charlotte (2004). Win Your Child Custody War.New York, NY: Pale Horse Publishing.

Leving, Jefferey M. (1997).Fathers’ Rights: Hard hitting and fair advice for every father involved in a custody dispute.New York, NY: Basic Books.

Ney, Tara (1995).True and False Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse: Assessment & case management.New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel, Inc.

Seidenberg, Robert (1997).The Father’s Emergency Guide to Divorce-Custody Battle: A Tour through the Predatory World of Judges, Lawyers, Psychologists & Social Workers, in the Subculture of Divorce. Takoma Park, MD: JES Books.

Tong, Dean (1992).Don’t Blame Me, Daddy: False accusations of child sexual abuse. Norfolk, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Co.

Tong, Dean (2002).Elusive Innocence: Survival guide for the falsely accused. Lafayette, LA: Huntington House Publishers.

Wexler, Richard (1990).Wounded Innocents: The real victims of the war against child abuse. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.


Jake Morphonios is a civil rights advocate and North Carolina State Coordinator for Fathers 4 Justice – US.  The political opinions of Mr. Morphonios do not represent those of Fathers 4 Justice.  Neither Mr. Morphonios nor F4J-US provide legal advice or assistance with individual cases.

Fathers seeking support or information, or other parties interested in becoming involved in the father’s rights movement may contact Mr. Morphonios at: jake.morphonios@nc.f4j.us


Please read the article below and share it with others to spread the word about the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of their children:

The Nuclear Option: False Child Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody Disputes.

Family Workshop for Alienated Children

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 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

How to deal with ‘toxic’ parents

Courts ill-equipped to handle parental alienation, leaving children at greater risk of emotional damage

The Toronto Star, Susan Pigg LIVING REPORTER, March 14, 2009

When Toronto lawyer Brian Ludmer speaks about the suffering caused by parental alienation, the words come from his head and his heart.

He’s seen the devastation of a mother’s orchestrated campaign to make her children hate their father, or how a dad can use a 4-year-old as a weapon against his mother in the ugly aftermath of divorce.

The team at Family Solutions, which helps families move past bitter and angry divorces: (from left) Barbara Fidler, Helen Radovanovic, Linda Chodos, Jan Schloss and Ted Horowitz.

Ludmer is, by training, a corporate lawyer. But he’s being “swamped” by desperate parents looking for help reconnecting with their children. “Experts in this field will tell you that they’ve never met a lawyer who understands this the way that I do,” says Ludmer.

That’s because he’s also lived it.

“Parental alienation is a plague. It’s rampant out there,” says Ludmer, 48, who declined to talk about his own case for fear of upsetting his children. “This stuff has been going on for a hundred years. It’s just that now it has a name.”

Later this month, Ludmer will address the first international conference on parental alienation in Toronto. He’ll join the growing chorus of parents, judges, lawyers, social workers and mental health professionals who believe the courts are ill-equipped to deal with “toxic” parents.

“Canada seems to be a hotbed of parental alienation court activity,” says Amy Baker, a New York-based researcher who’s written two books, one chronicling the emotional suffering that travels in parental alienation’s wake.

“I think there are some very brave judges who are willing to really think through the implications of alienation and really try to deal with it.

“The bottom line is that to turn a child against a parent is to turn a child against himself.”

Two months ago, a Toronto judge stripped a mother of custody of her three daughters after a decade-long campaign to keep the kids from their father. She was ordered to pick up the tab for a U.S. program aimed at helping the girls, ages 9 to 14, reconnect with their dad.

This week, an 18-year-old from Mississauga asked to be awarded custody of his two younger brothers caught up in a decade of family “warfare.” He also asked that parental alienation experts, such as psychologists Randy Rand and Richard Warshak, be forbidden from further contact with the boys. He called programs, such as their controversial Family Workshop for Alienated Children, “voodoo science.”

But there’s so much concern about the snail’s pace of the overloaded family court system and the lack of treatment facilities in Canada that Ludmer has been working with a group of professionals on plans for Toronto’s first Family Reunification Clinic. They hope to have the facility open within a year, offering treatment based on the work of Rand and Warshak.

“The most important part (of undoing alienation) is the after care,” says Ludmer, who’s handled more than 50 parental alienation cases in the last four years. “We don’t want to be bundling kids on a plane and sending them off to the United States. This will make it easier and less disruptive to get the whole family the help they need.”

The planned centre is sure to set off a storm of controversy among those who consider Warshak and Rand’s work cult-like “deprogramming” and question whether Parental Alienation Syndrome isn’t just an excuse for bad, or even abusive, parents.

“I think the therapy often does way more harm than any so-called parental alienation could do. It demoralizes kids, it makes them feel like they’re not being listened to and involved. It demeans them,” says Joyanna Silberg of the U.S.-based Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence, a group of health professionals.

“One of the reasons this is so controversial is because it’s become an industry – a money-making industry – where purveyors of these so-called therapies and evaluation procedures are using things that the scientific community doesn’t automatically accept, but know that judges are accepting in court to affect children’s lives in an extreme way.”

Veteran family court judge Harvey Brownstone sums up the growing debate best: “The jury is still out on the whole issue of parental alienation. When a child adamantly refuses to see a parent, it is not easy to know why. It could be they’re bored, or that they don’t like the parent’s new partner. The situation is usually layered and complex.”

If there is a growing certainty about one thing, it’s that these cases need to be dealt with quickly.

“Time is the enemy of the alienated parent,” says Baker, whose book Breaking the Ties that Bind, chronicles the difficult lives of 40 adults who were alienated as children. Since the books, she’s met hundreds of others, including one who went as far as plastic surgery to wipe out the shame of looking like his father. “These cases should be fast-tracked because alienating parents exploit the ability for the courts to delay things to their benefit. The more time they have with the kid, the more time that kid is going to resist reconciliation.”

Veteran family law lawyer Jeffery Wilson – who was involved in Ontario’s first court case around alienation in 1981 and is representing the Mississauga teen fighting for his brothers – believes it’s time for more drastic measures. It’s been estimated that some 60 per cent of litigants in “high-conflict” divorces suffer from personality disorders that can turn a discussion of “Who gets the kids for Christmas?” into a months-long power struggle marked by what Ludmer calls “bad messaging and bad-mouthing.”

Wilson is calling for a government-funded “High-Conflict Response Team” that could step in before these cases hit the courts. They would have the power to sort out complex disputes, impose binding judgments and get the kids – and their parents – counselling and treatment.

Family Solutions is a North York-based team of well-respected psychologists and social workers who started meeting five years ago to compare notes on difficult cases. Now they offer everything from mediation to intensive counselling in high-conflict divorces. They’ve seen a significant growth in parental alienation and have had some success with clients who’ve worked with Rand and Warshak.

“There’s a lot of work we still need to do,” acknowledges Linda Chodos, a social worker with Family Solutions. “We don’t yet have a lot of evidence-based research that shows what kind of intervention works best.”

Rand and Warshak are based in California and Texas respectively and, in the first phase of their workshop, meet the children and the alienated parent for “educational” sessions that can include simple outings where they start to get reacquainted. (Rand apparently travelled to meet the siblings of the 18-year-old in a Montreal hotel room, but their mother, who claims to have been alienated by the father, gave up a day later when they refused to participate in the four-day session.)

“It’s to give the child a break – a chance to catch his or her breath and to give them just a few days not to be torn between the two parents,” says Ted Horowitz, a veteran social worker with Family Solutions.

The alienator is brought in as part of the second part of the program, all of which is aimed at making them aware of the damage they are doing and the need to form a new partnership around parenting.

“There is no deprogramming and never has been,” says Jacqueline Vanbetlehem, a mental health therapist with Family Solutions. “You have to really look at the circumstances of the family before you even recommend such a program. Sometimes the court intervention is a relief to these children because they don’t have to choose (between parents) anymore.”

Warshak told the Ontario Bar Association’s annual meeting last month that 17 out of 21 children who have completed the “expensive” program have forged good relationships with the other parent that continue more than two years later. The results are currently undergoing peer review.

“One of the misperceptions around this is that it’s meant to shift allegiances from one parent to the other,” says Horowitz. “The idea is to balance the family – to pull them together. Both parents need to be part of the treatment, and the children need to see their parents working together.”

How to deal with ‘toxic’ parents – The Toronto Star 14MAR09.

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.