For persons who work in the field of divorce and child custody the phenomenon of Parental Alienation Syndrome, the term first introduced by Richard Gardner M.D., is in my opinion very real and frequently seen, especially during child custody cases. I do not believe there is a gender bias with this phenomenon and have seen it about equally from fathers and mothers. Although, there are critics who say that parental alienation does not exist, when you see it first hand in it’s full form then it leaves little doubt that it is very real.
If all of a sudden your child says you’re “mean” and gives some trivial reason for his/her belief then I would be suspicious of parental alienation. If your child starts calling you by your first name when they used to call you mom or dad, or grandma or granddad then you may very well have a case of parental alienation going on. Parental alienation can happen to grandparents too. Not only is this difficult for the target of the alienation but in reality, it’s hard on the child. Some professionals compare parental alienation tactics to child abuse.
Evidence is gathered in several different ways from accurately recording the other parties behavior to what the child may tell a professional. A method of “Strategic Email’s” can also induce the other party to provide you with the evidence that points to parental alienation.
The prevailing view with regards to extreme cases of parental alienation is that the child should be removed from the offending parent’s home and placed in the non-custodial parent’s home. The ultimate of parental alienation is parental abduction which most professionals concur is in fact child abuse.
In milder cases of parental alienation, the judge may require the child and parents to undergo counseling. However, this can be a long and drawn out process with dubious results. It’s important to select a skilled therapist who has experience in divorce and child custody – you probably want to see a solo practitioner and not a therapist connected with a high volume HMO clinic setting. There is a rather short list of therapists who specialize in divorce issues and are fine with going to court to give an opinion. If you happen to be shopping for a therapist, you will quickly find that many therapists will refuse to deal with divorce and child custody cases. Some therapist will even insist that you sign a form agreeing not to subpoena them to court. If you should run into a therapist like this then find another therapist. Most family law attorneys are familiar with the therapists that specialize in this area but if you get stuck, I’ll be happy to give you a few names.
However, not every case which involves allegations of parental alienation is truly parental alienation. Sometimes the child may have real and legitimate reasons for not wanting to see an offending parent. Many times this is seen in parents who have been emotionally abusive or physically or sexually abusive to a child. In those kind of cases, the child’s desire not to see the offending parent may be real and not a direct result of conscious acts by the other parent and would not be considered parental alienation.
What is sometimes difficult to ascertain is when there is a combination of both, the child having some legitimate reasons to be angry with one parent and the other parent overly supporting the child’s cause for their anger against the offending parent. It’s like you can’t ever get out of the doghouse with either your child or your ex-spouse to make things better.
Next to the Court terminating your rights as a parent this is the next most common way to lose your children – maybe not legally but emotionally! Children who have gone through Parental Alienation are sad to see as a family law professional and most have rather obvious traits that they have been worked on by a vengeful parent. Usually finding a good therapist or counselor is your only solution in combination with the Court’s help to hold the offending parent responsible for their actions.
Of course, a private investigator can help provide the Court evidence when needed. Divorced parents must always consider how their words or actions will affect the child’s relationship with the other parent. Remember, statistically, children who do the best after a divorce depends on how well their parents get along post divorce.