When I first got married, I didn’t realize there was a 50 percent chance my marriage would end in divorce. During our marriage, we had a son, and once again, I didn’t realize there was a one in six chance that my divorce would turn out to be “high conflict” and that my son would be used by an angry and vindictive ex to avenge the loss. failure of our marriage. Over the years since my divorce, the mother’s behavior has only intensified. Eventually, I came to learn the meaning of terms like Parental Alienation (PA), Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), and Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP), and experienced how easily the family court system can be manipulated by false accusations.
In 1985, Dr. Richard Garner, a forensic psychiatrist, introduced the concept of PAS in an article, “Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation,” in which he defined PAS as “a disorder that arises primarily in the context of custody of the children”. disputes. The main manifestation of it is the campaign to denigrate the child against one of the parents, a campaign that has no justification. It is the result of the combination of programming (brainwashing) by the other parent and the child’s own contributions to the defamation of the targeted parent.” Several years later, Ira Daniel Turkat presented “Malicious Mother Syndrome Related to divorce”. The behaviors associated with both syndromes are relatively similar and encompass aggressive and hostile parenting behavior in an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent. However, the latter focuses on the behavior of the mother, whereas PAS it can be related to both the mother and the father.At present, PA or PAS are the common terms used to define the practice of trying to alienate a child or children from one of their parents, regardless of gender.
The official statement from the American Psychological Association (APA) on PAS notes “the lack of data to support the so-called parental alienation syndrome and raises concern about the use of the term.” However, the APA states that it “has no official position on the alleged syndrome.” Advocates against PAS believe it to be a form of child psychological abuse, and the APA’s refusal to address PAS leaves “target parents” without the necessary resources to combat the problem. At the same time, there are those who dismiss the validity of PAS and believe that abusive parents use it as an excuse during custody challenges to explain “their child(ren)’s animosity toward them.” In certain cases, that may very well be true.
In their article, “Parental Alienation Redefined: What is the Difference Between Parental Alienation (PA) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?” Focusing on behavior, Dr. Douglas Darnall defines “parental alienation (PA), rather than PAS, as any constellation of behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, that could cause a disturbance in the relationship between a child and the other parent.” Simply put, PA is teaching the child to hate the other parent, leading to the parent’s estrangement. By focusing on behavior, Dr. Darnall presents a more pragmatic approach to the acceptance of PA by attorneys, therapists, and family courts.
The tactics or tools that parents use to alienate a child range from simply bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the child; encourage others to do the same, until the child is bombarded with negative comments every day; to reporting allegations of abuse or neglect to child protective services or family court. This behavior is known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting. One tactic that author John T. Steinbeck describes in Brainwashing Children is that some “hostile remarried parents will have the child or children call the stepparent, ‘Daddy,’ as a technique used to devalue the biological parent.” Parental Alienation Syndrome is a condition. Hostile aggressive parenting is the behavior.
Hostile and aggressive parents cannot go on. They are stuck in the past and focused on avenging the failure of their marriage and the control they had during the marriage. They manipulate the family court and child protection services in an attempt to maintain control over their ex-spouse. They do not accept responsibility for their actions, blame everyone and place themselves above the child’s self-interest. Therapist turned family law attorney Bill Eddy notes in his article “Personality Disorders and False Allegations in Family Court” that there is a “prevalence of personality disorders in high-conflict divorce and custody cases in which false allegations.” The most prevalent of these is Borderline Personality Disorder, followed by Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. This explains the lack of empathy towards the child’s emotional state and the ability to manipulate family courts and child protective services so easily. Parents with antisocial personality disorders will play the “victim.” They are experts at manipulating and lying because they actually believe their lies to justify what they are doing.
Not all children can be taught to hate. Some have a very strong bond with parents. Steinbeck also notes that, in certain cases, the “alienating parent feels that the other parent has a strong and highly functional relationship with the child or children and is unreasonably concerned that this positive relationship will somehow affect their relationship with the child.” . A child who is old enough to decide who she wants to live with may result in a reversal of financial obligations, as the noncustodial parent is obligated to pay child support and provide medical coverage for the child. HAP may simply be financially motivated. Regardless of the motives, attempting to take a child away from one of her parents using aggressive hostile parenting or parental alienation tactics is child psychological abuse.
It is much easier to alienate a child when the child is separated from the parent. False accusations in family court of abuse or neglect will severely limit the relationship between the parent and child and the limited amount of time spent under supervision. The Standard Divorce Decree has already reduced the non-custodial parent to a visitor in the life of the child or children through a visiting schedule of the first, third and fifth weekend of the month. The father is now limited to a “supervised” visitation schedule of three to four hours per month. Supervised visitation programs are just as easily manipulated as family courts, for example, parents simply need to call at the last minute to seek rescheduling.
The family court will always side with the accusations and the court moves very slowly. Depending on the skill of an attorney, this period of separation could last for months. This gives the “target parent” additional time to teach the child to hate the “target parent,” as well as depleting the “target parent’s” financial resources.
A lawyer once told me that “the only place people lie more than in family court is in a bar.” The family court is plagued with false accusations simply because they are such an effective tool for quickly breaking up the relationship between parents and children. Family courts do not process false claims, which is why false claims have proliferated. The accusations do not need to be specific. Some attorneys advise clients to keep allegations vague so as not to risk involving investigative agencies such as child protective services, as their reports carry a lot of weight in court. A charge in family court can be as vague as “The father is a danger to the child.” This is enough for the family court to order the suspension or supervision of visitation, but not specific enough to involve child protective services.
Family court is a guilty by accusation system. Once accused, it is the responsibility of the accused to prove that the accusations are false. The accused parent will most likely be ordered by the court to have supervised visitation with the child or children, as well as complete a psychological evaluation and meet with mediators and parent coordinators, all at personal expense. He or she may also pay for a forensic investigation, also known as a Social Study Assessment, to prove the allegations are false. The accused parent will spend thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands, of dollars to prove the accusations false and, in the end, will find themselves financially and psychologically drained. An accused parent may lose a relationship with the child or children simply because he ran out of money to continue fighting. Unfortunately, this also results in a child losing a loving parent. David Levy, co-founder of Children’s Rights Counsel and author of The Best Parent is Both Parents, stated, “President Obama talks a lot about absentee parents who need to take responsibility. (But) he may not realize there are millions of parents who want to participate (in their children’s lives)”. Fighting for the “child’s right to both parents” is a costly battle, both financially and psychologically. Many parents simply lose because they ran out of money.
The solution is to define “in the best interest of the child” as “the child’s right to both parents” and then protect that right. Stop ignoring false accusations. Understandably, complaints need to be investigated; however, if it is proven to be false, the parent who made the false accusations should be prosecuted. Order that parent to complete a psychological evaluation. Step in to protect the child when you hear your friend or relative make negative comments about the child’s father or any other aggressive and hostile parenting behavior. Let the child know that both parents love him. Encourage those hostile parents to seek therapy to find closure and stop using the child for “revenge.” One thing is certain: when a parent tries to separate a child from another parent simply to avenge a failed marriage, the child suffers emotional pain. Because this pain was caused on purpose, it is child psychological abuse. If he engages in or allows hostile and aggressive parenting behavior in an attempt to alienate a child from one of his parents, he is committing child psychological abuse. Stand up and protect the child’s right to both parents.