It has now been more than 20 years since child psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner, introduced the term of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Dr. Gardner defined PAS as a disorder that arises in divorce or child custody disputes, when one parent deliberately damages, or destroys the previously healthy and loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent. The main manifestation is the child’s own sudden or atypical campaign of denigration against the targeted parent without any justification.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is an evil, yet common and effective device for gaining custody of a child. Through systematic alienation, the alienating parent may slowly brainwash a child against the targeted parent. The alienating parent involved in these abusive behaviors usually gains misplaced and deleterious loyalty of the child.
The main problem with PAS is that the child actually participates in the denigrating of the alienated parent.
The main areas of denigration from the child are:
- The child supports and tries to protect the alienating parent.
- The child express the ideas of denigration of the target parent as his/her own idea.
- The child gives weak and absurd reasons for his/her anger towards the alienated parent.
- The child uses situations and scenarios that he/she could not have experienced
- The child uses foul and often atypical language and server behavior to denigrate the targeted parent.
- The child has no guilt over his/her cruelty towards the alienated parent and expresses hate for the parent.
Children who live in alienated family situations are usually unable to form healthy relationships with either parent.
Main areas of concern for these children impacted by Parental alienation are:
- Aggression and conduct disorder
- Disregard for social norms and authority, adjustment difficulties
- Emotional Distress, Anxiety, Depression, and Self Hate
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Poor reality testing and unreasonable cognitive operations
- Low self- esteem or inflated self-esteem, Pseudo- maturity
Children displaying some or all of these symptoms need professional and legal help. Parental Alienation Syndrome is sometimes recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and /or other family therapy professionals.
Your child desperately needs your help, no matter how bad the situation is. IT IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE UP YOUR PARENTAL RIGHTS! Contact an attorney and discuss your options on how to help your child and moving forward to solve this legal situation.
Are You An Alienated Parent With A Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Family Experience? What Can You Do?
There is nothing worse than a family torn apart by parents who are battling over child custody. Many of these cases are in serious litigation and often, these disputes will continue for years.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)? In the 1980’s, forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Richard A. Gardner noticed a large increase in a disorder where one parent will program or brainwash a child to alienate the other parent. He also found the child was self-creating contributions supporting the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent.
Dr. Gardner’s definition of PAS: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilifications of the target parents. (Gardner, the Parental Alienation Syndrome)
There is no pure PAS diagnosis if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent even though the other parent is trying to alienate the child.
Courts are generally more conservative in their judgment acknowledging PAS in high conflict cases. Even though Parental Alienation evidence may be overwhelming, often courts will enter judgments allowing the “parents to make joint decisions about the child’s welfare.” This will not ever happen between two alienated parents! In many situations it will take a dramatic or tragic situation to force the court to change primary custody. When the alienating parent becomes unstable mentally, the court will recognize that there is something “out of line” and will become more supportive of the targeted parent.
What are the Best ways for the Alienated Parent to Deal with the PAS issue?
Keep your “cool”. Never retaliate. Never act in anger since anger=unstable.
Never give up! You cannot let your child grow up in this environment of hate. The child is the victim of a situation that he/she never asked to be in.
Be “Proactive”! It is a terrible situation for the entire family, but work on seeking constructive action to solve the problem. Do not allow yourself to become a victim!
Always keep a journal of dates and times of major key events. Explain when the situation occurred and what happened specifically. Any Witnesses?
Always call and show to pick up the child even when you know he/she will not be there. Try to contact the police to have a record of the no-show event or take a witness to video the denial of possession. You do have an interest in your child, no matter what the alienating parent says.
When you do see the child, focus on enjoying your parent-child time together. Never talk badly about the other parent and do not let children overhear inappropriate conversation on the telephone.
Hire a skilled family lawyer who has experience in parental alienation syndrome issues. Do your homework on PAS and interview the lawyer on his experience and what your issues are. If you are not satisfied look again. This is your life and you are trying to save your child.
Be prepared to financially see this case to the end. Most of these case last for years. You cannot start and stop.
A forensic evaluator in PAS cases is usually an asset in showing that there is truly alienation occurring and recommend changing legal and primary custody to the alienated parent. An appropriate parenting plan included showing how well the child will be taken care of with the alienated parent, is advised.
Always pay your child support on time and never violate court orders. Never give the alienating parent reason to question your behavior.
Last but not least, to show that your parenting skills are superior, take a comprehensive parenting course to be able to show the court that you strive to be the best parent you can to the child, no matter what the alienating parent says.
Are you now going through or commencing a “High Conflict” Divorce with children where one Alienating Parent is encouraging or programming the child to reject the other parent without legitimate cause or justification. An alienating parent makes a child choose sides to bolster the alienators own parental identity and to undermine the target parent through denigration and interference with the child’s other parent relationship.
Parental Alienation is more common than thought in divorce situations and many alienation situations continue throughout the entire relationship with the target parent and the affected child.
A report from Fidler and Bala (2010) reported increased incidences and judicial findings in parental alienation and estimated signs of parental alienation in 11-15% of divorces with children. Psychiatrist, Dr. William Bernet, Professor at Vanderbilt University and advocate of parental alienation (Sept. 2013) “Almost every mental health professional who works with children of divorced parents acknowledges the PA (parental alienation) affects thousands of families and causes enormous pain and hardship”
What are the warning signs of “Parental Alienation Syndrome”? Beware when a child starts displaying accelerated signs of hatred and anger rejecting any relationship with the target parent. This is especially transparent when a normal relationship existed before the deviant behavior manifests.
Are you having these types of problems with your children? What are the basic symptoms of Parental Alienation(PA)? There are many versions but in our law practice, these are the most visible:
- Under the idea of just being honest, the alienating parent tells the child “the entire family situation” through their opinionated eyes causing the child to think less of the target parent. Placing singular blame for who caused the breakup of the family?
- Alienating Parent refuses to allow the target parent access to school records/activities, medical/doctor records/appointments, extracurricular activities, or anything that would be a shared part of the child/parent life together.
- An Alienating Parent makes demands on the target parent that are contrary to court orders. Allows the child to make choices about parental visits with the target parent contra to existing court orders causing the child to resent the target parent when the changes request cannot or should not happen.
- Alienated parent may schedule the child in too many activities to assure no time is left for the target parent to visit with the child. Both parents need to be flexible with visitation to respond to the child’s need to have a relationship with both parents.
- A parent listens in on the child’s conversation with the target parent or does not allow the child to talk with the target parent at the designed call time.
- Refuses to allow children to takes their possessions to the target parent residence.
- Alienated parent blames the target parent for financial problems, having a boy/girlfriend, or causing changes in the family lifestyle. Forcing adult issues on a minor to gain advantage.
- When the child shows constant anger towards the target parent that accelerates to the point where the child avoids being with the target parent. No justified or demonstrative reason is given or exists for the anger and the child will not discuss the issue.
- The alienating parent will use the child to spy and gather information against the target parent. This can cause the child to demean and fear the target parent while scaring the child’s self-image.
- Alienating parent asks the child about the other parent’s personal life causing the child extreme stress/tension. A child not alienated wants to loyal to both parents.
- Alienating parents have secret codes, signals, and words that reinforce very destructive on-going alienation.
In today’s world Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is now taken very serious in family law courts. Please review the symptoms of parental alienation and see if there are common elements in your relationship with your child to determine if parental alienation may be a factor.
If so, take action to help alleviate this this situation with your child. Contact a medical professional who can help address this form of brainwashing. The alienating parent always feels like they are helping the child, but in reality, by pushing the child into their way of thinking about the target parent, they are pushing the child into a life of low self- esteem, depression, lack of trust, and self- hate. Many times the child will turn on the alienating parent when the real family picture comes out or as they grow and mature.
Nothing is ever gained by demeaning actions by one family member on all other members of the family unit. Many times it may also be necessary to contact a legal profession who is knowledgeable in Parental Alienation situations to legally intercede and help correct family issues before the child and parent regress to a non- existent relationship with each other.
Getting Even by using a child is never fair play. The child has two parents and should be able to have a loving relationship with both.
A regrettable truth in family law often finds one parent unilaterally removing a child from the other parent while dissolving a marriage without any grounds or evidence of wrongdoing. Not surprisingly, disturbing numbers of children are routinely separated from loving, responsible parents for reasons that have nothing to do with their wishes, safety, health, or welfare and many times have to do with a lack of proper legal counsel.
In 50% of the marriages that end in divorce, 80% of these are over the objection of one spouse (close to 100% when children are involved). I am sure you have heard about “custody battles,” but you probably do not know that many start out with one parent taking a child from the other and refusing visitation until a court orders possession sometimes months down the line. You have heard about the witch hunt for “deadbeat dads,” but did you know that many of these fathers are well educated men who have lost their jobs due to a downtrodden economy and still love their children and want to play a leading role in their lives and upbringing. You have heard the hysteria over “child abuse,” but did you know that many accusations against fathers are shown to be false and used by one parent as a weapon to alienate the children from the other parent.
David Popenoe in his book “Life Without Father” tells us that negative consequences of fatherlessness are all around us. Evidence indicating damage to children growing up in fatherless homes has accumulated in near tidal-wave proportions. Fatherless children experience significantly more physical, emotional, and behavioral problems than do children growing up in intact families.
Children from fatherless homes 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 state-operated institution
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
(Information from Mark Hall, Father’s Manifesto).
In “My Rewar, My Punishment…My Son, Sons of Divorce,” Steven Manchester describes the situation many dads are dealing with when exercising visitation:
“I’d take my son for our court-ordered visits, only to drop him off two hours later, so another man could bounce him off his lap. Ironically, each new boyfriend was given all the time he wanted with my son. At first, it killed me, but I decided, “Whatever’s best for my boy. His happiness must come first!” Though it stung terribly, that attitude sustained me all the way to Christmas.
I waited in my old driveway for 4 excruciating hours, while three inches of snow muffled the screams from the cab of my truck. When they finally pulled in, my ex-wife snickered, “I must have lost track of time?” and handed over my son. I was livid! My boy was dead tired and half-asleep. And the EX…well…she just grinned, confident that there was nothing I could do about it. It took everything I had left to conceal my tears. I didn’t plan to give her anything for Christmas and was doing my best to stick to the plan.”
It is a sad scenario.
In divorce court, many fathers are left feeling that everything they have done, years of hard work, years of tender love, years of unstinting devotion to their family and children count as nothing.
In the 1960’s women fought hard to get laws passed to protect them against family violence, stalking and sexual harassment. The shame is that women of the 1990’s now use these same needed and appropriate laws wrongfully to their advantage and feel justified in punishing their spouse for wrongs they feel have been done to them by misusing the legal system; and in the process erase fathers from the lives of their children!
The facts are that many times the courtroom becomes a legal battleground. Inadequate counsel or absence of counsel can result in decisions that negatively affect children and the family for years to come.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the rejected parent. In most cases, the purpose of the alienation is to gain custody of the child and exclude involvement by the rejected parent. In other cases the alienator wants the rejected parent out of the way to start a new life, or the aligned parent wants more of the marital money and assets than he/she is entitled to and uses the child as a pawn. The aligned parent hates the rejected parent and the children become false weapons. These are just a few reasons Parental Alienation occurs in domestic disputes.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is common because it is an effective though devious device for gaining custody of a child. Through systematic alienation, one parent may slowly brainwash a child against the other parent. The parent involved in such alienation behavior then may gain the misplaced loyalty of the child.
In a recent survey, one in five parents stated that their primary objective during the divorce was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for the former spouse; despite the effects such attitudes and behavior have on the children.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of emotional child abuse. Parents in hostile separations may suffer depression, anger and anxiety or aggression. The expression of these feelings results in withdrawing of love and communication which may extend to the children through the alienating parent. When the mother is the alienator, it is a mechanism employed to stop the father from having contact with his children; and can be described as the mother holding the children “hostages.” The children usually are afraid of the mother, frequently identify with the aggressor, and obey her as a means of survival. The child may also be instilled with false memories of the father, coached and/or brainwashed.
Studies show that Parental Alienation is experienced equally by both sexes. Adolescents (ages 9-15) are usually more affect than younger children. Children most affected tend to be those subjected to parents’ highly conflicted divorces or custody battles. A study by Fidler and Bala (2010) show increasing incidences and increased judicial findings of parent alienation in the US. 11-15% of all divorces involving children include parental alienation issues.
If the parental alienation has been successful and has influenced the child against the target parent, the observer will see symptoms of parental alienation syndrome. Many children appear healthy until asked about the target parent.
Warning signs of a Parental Alienation Syndrome Child:
- The child is a “parrot” of the aligned parent with the same delusional, irrational beliefs and consistently sides with this parent. Denys suggestions that their hatred for rejected parent is based on views and behavior of aligned parent.
- Idealization of aligned parent and wants to constantly be in the aligned parent presence.
- The child develops serious hatred for the rejected parent and rejects a relationship with the rejected parent without any legitimate justification. The child sees nothing “good” about the rejected parent and only wants to destroy the relationship.
- The child refuses to visit or spend time with the rejected parent, frequently faking fear.
- The child’s reasons for not wanting a relationship with the rejected parent are primarily based on what the aligned parent tells the child. Accusation against rejected parent too adult-like for the child’s age.
- The child feels no guilt about his/her behavior toward the rejected parent and will not forgive past indiscretions.
- The child’s hatred extends to the rejected parent’s extended family, friends, partner, or Idealization of aligned parent aligned parent without any guilt or remorse.
- Ignores/rejects the rejected parent in the presence of the aligned parent.
- Children who live in alienated family situations are usually unable to form healthy relationship with either parent. Some of the areas of concern for children impacted by parental alienation are:
- Emotion Distress, Anxiety, Depression, and Self Hate
- Poor reality testing and unreasonable cognitive operations
- Low self-esteem or inflated self-esteem, Pseudo-maturity
- Aggression and conduct disorder
- Disregard for social norms and authority, adjustment difficulties
- Lack of remorse or guilt
Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and in most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and/or other professionals. Anyone claiming Parental Alienation Syndrome should look for family therapy as a constructive way forward. Other forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect which are much easier to identify.
Children having some of these symptoms need help. Please contact an attorney and discuss your options on how to help this child. Formulate a plan to move forward. Do not give up your parental rights! Your child desperately needs and is entitled to your help!