How to Defend Against Parental Alienation
Accusations of parental alienation against a protective
mother are very difficult to defend against. Why? Because the
syndrome was designed to be a Catch-22--a no-win nightmare. Simple
and logical actions such as hiring an attorney or using a therapist are
deemed to be evidence of parental alienation according to Richard
Gardner's self-promoting theories.
Awareness of this abuser's defense tactic is essential for
protective moms. Do not be fooled just because the term "syndrome"
is not used to label you. If you are being labeled in any way as an
"alienator/alienating", "not supportive of the father's relationship with
the children", etc. it is all the same animal. Further, be wary of
words used to label your child, "estranged", "alienated",
"oppositional/defiant", etc. If the estrangement and alienated
condition is correctly applied due to abusive, neglectful or absentee
actions of the father, this is appropriate. But if the father is a
poor parent and caused the deterioration of his relationship with the
child, yet you, the mother are being offered up as the scapegoat,
There are some simple steps that can be taken to minimize
some of these allegations during custody litigation without jeopardizing
safety: These suggestions are not meant to imply that you should
deny evidence of poor parenting, neglect, or abuse. These are
strategies for custody litigation--to help you maintain custody of your
child when dealing with untrained court personnel who do not understand
domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, or simply elevate a father's
rights of access, custody and visitation over the mother and child's
rights to safety.
-- Do not hand opposing counsel your head on a platter
by actually bad-mouthing the father in front of the children or directly
to the children. Keep your thoughts to yourself during custody
litigation. Kids are smart. They will eventually figure out
what kind of a parent your former husband/partner is. Set a good
example and teach them non-violent, respectful ways of treating others and
resolving conflict. They know more than you might think they do.
-- Maintain a few photographs of your former mate,
preferably in photographs with the children within your home until the
litigation is over.
-- Never refer to the children as "my children".
Although this is a natural, first-person way of speaking, some court
personnel have construed it to be a unconscious sign of feelings of
ownership and unwillingness to share custody or acknowledge the father's
role. Use the term "our child/children". Refer to the father
by his name when possible.
-- Provide the father copies of school records:
newsletters, progress reports, report cards, maybe even some work samples
or artwork done by the child.
-- List the father on school enrollment records.
-- Advise the father of medical and therapeutic
appointments and treatment plans.
-- Encourage the children to acknowledge their father
on special occasions.
-- Maintain relationships with the father's extended
family, i.e. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins if safe and
possible. Caution: do not discuss the case with them.
- Provide the father information on the
child's/children's extracurricular activities
-- Learn tactful and non-inflammatory ways of
presenting the facts of the father's poor parenting to court personnel
-- Learn to support the father's role in your child's
life in a way palatable to you and that you can relate to court
personnel. This is difficult if the father is dangerous to you or
the child. Realize that your child will carry some of your former
mate's genetic material: appearance, personality characteristics,
mannerisms, etc. In order for your child to love themselves, they can not
hate those traits that are a non-severable part of them, and it is
important that they know their father. This is not to say that they
need to have frequent, unsupervised contact, or any contact at all if the
visits are harmful to them. But you must work within the
framework of the legal system. Remember, the ultimate long-term goal
is to retain primary custody of your children.
-- Teach your children to think for themselves, tell the
truth and follow their conscience.
Must-Read Links on PA/PAS:
Alienation Syndrome and Alienated Children -- Getting it Wrong in Child
Custody Cases - Professor Carol Bruch
Resources for Mothers Who are Charged With Junk
Other-Than-Gardner Versions of "Parental Alienation
Friendly Parent Provisions
Parental Alienation Syndrome Frye & Gardner in the
Family Courts - Jerome H. Poliacoff,
Ph.D., P.A., Cynthia L. Greene,
Esq., and Laura Smith, Esq
Casualties of a Custody War
American Prosecutor's Research Institute -
"PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the
integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused
children. Prosecutors should educate themselves about PAS and be prepared
to argue against its admission in court. In cases where PAS testimony is
admitted, it is a prosecutorís responsibility to educate the judge and
jury about the shortfalls of this theory. As more criminal courts refuse
to admit PAS evidence, more protection will be afforded to victims of
sexual abuse in our court system. "
Malpractice & Licensing Pitfalls for Therapists: A Defense
Attorney's List - Use of Inappropriate Syndrome Testimony:
"The PAS label "has lived a lot longer
than the data that supports
it". "I expect people to come up with crackpot theories. But
then I expect scientists to do their jobs." Alan Scheflin, professor at Santa Clara University Law
Editor's note: Some moms and their advocates have
expressed the need to read father's rights materials on PAS. We have
made a policy decision not to post any links to such information on this
website. It is not surprising that you can type this topic into any
search engine and find hundreds of father's rights sites promoting PAS as
a legal defense or strategy for fathers in custody litigation. It is
our position that if we were to link to father's rights sites promoting
PAS, we would lend credence to those sources and enable them to advertise
their products. We do not endorse in any way purchasing their
materials. If you are curious or think it will help your
understanding of the issues, we hope you will use you local library or the
Internet to do so instead of furthering the father's rights agenda with
your families income.
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