Without question, even during ideal circumstances, the break up of a marriage creates an overwhelming amount of stress. Children are a particular source of concern for divorcing parents who want to make sure that the children move on without any long-term emotional damage.
In attempting to co-parent, however, some parents become so wrapped up in their own anger they use the children as “pawns.” Even worse, at the most extreme, some disturbed and mentally unstable parents try to destroy and eliminate the relationship that previously existed between their children and their other spouse. This is known as the parental alienation syndrome (PAS).
Parental alienation is not new. But an increasing number of parents who feel displaced in relations to his or her children now turn to the courts for relief. Unfortunately, judges are often uncertain as to how to treat the situation where one parent seeks to make contact with the children difficult following an estrangement, separation, or an unusually unpleasant and vicious divorce.
Courts face pressure to keep the child or children with the person who has major control and who is usually the mother, (although PAS also affects some mothers denied contact with their children). On the whole, however, fathers are the more common victims of PAS. Judges face the problem of how to deal with the case where the alienating partner fails to co-operate with the courts in providing adequate access for the other partner.
Judges are often saved by the fact that fathers cease to play a part in their childrens’ lives. This is due to the resistance they meet from the former spouse, who has often formed a new relationship and wishes the new partner to take over the role of father. Thus, fathers who pursue both their right and their sense of responsibility through the courts are relatively few.
Judges are reluctant to punish, and most especially incarcerate, obdurate mothers who refuse to comply with a court’s decision that they must allow access with an estranged father. Courts often are reluctant to ignore the view expressed by children that they do not wish to meet their fathers, despite the fact that such children have been “intensively programmed” to respond in this way by mothers and the mother’s relations.
Despite such reservations, judges have a moral duty to provide justice for the alienated party.
Failure to carry out this distasteful, but necessary, action against the obdurate party would constitute a mockery of the judicial system.
Most experts believe that no exception can be made for failing to adhere to the ruling of a court. This means that justice must be done however painful it may be. The alienated parent may eventually gain access following a period of therapy between the psychologist and the child or children in question, to make them aware of what is happening. If the children are older, they themselves may well be able to put pressure on the alienating parent to see sense.
In connection with PAS many judges have, without always being aware, adopted a double standard. They see mothers who are alienators as “victims” to be protected even when they have committed what can only be described as a form of “emotional abuse.” They have abused their powerful position by influencing the young children and turning them against the other parent. They have usurped the role of the other parent or given it to yet another partner with whom they have become associated. In this way, they have, by destroying the right of the other parent, taken away that parent’s opportunity to contribute to the child’s welfare. This is at a time when we are seeking to promote the equality of the sexes. Partners should have equal power and responsibility toward their children.
Alienated parents, be they fathers or mothers, should be protected. Judges in cases of proven PAS should act as decisively as they would if judging a case of proven crime such as rape or murder. They must remove the child from the emotional damage being heaped upon it, to a safe place, where the non-alienating parent, with the help of therapy for the child, can have his influences felt by the child. At the same time, it is necessary to help the parent who has alienated the child in the first place. He or she has undoubtedly suffered from a considerable amount of pathological hostility towards the former partner.
By removing the child, or children, from the influence of the “brain-washing” alienator, the child has the opportunity of experiencing the dedication of the previously alienated parent and to develop a less biased view of that parent. Also the child can develop a positive view of both parents despite them being at war with each other.
This will do much to ensure for that child that both parents, although hostile towards one another, care and are devoted to him/her. This provides the child with a reasonable start in life, which he or she would not have had, had the influence of the alienator been allowed to continue along with a failure to have any contact with the alienated parent at the same time.
During high conflict divorce, relocation disputes, and parental alienation cases, forensic psychologists and therapists can provide expertise in social investigations and child custody evaluations, interaction studies, psychological evaluations, gate keeping assessments, relocation evaluations, individual therapy, therapeutic supervised visitation, and reunification therapy.