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Family Wars: The Alienation of Children
(provided by Dr. Peggie Ward)
IV. RECOGNITION OF ALIENATING BEHAVIORS
A partnership of judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals is critical in the high conflict alienation uses. The judge has the power but is not as readily available to the parties. Lawyers are more available, but do not necessarily have a systems understanding. As advocates. they can easily become part of a divorce impasse system, aggravating an already inflamed system. Mental health professionals must have a systems understanding, and are more available but don't have the power of the court, nor the legal understanding of the attorney. A partnership is essential.
Attorneys must help their clients discern their long term interests as to their children, the meaning behind a custody battle (hurt, revenge, fears) and ensuing alienation. Attorneys must hold the knowledge that they may be the sanest, most objective voice in a divorce, and offer education about the importance of co-parenting and moving beyond the battleground. Attorneys must treat with caution and trepidation a client who sees a divorcing spouse as all bad and must avoid joining with the client in further escalating this belief. Attorneys must refer to a mental health professional, when necessary and appropriate, who is trained in family systems, and who will work for the best interest of the whole family. Attorneys must recognize when they have been enlisted as active parties in the polarization alienation conflict, and seek consultation so as not to further escalate the already inflamed process.
The courts must act decisively and explicitly in cases of high conflict divorce and alienation. The orders must be pragmatic and the grounds for decisions must be explained in terms that make it less likely that one party can claim a moral victory and the other feel the shame of defeat. The courts must use their knowledge and power to understand the family system, to recognize high conflict alienation cases, and to make appropriate, timely and specific referrals and recommendations. By recognizing alienation in its early form, prevention of future harm to the child and family may well be possible. Intervention, at any point along the continuum of harm is crucial to prevent further harm.
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