Parental alienation cases draining court resources
Study says such cases should be moved out of court system, handled by individual judges
The Globe and Mail, by KIRK MAKIN, JUSTICE REPORTER, May 13, 2009
An escalation in parental alienation allegations is draining valuable courtroom resources, a major study of 145 alienation cases between 1989-2008 concludes.
"Access problems and alienation cases - especially those which are more severe - take up a disproportionate amount of judicial time and energy," said the study, conducted by Queen's University law professor Nicholas Bala, a respected family law expert.
"One can ask whether the courts should even be trying to deal with these very challenging cases."
In an interview yesterday, Prof. Bala said that parental alienation cases should be streamlined out of the court system as rapidly as possible and given to individual judges to "case-manage," a system in which a single judge handles a case all the way through the courts.
He said this would allow the judges to learn their cases' nuances and press for resolution.
"The increase in court cases is dramatic, and they do take up a lot of court time," he said. "A family may appear in front of 10 different judges before they get to a trial, and each judge starts afresh. If you are dealing with people who are manipulative, they can drag it out."
"It is important for the justice system to take an early and firm response to alienation cases," his study concluded.
"Alienation cases can change over time from mild to more severe. Early intervention is more likely to be successful."
The study also urged the justice system to enforce access orders more vigorously for the sake of its own credibility.
It said that the relatively lax enforcement of access - an issue that primarily affects fathers - contrasts sharply with zero tolerance policies in domestic abuse cases and enhanced enforcement of child and spousal support orders.
The juxtaposition can convince fathers that the system is biased against them, Prof. Bala said.
"Just as feminists have some very important and valid criticisms of the family justice system, so do fathers' rights advocates," he said.
The study also took issue with the much-publicized concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome, arguing that it is neither a recognized syndrome nor a useful description of what is actually a complicated set of behaviours.
The study said proponents of PAS err in painting all alienation scenarios as negative.
In half of the cases where a judge had declined to make a finding of parental alienation, it said the child was "understandably estranged from the rejected parent due to abuse or poor parenting.
"The 'justifiably estranged' child rejects a parent due to experiences of abuse or neglect, or due to poor parenting that may be the result of drug abuse or mental health issues or a simple lack of warmth as a parent," the study said.
Prof. Bala concluded that the term "parental alienation" and the debate itself have been hijacked by two hopelessly polarized groups, fathers' rights activists and feminists, who each produce a simplistic narrative.
"Men's rights activists are claiming that it is becoming increasingly common for mothers to alienate children from their fathers as a way of seeking revenge for separation, and assert that courts are gender-biased against fathers in dealing with alienation," he said.
"Many feminists dismiss alienation as a claim fabricated by abusive fathers to maintain contact with children who are terrified of them, and control over the lives of their abused former partners."
Prof. Bala said that the notion of parental alienation syndrome, coined in 1987 by U.S. psychiatrist Richard Gardner, is falling steadily into disrepute.
"Although initially influential with mental health professionals and in the courts, Gardner's work was highly controversial," he said in the study.
"It is clear that some children are 'alienated' from their parents, but it does seem not appropriate to refer to this as a 'syndrome.'
Gardner's approach is now generally regarded as overly simplistic and biased against women."
TV Show about Parental Alienation
November 7, 2009
The world of divorce is scary for any child. But when a divorce becomes especially toxic, children can become the target of an unrelenting crusade by one parent to destroy the child's relationship with the other. Experts call it parental alienation.
The New York Times, New York city, U.S.A. August 8, 2004
Not too long ago, Jacqueline Scott Sheid was a pretty typical Upper East Side mother. Divorced and with a young daughter, she had quickly remarried, borne a son, and interrupted her career to stay home with the children while her husband, Xavier Sheid, worked on Wall Street.
Early last year, Mr. Sheid lost his job and saw his only career opportunity in California. But Ms. Sheid's ex-husband, who shares joint legal custody of their daughter, refused to allow the girl to move away. So Ms. Sheid has spent much of the last year using JetBlue to shuttle between her son and husband on the West Coast and her daughter (and ex) on the East.
The New York court system, which she hoped would help her family to resolve the problem, has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in fees for court-appointed experts, she said, and has helped to prolong the process by objecting to her choice of lawyers. Read More ..
Courts criticized for recognizing 'parental alienation'
March 27, 2009
Toronto -- The scope of the courts' reach into family affairs has long been contentious, but a recent trend in Canada's legal system has brought a new controversy that has some onlookers praising judges and others condemning them for accepting what they call "voodoo science."
More than ever before, Canada's judges are recognizing that some children of divorced and warring parents are not simply living an unfortunate predicament, but rather are victims of child abuse and suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome. Read More ..
May 7, 2007
Many celebrities would shrink from view after a PR nightmare like Alec Baldwin's leaked voice mail in which he calls his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, a "rude, thoughtless little pig." But Baldwin wants to use the media scrutiny to give exposure to parental alienation, the controversial "syndrome" caused by one parent's systematically damaging a child's relationship with the other parent. Read More ..
B.C. judge bars mother from seeing daughter
Court orders one-year ban after 'unfounded' abuse allegations made about teenager's father
THE CANADIAN PRESS
March 10, 2009
VANCOUVER - In a case of extreme parental alienation, a mother has been banned by a B.C. Supreme Court judge from seeing her teenage daughter for more than a year.
Because of the urgency of the matter, Justice Donna Martinson issued the terse, two-page ruling outlining 15 conditions the parents must follow, including that the mother, known only as Ms. A, not see her daughter until at least March 31, 2010.
The decision came after the mother alleged extreme emotional abuse by the father, which she claimed was putting the teenager's safety at risk.
"I am satisfied that Ms. A's allegations are unfounded," Martinson wrote.
"I am further satisfied that she has continued to undermine the relationship between M and her father and has acted in ways that are detrimental to M's psychological healing."
Names have been stripped from the court ruling to protect the girl's identity.
The judge has ordered that both the mother and maternal grandmother have no contact with the girl, which would be enforced by police if necessary.
PSYCHOLOGY: MIND GAMES
Some victims of parental alienation syndrome don't realize until adulthood that one parent turned them against the other
The Globe and Mail
March 24, 2009
After Joe Rabiega's parents divorced, when he was an adolescent, his father repeatedly told him his mother had abandoned him. The boy had to return any gifts that came from his mother's side of the family and, twice daily, he had to pledge his allegiance to his father.
"I was never allowed to have anything to do with her," he says from his home in Raleigh, N.C. "The consequences were dire if I did. He said I would have nobody."
Even though Mr. Rabiega, now 33, had witnessed ugly behaviour by his father toward his mother and knew his dad to be an erratic alcoholic, it wasn't until he sought counselling for personal problems in his early 20s that his past snapped into focus: He had been the victim of parental alienation syndrome - his father had systematically turned him against his mother.
The phenomenon, coined by psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner in 1985, has gained traction recently due to a number of recent high-profile divorce cases in Canada - not to mention the very public case of movie star Alec Baldwin, who accused his former wife, Kim Basinger, of parental alienation. Read More ..
WHAT IS IT?
The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the systematic denigration by one parent by the other with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent. The purpose of alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the non-custodial parent (NCP) The alienation usually extends to the NCP's family and friends as well. Though this document is written with the father in mind, it must be clear that there are many cases of PAS where the NCP is the mother, and PAS from the non-custodial mothers' viewpoint will be discussed later.
Dr. Richard Gardner in his book 'The Parental Alienation Syndrome' states (p. 74) "Many of these children proudly state that their decision to reject their fathers is their own.";
They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognise the importance of such involvement, yet such a mothers every act indicates otherwise.
Such children appreciate that, by stating the decision is their own, they assuage mother's guilt and protect her from criticism. Such professions of independent thinking are supported by the mother who will often praise these children for being the kind of people who have minds of their own and are forthright and brave enough to express overtly their opinions.
Frequently, such mothers will exhort their children to tell them the truth regarding whether or not they really want to see their fathers. The child will usually appreciate that "the truth" is the profession that they hate the father and do not want to see him ever again. They thereby provide that answer - couched as "the truth" - which will protect them from their mother's anger if they were to state what they really wanted to do, which is to see their fathers.
It is important for the reader to appreciate that after a period of programming the child may not know what is the truth any Read More ..d come to actually believe that the father deserves the vilification being directed against him. The end point of the brainwashing process has then been achieved. Read More ..
Rick James Lohstroh, a doctor at UTMB, was fatally shot this summer, apparently by his 10-year-old son.
ABC13 Eyewitness News, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Dec. 29, 2004
The 10-year-old Katy boy accused of murdering his father this summer is now the face of an unofficial psychiatric disorder that may have lead to his father's death.
Some psychiatrists call it Parental Alienation Syndrome and they say that's why the son killed Doctor Rick Lohstroh last summer. The syndrome is basically caused by a bitter parent who poisons a child against the other parent, usually in cases of divorce. Read More ...
THE CANADIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
L'ASSOCIATION DU BARREAU CANADIEN
May 12, 2009
By Nicholas Bala, Suzanne Hunt & Carrie McCarney
Faculty of Law
Kingston, ON Canada
Alienation cases have been receiving a great deal of public and professional attention in the past few months in Canada. As with so many issues in family law, there are two competing, gendered narratives offered to explain these cases. Men's rights activists claim that mothers alienate children from their fathers as a way of seeking revenge for separation, and argue that judges are gender-biased against fathers in these cases. Feminists tend to dismiss alienation as a fabrication of abusive fathers who are trying to force contact with children who are frightened of them and to control the lives of their abused former partners. While there is some validity to both of these narratives, each also has significant mythical elements. The reality of these cases is often highly complex, with both fathers and mothers bearing significant responsibility for the situation.
Two of the many findings are:
Mothers are twice as likely as fathers to alienate children from the other parent, but this reflects the fact that mothers are more likely to have custody or primary care of their children; in only 2 out of 89 cases was a parent with only access able to alienate a child from the other parent.
Fathers made more than three times as many unsubstantiated claims of parental alienation as mothers, but this too reflects the fact that claims of alienation (substantiated and unsubstantiated) are usually made by access parents, who are usually fathers. Read More ..