Canada's largest daily newspaper
Parental alienation syndrome leaves bruises deep inside
The Toronto Star, by Susan Pigg, 31 March 2009
In the end, it was one tiny voice that silenced anyone who still had doubts that parental alienation is real and one of the most insidious forms of child abuse.
The voice wasn't real - Dashiell Hart opened his arms wide and threw himself off a Vancouver bridge eight years ago at the age of 16.
But his voice was brought to life at a Toronto conference by his devastated mother, Pamela Richardson, who endured a 12-year court battle with her ex-husband to try to win back the heart and mind of her son.
Dash was just one tiny soldier in the growing army of children who are becoming collateral damage in bitter battles between ex-spouses that are overwhelming Canada's divorce courts, the first Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) heard recently in Toronto.
"Over 12 years I had four different sets of lawyers trying to convince the courts my son, who lived less than 10 minutes' drive from me, needed to see the mother who loved and raised him," Richardson told the conference.
"Maybe it's still believed that no parent would wound their child for their own selfish gain. Maybe people still believe that the loss of a parent is not that big a deal - parents get sick, have car accidents, get cancer, they die. But alienated parents aren't dead - and the children know it."
According to Richardson, it was her ex-husband, Peter Hart, a criminal lawyer, who began a concerted campaign to win sole custody of their then 6-year-old son and cut off all contact with his mother, physically and psychologically, shortly after the couple separated in 1989.
"With PAS children there are generally no outward or tangible signs of maltreatment," said Richardson, who later wrote a book called A Kidnapped Mind: A Mother's Heartbreaking Story of Parental Alienation Syndrome>/". "Instead of bruises, the wounds of PAS children are buried deep in their heart."
Hart was granted interim custody of Dash - Richardson blames that on his strong connections in the court system - while the couple sorted out their divorce.
Richardson had visitation rights, but increasingly Hart would claim that Dash was too busy with soccer, sleepovers or homework to see her. She was even asked to stop helping out at Dash's school.
To show her love, she would leave freshly baked cookies on Dash's front doorstep.
The year that Dash was 11, Richardson saw her son for just 24 hours. Every time she asked a judge to enforce her access time, Hart would accuse her of being obsessive and "trying to break up their happy home."
"There are transfers of time followed by transfers of power and children know enough to keep themselves safe," said Richardson.
"A shift takes place in the child's mind. This is the heartbreak of PAS: children are forced to choose between their parents because, in their mind, they've already lost one parent (to the divorce), and they're terrified of losing the other."
Dash went from being a happy, healthy 7-year-old to threatening to jump out the second-storey window of his school at the age of 9. At almost 12, he showed up at court in his father's clothes.
Judges are now starting to tackle PAS head-on, with an increasing willingness to switch custody to the alienated parent and order the children into treatment.
But back in the 1990s, most wouldn't even acknowledge it as a real issue, said Richardson.
After years of being told she was "idiotic," "uncaring" and even "dangerous," Dash grew into a teenager who lashed out constantly at his mother, who by now had remarried and had two young sons.
PAS "has everything to do with who has custody," she said. "It's a crime of calculation and opportunity. Arguing about whether or not PAS is a syndrome or a mental health disorder or abuse just ties everyone up in knots while real children and real families suffer this harm. A child's fundamental right to be loved by both his or her parents is destroyed by PAS."
And the effects are long-lasting, as parental alienation expert and researcher Amy Baker told the conference.
Her study of 40 adults who were alienated as children revealed lifelong battles with low self-esteem, alcoholism and drug abuse, as well as high divorce and suicide rates.
Parental alienation used to be known as "malicious mother syndrome." But it's become a more equal-opportunity form of emotional abuse of children over the last two decades, according to a new study of some 74 Canadian cases, which was released at the conference.
In 24 of the 74 high-conflict divorce cases examined by veteran Toronto family lawyer Gene Colman, men turned their kids against their mothers, while 50 of the cases involved women alienating the kids from their fathers.
Canada's family courts have tended to deal with contentious divorces by awarding sole custody to one parent, believing that joint custody is simply unworkable among ex-partners who are at war.
Many divorce experts, mental health professionals and child advocacy workers, some of whom spoke at the conference, have long argued that this approach encourages parental alienation by treating the children as prizes to be won or lost in bitter battle.
Colman said the study's results confirmed for him that Canada's divorce laws need to be amended to make "equal, shared parenting" the norm in all divorce cases, except when there are extenuating circumstances such as domestic violence, mental health or other issues that make one parent clearly unfit.
About The truth
"All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed, Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self-evident."
TV Show about Parental Alienation
W5 investigates: Children on the frontlines of divorce
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.
A Kidnapped Mind
What does Parental Alienation Syndrome mean? In my case, it meant losing a child. When Dash was 4 1/2 years old his father and I broke up. I dealt with the death of our marriage and moved on but Peter stayed angry, eventually turning it toward his own house, teaching our son, day by day, bit by bit, to reject me. Parental Alienation Syndrome typically means one parent's pathological hatred, the other's passivity and a child used as a weapon of war. When Dash's wonderful raw materials were taken and shaken and melted down, he was recast as a foot soldier in a war against me.
Divorced Parents Move, and Custody Gets Trickier
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.
Custody judges rule on vengeance
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 ..
Parenting: Baldwin Speaks Up
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.
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
The family Pandora's Box
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 ..
A GUIDE TO THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME
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 ..
Psychiatric disorder may have led boy to fatally shoot father
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.
THE CANADIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
L'ASSOCIATION DU BARREAU CANADIEN
Parental Alienation Syndrome: A 'Hidden' Facet of Custody Disputes
Parental Alienation - Myths, Realities & Uncertainties:
A Canadian Study,
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.
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
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." Read More ..
Journal of Psychosocial Nursing 1994
Parental Alienation Syndrome
A Developmental Analysis of a Vulnerable Population
The American family is changing, and divorce is no small part of the pattern. In the United States, there are nearly a million and a half divorces and annulments annually. It is estimated that 40% to 50% of adults will eventually divorce . Including the indirect effects on family and friends, the impact of divorce has ripple effects not only for those directly involved, but also for society and clinical nursing.
Many children involved in divorce and custody litigation undergo thought reform or mild brainwashing by their parents. This disturbing fact is a product of the nature of divorce and the disintegration of the spousal relationship in our culture. Inevitably, children receive subtly transmitted messages that both parents have serious criticisms of each other. Read More .. ..