by Stan Hayward, Research Officer, Families Need Fathers, UK, November, 1999
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.
NOTE ON TERMS
Though this paper assumes that mothers have control of the children and that fathers are the ones seeking contact, this assumption is made for the purpose of outlining the problem. This situation is true for most cases. But where fathers gain custody, they may also, and quite commonly alienate the children against the mother. There are cases of Guardians who will alienate children against the parent. I am aware of cases where the mother's own mother (the grandmother) gained custody of the child, another case of the mothers sister gaining custody of the child, and these children were alienated against the mother. I am also aware of a mother alienating her children against her own family, and a cases a child alienating her siblings against the father.
HOW COMMON IS IT?
It is common to hostile separations, and most non-custodial parents will have some experience of it. There are cases where children as young as two year old 'claim' not to want to see their father again, and cases where all children of one family will all decide that they do not wish to see their father again. It comes up to some degree in virtually every case where the father is attempting to get or extend contact, and most court appeals will include aspects of PAS being a factor in the stopping or disruption of access.
WHY IS IT SO COMMON?
It is a very effective legal device for the custodial parent to get rid of the other parent. There are two reasons for this. First the Children Act of 1989 took Read More ..nsideration of 'the child's wishes'. That is, the child could state whether he or she wished to see the 'absent' parent. Oddly enough, though the Family court accepts the statements of such children, should that same child commit a crime, its statements would not be considered to be trustworthy as 'the child would be considered too young to appreciate the truth'.
Secondly, the Child Support Agency (CSA) separated the issues of court orders for maintenance and contact. Prior to the CSA the court issued orders for both Contact and Maintenance. Parents who defaulted on maintenance or contact were in contempt of court, but rarely was anything done about it. The CSA separated maintenance from contact. This allowed fathers defaulting on maintenance to be punished, but ignored mothers defaulting on contact. Whereas before, an illegal, but practical approach for some fathers, was to say, "No contact, then no maintenance". This was no longer an option for him as the mother would get maintenance anyway. She could stop contact claiming she was not stopping contact, but that the children no longer wished to see the father. Family courts generally accept this.
Parental Alienation offered this loophole in the law that has been commonly exploited.
For the mother to state 'The children do not wish to see the father' is not in itself sufficient for the court to stop contact. Evidence of the child's wishes must be confirmed by a Court Welfare Officer (CWO). A CWO will interview the child and report that the child has confirmed that it does not wish to see the father. The 'child's wishes' will then be taken into consideration and the court will usually stop the fathers contact. The mother will be in the clear. The CWO will have reported the matter accurately, and the court will respond accordingly. The father will have lost contact, probably for several years until the child is old enough to become independent of the mother. Interviews with adults who have been through this experience as children make the common statement that 'they did not know how to cope with the situation, so avoided the father rather than hated him'.
The father has another disadvantage in that the majority of those involved in child welfare tend to be women. These include the Family Court magistrates, CWO's, Court Clerks, Social Workers, Teachers in lower schools, etc. In general they will identify with the mother. Also, family problems are more likely to be covered in the media by women journalists/reporters, and subjects of women abusing children are not likely to get the most coverage. This falls under the 'Feminists against Fathers' category. On the other hand women carry out most studies on Family Policies, and their work has made major contributions to bringing the plight of fathers to the public.
Parental Alienation also effects the fathers' family. The defining characteristic of PAS is that the mother will alienate the child against everyone the father has close contact with, including his family, friends, and regular acquaintances. This is different from situations where the father has abused the child in some way and the child actually does hate the father. In those cases the mother will often seek the help and support of the fathers friends and relatives.
WHY DON'T CWO'S RECOGNISE THE SITUATION?
They do, but the Court Welfare Service is not ideally suited to deal with the problem. The problems with the Court Welfare Service include the following:
Though the CWO can advise family therapy, this would be costly, and with several thousand cases a week, would be impractical to implement. Courts are very reluctant to take this path even though it often offers the best route for resolving conflict.
Though there is an 'Official complaints procedure' in the Court Welfare Service, this is not for parents to complain, but for the service itself. A CWO who does not carry out his or her duties properly may be reprimanded, but carrying out duties does not involve knowing the law, child psychology, or even showing bias. Though the Home Office, which supposedly is in charge of the Probation Service, the local authorities of the Family Court Welfare Service are responsible for the services. A study published some years ago in a Law Journal suggested that there was no evidence that the Family Court Welfare Service provided any support for families, or served any real useful purpose that could not be done better, quicker, and cheaper by other ways.
It should also be clearly understood that the Governments concern about broken families is that the cost of supporting single-mothers is the largest part of welfare payments. It is not that children are deprived of a parent or that parents family, even though this leads to the vicious circle of other social problems that the taxpayer has to pay for.
The Court Welfare Service does have various Unions, but these are mainly concerned with the welfare of its members rather than the duties they perform. When asked if they recognised PAS, NAPO (National Association of Probation Offers) spokeswoman stated "NAPO has no policy on PAS" meaning that though recognised, there is no clear cut action to be taken. Yet in spite of this, the CW service has several synonyms for parental alienation including coaching, programming, prejudicing, rehearsing, and other categories of brainwashing.
In general, CWO's do not have the time, the experience, or resources to do what needs to be done. They should interview the child out of the vicinity of both parents, and in the company of each parent separately. Though they are authorised to do this they rarely choose to do so. A common complaint of FNF members is that the CWO's interviews are not carried out with the intent of getting the facts, but merely to go through the motions with the intent of getting the result the CWO chooses rather than as information for the court to decide upon.
IS PARENTAL ALIENATION OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED?
There are two distinct aspects of PAS, Medical and Legal.
A problem in defining the Parental Alienation Syndrome is the word 'Syndrome'. It means 'A characteristic pattern or group of symptoms'. Medically this usually requires a distinctive pattern of behaviour in the patient. But in this case the behaviour is in the mother and the effects of her behaviour are in the child.
The mothers' behaviour pattern is typically to systematically cut off all communications between the child and the father, and anyone the father is close to. The mother will also attempt to stop anyone she is close to having contact with the father. Typically this includes her relatives and friends. If someone she is close to continues to relate to the father, the mother will exclude that person from her life.
The child's behaviour is to withdraw from the situation. Typically they will become very quiet, and may suffer educationally. This varies from child to child. Some become behaviourally disturbed. The trauma may not show at home simply because the mother will try and compensate for the loss of the father, or act in such a way that the child clearly understands that the father must not be mentioned. But teachers will notice a difference in the child's behaviour, and this may show up in the school report. CWO's rarely, if ever, check with the school, ask to see the school report, or get the child's teachers opinion.
Having alienated the child, the mother will then deny that she has had any influence on the child, though she will refuse to have contact with the father and his group. It makes it difficult to define PAS as a 'Syndrome' and in consequence the term 'Parental Alienation Syndrome' is recognised as a behaviour pattern but not accepted as a 'disease' in the ICD 10 (International Catalogue of Diseases vol. 10) the guide for medical practitioners. The most common argument by the authorities is that PAS is not in the ICD. Though this is irrelevant in recognising the behaviour, it does give the authorities a legal loophole.
This lack of definition of PAS as a 'disease' effectively gives the authorities a let out. By stating it is not recognised as a disease means that it cannot be recognised as a syndrome in the defined sense of the word. In spite of this, Stalking has been made a crime on the basis of being a form of emotional harassment (abuse), and 'Incitement to hatred' is also a crime if the incitement is against a person because of colour or creed. In spite of this, all the authorities dealing with 'Family Business' accept that the hostile situation common to divorce and separation leads to the children being deprived of a parent, and this in turn adversely affects the child.
The trauma of PAS Parents in hostile separations suffer depression, frustration, anger, and aggression. The expression of these feelings takes on the form of withdrawing love and communication. The custodial parent extends these feelings to the non-custodial parent via the children.
Though the Dept. of Health refuses to recognise PAS on the grounds that it does not appear in the ICD 10, the Dept. of Health does recognise behaviour pattern is common and that it constitutes emotional child abuse. Unlike other forms of child abuse 'Neglect, Physical abuse, and Sexual abuse' as defined in the 'Working together Under the Children Act 1989' emotionally abused children are not seen to be suffering in the respect that they may be registered by Social Services, and taken into care.
The Americans also use the term 'Hostile Mother Syndrome' for mothers who alienate children against fathers, but there appears to be no 'Hostile Father Syndrome' even though custodial fathers are often as guilty.
The 'Stockholm syndrome' has also been applied to this behaviour pattern. It refers to children who are effectively held hostage by the mother, and like hostages, are frightened of being rescued in case their captor harms them.
The fact that the mother claims the child rather than she hates the father falls into another category of 'false allegations'. These come up in various forms such as SAID (Sexual Allegations in Divorce) and allegations that the father is violent, stalks the children or mother, or even that the father himself is making false allegations against the mother. There are also aspects of 'False memory syndrome' whereby the child may be instilled with false memories of the father. The courts are now taking the question of false allegations Read More ..riously.
Legal recognition of PAS
Legally, PAS is recognised as a behaviour pattern but often goes under other names such as 'Coaching, Prejudicing, Rehearsing' and synonyms of brainwashing. Although recognised by the courts it is rarely acted upon because as a form of emotional abuse it is very difficult to define. The other forms of child abuse are Physical, Sexual, and Neglect. As these result in the obvious suffering of the child, they relate the child being removed from the offending parent.
Lawyers are ambivalent about PAS. Some have done much good work in bringing about its recognition, yet many working in Family law appear not to have heard about it. And it is certain that some lawyers abuse the situation by creating hostility between parents who might otherwise have reached amicable agreements. The UK Family Law journal has published several articles on PAS, and this suggests that lawyers are now more likely to recognise the behaviour pattern and state it in court.
Though the governments document 'Working Together Under the Children Act 1989' (HMSO ISBN 0 11 321472 3 1991) defines Categories of Abuse Registration, these are primarily for the Child abuse register and statistical purposes. Four categories are listed:
Neglect: The persistent or severe neglect of a child.
Physical injury: Actual or likely physical injury to the child, or failure to prevent physical injury.
Sexual abuse: Actual or likely exploitation of a child or adolescent.
Emotional abuse: Actual or likely severe adverse effect on the emotional and behavioural development of a child caused by persistent or severe emotional ill treatment or rejection. All abuse involves some form of emotional abuse.
The Children Act document goes on to state:
These categories for the child protection register purposes do not tie in precisely with the definition of "significant harm" in Section 31 of the Children Act, which will be relevant if Court Proceedings are initiated.
Briefly this means that if a child is abused in the above categories, but there is little evidence of significant harm, then the child may not necessarily be registered. Though Neglect is more likely to be the fault of the mother, it is Read More ..pical of mothers who cannot cope, so to some extent she is not blamed. Physical injury can be by either parent. Read More ..pically seen as a father's offence, in fact the majority of child murders are carried out by women. In both cases it is common that the family as a whole needs help.
Sexual abuse is often seen as a crime by the father, but statistics are difficult to come by. The Dept. of Health Child Protection register of 1994 registers 28% of children registered for protection were in the Sexual abuse category, but no breakdown of who the abuser was.
ChildLine statistics of 1994 state the father as being the abuser in 32% of the cases and the mother in 4% of cases. The TV programme 'The Ultimate Taboo' dealing with sexual abuse of children by women suggested that possibly 25% of sexual abuse was by women.
There is also inconsistency on what constitutes 'Child abuse'. The Dept. of Health protection registry registered around 46,000 children in 1994, while the ChildLine Annual report for that year stated it was getting in excess of 10,000 calls a day from children. Though children will be alerted at schools of ChildLine, and encouraged to report physical and sexual abuse, they are unlikely to report their mother for stopping them seeing their father.
Emotional abuse is more typical of mothers. The giving or withholding of affection for the child's actions can quickly make the child realise what the mother wants from it. Also, the fact that the mother wanting to get rid of the father will go out of her way to show she can cope, overrides the argument of 'significant harm' required for registering child abuse. It is reason of proving 'significant harm' that courts are reluctant to accept emotional abuse, and hence PAS as evidence against the mother, even though courts are well aware that PAS behaviour is common.
Some courts will act upon it, but do so by simply ignoring the mothers claims of 'the childs wishes' and indicate that the mother is being obstructive. The Read More ..lightened courts will order family therapy, and ensure that visitation rights are kept. Anyone claiming PAS should always look for Family therapy as a way forward.
Although PAS is currently recognised but not acted upon it is actually a crime to 'incite hatred on the basis of colour, religion, or creed' . Also the government is considering making 'Stalking' a crime on the basis of 'emotional abuse'. In the USA one father had Maintenance suspended on the grounds that his daughter 'hated' him even though he had made every reasonable effort to form a relationship with her. Such an approach by the courts here would prevent PAS being used as a loophole in the law.
OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON PAS
A spokeswoman for the Home Office 'Probation Service Division' states:
"Both the Home Office and the court welfare service are also aware of the fact that parents may seek to manipulate their children and encourage them to make statements designed to lessen the chances of the absent parent being granted contact with the child. Where an officer suspects that such coaching or manipulation has taken place, he or she will take this into account when preparing the welfare report and ensure that it is brought to the courts attention".
A spokesman for the Dept. of Health said:
"The potential for alienation by feuding parents is a commonly recognised problem."
"Parental Alienation Syndrome is and important phenomenon, but is not a medical disease; abusive behaviour by a parent can not be medical disorder or a syndrome with symptoms. Who has the disorder, the parent or the child? What are the symptoms, the abusive behaviour or the impact?"
A spokeswoman for the Inst. of Family Therapy said:
"With one parent gone, their fear is that they will be abandoned by the other, so they say whatever the present parent wishes to hear", and "When children under twelve are forced to choose, they tend to align with the parent they are living with".
A leading Child Psychiatrist states:
"...a child states that they do not wish to see the non-custodial parent happens far too frequently as a result of the bitterness between partners after the breakdown of their relationship".
In all, the behaviour pattern is recognised but defining it for medical purposes is difficult. This hurdle is the biggest to contend with.
WHAT IS THE BEST LEGAL APPROACH TO PAS?
A mother who disobeys a court order for Contact is in contempt of law. She may be jailed, fined, or have a penal notice attached to her order preventing her from repeating this behaviour. Though this rarely happens because the authorities state "It is not in the child's interest that the mother is jailed" it is increasingly recognised by the courts. A father took his case to the European court (case of Hokannen v Finland (23/09/94 Series A, 299-A, 19 E.H.R.R.) where a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention was found due to the inaction over several years in enforcing court orders for access.
There are now solicitors who specialise in this field. Find one that works in this field rather than one who simply claims to know about it. Get advice from FNF on this. Magistrate's courts tend to be dominated by lady magistrates. Experience has shown that they are less sympathetic to the father's case than judges in the higher courts. If possible, avoid a magistrate's court and go for a county court.
You can refuse to have a CWO who you feel is not reporting your case correctly or not dealing with essential facts. Don't assume they will ask you the right questions. Write down the questions that you would like them to ask, and prepare the answers. When you meet up with the CWO then have that information ready for them. If it is not included in your court report then question it. Also make sure you know the date when you can expect to receive the report, as some CWO's don't bother telling you.
Also, collecting articles and references to PAS will help your case in court. Mark out any similarities between cases quoted and your own case.
It is essential that you question ALL ERRORS AND OMISSIONS AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME. Notify the CWO of these before your case, and notify the court of the reply (or lack of one of the CWO). Have a listing of the errors and omissions available at the court.
It is also important to note that if you prove in court that the CWO has made errors, omissions, and shown bias, the court will do nothing about it. It is important that you report the CWO to his or her senior officer and send a copy to the Probation Service at the Home Office.
Some CWO's will accept and report PAS. You should keep a diary and copies of all communications between yourself, the mother of your children, and your children as evidence. Recognised evidence is typically:
In all, the mother's strategy will be to totally isolate the children by gradually breaking every line of contact you might have with her or the children.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Paradoxically, the mother's strongest card is the fact that you love your children so much you will not harm her because it will indirectly harm the children. In some cases the situation is so extreme that the father feels he may never see his children again, or at least never have a meaningful relationship with them again. His efforts directed towards seeing his children change to those of getting revenge on the mother. This is where serious problems can arise. In the worse cases the fathers kill their children. This happens about 12 times a year in the UK. The father may attack the mother, abduct the children or commit some criminal offence due to his frustration. The father often just snaps, and these instances are not predictable. For this reason it is very important that you should not allow yourself to get into a situation where things seem impossible to resolve.
HAVING A PLAN
Your strategy has to be the opposite of the mothers, and to create every possible line of contact with your children, the mother, and anyone connected with them.
There are no rules as everyone's case is unique, but there are common sense actions you can take.
Remember that things change day by day. What seems impossible today might seem resolvable tomorrow. Here are a few real instances of changes that have happened to bring children back to the father.
There is no doubt that 'Where there's a will, there's a way'. If you look at all your own activities, all those of the mother, all those of the child there is sure to be overlaps somewhere that bring you in contact with people and places you have in common. How much will your chances increase if you go to the same parks, theatres, playground, school events, etc. You need to draw up a plan and look at the potential of all your resources.
There are also other ways that offer the child a chance to contact you.
Pursue every line that offers hope however slim that hope may be. The important thing is that you develope a way of positive thinking.
WHY DOES THE MOTHER WANT TO GET RID OF THE FATHER?
There is no clear-cut answer to this. In some cases the mother does it with intent to get rid of the father, while in other case the situation just gets out of hand and drifts to the point where PAS just becomes one Read More ..ep in the wrong direction. A survey of FNF members showed the following variety of reasons. In many cases there will be several different reasons combined.
THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING WHY THE MOTHER DOES IT.
If you know why the mother behaves as she does then you are in a much better position to deal with the situation. A mother who has another partner will want the father out of her life for the simple reason that it makes her life complicated to have him around. The child's needs are secondary. On the other hand a mother who lives in a house owned by the father and relies on his goodwill for extras over and above maintenance, might be alienating the children as a means of getting the property or getting Read More ..ney. In such a case the situation might be open to negotiation.
Broadly speaking there are six categories:
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS TO CONSIDER?
As the main aim of the mother is to stop all contact, while the main aim of the father is to gain all contact there are a number of factors that can assessed to give the father an idea of his chances.
It is a mistake of many fathers to assume that the matter is in the hands of the court, and decisions made there are the essential ones. The reality is that the courts decisions are only one aspect of the situation. The mother has her own life to live, and she will have the same problems as most people, probably Read More ..so she will not want to add to those by devoting her life to being obstructive. She will only do it so long as she can get away with it without too much effort. The children also have their own lives to live and they will not want to give up the father just to please the mother. They may obey or reflect her wishes, but only as long as they have no choice. Experience has shown that in most cases where the father has kept in contact with his children he will see them again. The fathers own situation will also change, so what seems to be an insurmountable problem today may seem solvable in a year's time.
HAVING A PLAN IS IMPORTANT.
When a father first realises he is going to lose contact with his children his feelings go from disbelief, through despair, anger, depression, confusion, and a total sense of injustice. It is based on the assumption that 'everyone' knows how important it is for children to have the support of their father, and that he obviously loves them and they love him.
Such notions are unfortunately naive. The law is itself very confused. A court that refuses to send a single-mother to jail for stopping contact will send that same mother to jail for refusing to pay parking tickets or her TV licence. Such inconsistencies will be found throughout the law, and even when the law is clear, experience shows that its interpretation and application is Read More ..ited to the beliefs of the judiciary than the children.
Having a plan means looking at the situation logically rather than emotionally. You have to write out all the advantages and disadvantages of yourself, the mother, and the child.
THE MOTHERS ADVANTAGES:
THE MOTHERS DISADVANTAGES:
THE CHILDRENS ADVANTAGES:
OUTLINING A PLAN.
PREDICTING PARENTAL ALIENATION.
The chances of it happening are increased in the following cases:
Be suspicious of any indication of the mother not informing you of the child's welfare when she would have previously done so.
As stated above, the mother's main strategy is to stop all communications with the father and anyone connected to him. That also extends to anything that has to do with him. Typically mothers will stop the children going to places he used to take them to. She will remove anything that is likely to remind the child of the father.
CHILDREN'S HATE MAIL
It is likely that you will get hate mail from your child. Children as young as five will send it, and if there is more than one child they will often send hate letters together. The following are examples.
I do not want to go and see you on Friday the 9th in December. Here is a picture. Hope you like it (picture of a train and carriages)
(from A. aged 6)
From two brothers aged 5 and 6
To Peter I am not coming J.
To peter I do NOT want to come with YOU B.
From a 10 year old girl
To my so called "father" Listen, you know what you did. If you don't stop lying then I will never see you again. Now you tell the truth. Now I am telling the truth. I HATE you. And you say that I tell mother about things. Well what about you and Grandman. I hate U! You are a sick man.
From your X daughter C.
I HATE YOU !
To Phil, I Just want to say I still don't want to see you. I haven't changed my mind sing the last court case,
From a 10 year old.
I don't want to see you because I live with my new dad in Germany. I was two and a half years old whey you and mummy broke up and I am ten now. I have lived longer with my new daddy then I did with you. You are a stranger to me. I don't want to see you any Read More ..br> Peter does not wont to see you any Read More ..Just leave us alone please. I don't keep your letters or anything you send me. I rip up all your letter even if they have money in them, and any presents you sen, like at Christmas I break up.
Miss Hume knows this. I have not turned up today because I just don't want to see you, and the man at the Court told my mummy that I didn't have to, and that no-one could make me come to see you.
From Roland Bush
All the names have been changed but otherwise shown as written.
The common elements is that the children, even as young as six, put in correct times and dates, and often fairly correct spelling, so this indicates the letters are dictated or corrected. Some children will add "mummy has not asked me to write this letter".
The father is addressed as "To daady", "To John" and in some cases "To Mr Smith" making the letter impersonal.
Usually they sign off with just their first name, but some will sign off with their surname as though they are a stranger. They may even sign off with another name such as their mothers maiden name or her new partners surname.
Quite often presents will be returned unopened, or opened and repacked. The child, if it can write at all, is often made to write the address of the father as though the child had actually packed and sent it pack, though obviously it has not done so. In some cases the child will write something on the outside of the package like "I hate you".
The mentality of someone forcing a child to do this requires no further comment. The child having done this now feels they have cut off the father for good. How would they face the father again having written such a letter. This is all part of the mother's intent.
A common device used by mothers is to actually initiate mediation proceedings. Though outwardly this looks like she wants to resolve the problem, in fact she will use it to publicly state all the faults she finds in the father. He either lets her do this without much comment, in which case he effectively agrees with her, or he spends time denying it, in which case the mediator sees him as someone who is difficult to get on with. Either way the mediation will not lead to any resolution to the problem of him seeing his child.
BEHAVIOUR PATTERNS OF THE MOTHER
Another technique is provocation; to make the father to do or say something that will used against him. If the father can be made to lose his temper then a charge of violence or threatened violence can be brought. Here are a few examples commonly quoted.
The above are typical. Anyone who have been through the alienation process will recognise the pattern. The overall strategy is 'bloody mindedness' by the mother who will take every opportunity to make life difficult for the father whether or not it reflects upon the child's happiness.
The mother is showing that 'she is in control'. She will do that in a variety of ways ranging from ignoring you to humiliating you. Paradoxically she is able to do it on the basis that you love your child so much you will put up with it. If you didn't love your child you would walk away, she assumes you will not, so will push her control as far as she can. The pattern of behaviour follows the usual steps of:
(2) Hostile silence
(3) Restricted communication
(4) No communication
(5) Hostile action.
In all, the mother will look for any way of undermining your position in the knowledge that if you retaliate in kind she can stop contact and use your retaliation as evidence of your attitude towards her (not the child). It will be her intent to use such provocative behaviour to push you past your limits and act in a way that can be quoted against you.
THE FATHER'S STRATEGY
The fathers approach is to accept that this provocation will happen, and not let it have the intended objective of making him angry to the point where it can be used against him. Keep a record of it. Do not react in kind. At worst write to the mother pointing out the pattern of disruption and showing that it affects the child adversely. If she has a solicitor you might send it to him/her and ask for the mother to be reminded that such behaviour is disturbing to the child as well as provoking unnecessary rows. You may have to arrange to meet up in a neutral territory so that the mother has less chance of doing these things.
Overall your plan is to do something. If you can do something that directly contacts your child then do that. If you can do something that indirectly contacts your child then do that. If you can do something that keeps up your fathering skills do that. If you can do something that promotes the father's cause generally, then do that. If you can do none of these, then at least keep yourself busy so that you do not get depressed or in a state that leaves you open to the criticism of not being a capable father even if given the chance.
WILL YOU LOSE YOUR CHILDREN?
If you can retain some form of contact then it is unlikely, but it some cases it could be years before you see them again. From a survey taken on this, children usually start coming back to the father in early teenage years. There are several reasons for this.
FNF gets thousands of cases of PAS. The most common being a foreign wives or women with a history of emotional illness. In many cases the mother needs help. It seems that only a small percentage of mothers who indulge in PAS are normal, stable, and independent. These would more typically be professional women who have another partner and exploit loopholes in the law to get rid of the father. FNF also gets many letters from grandparents who lose their grandchildren, and second wives who suffer (often intentionally) from the mother's behaviour towards the father in using the children as weapons.
Part of the problem is that most studies of broken families are carried out by women for women. This is not to say they are carried out against fathers but simply the father's side has not been given full consideration. It is only now that this is happening, and is more the outcome of the Child Support Agency investigations than a study of fatherhood in itself. It is for this reason that FNF has to rely upon our member's own experiences to get the information needed for progress to be made.
This may seem an extreme action, but look at who is actually involved in your case.
Many have very little experience or training in the area of Family law or child psychology. If they are women, then it is likely they have Read More ..perience at being mothers than being court officers. This is often reflected in their assessments. It is a very common experience for fathers to have the CWO tell him how well he can cope with his children, only to find the court report stating the very opposite.
A good CWO is probably your best friend. If they like you, and believe you have a good case they will give you better unbiased advice than anyone else. It is a pity that they have little power to help in a Read More ..actical way.
IS THERE HOPE?
Several ideas have been proposed, and some tried with success.
The situation is basically that the father will have great difficulty in seeing his children unless:
Though the legal situation may not change, the circumstances do. Children grow up, want Read More ..become independent, argue with the mother and feel deprived of the father and what he can offer. A father deprived of his children has lost more than can be put into words, but he is in a better position to start a new family (and very many do). He has more thance of following a career, more thance of development in his interests.
The mother has the children, and initially all the benefits, but without the father she has to devote all her time to the children, and in many cases this totally occupies her. Once the children are in their teens she may lose them and have little else in life. Even if she has another partner, the children rarely accept the new father totally. Put another way, a mother who alienates the children against the father has a short-term gain against a long term loss. She will never regain her children's confidence when they are adults, and many are bitter when they realise they lost the father due to the mothers attitude to father rather than the fathers attitude to them. There is also the aspect of the father's Will. The mother aware that she will not inherit anything from the father may dismiss his resources, but the children who find they have lost their inheritance from him due to her may feel cheated by her, not him.
IF YOU CANNOT GO TO THE COURTS, WHAT DO YOU DO?
In practice you cannot avoid the courts totally, but they should be used as a last resort.
Though you may not gain much by going to court, you can use the courts for your own purpose to some extent. Typically they are places that muddle along without much sense of purpose. Papers get lost, hearings are cancelled at the last moment, they fail to pass on Court Welfare reports to the father, fax and phone calls don't get answered, and any help you get from the court services will be incidental. All of this can be extremely frustrating, and the longer you go without seeing your children the worse the situation gets.
It is likely that the mother will get legal aid while the father does not. The mother's solicitor will generally assume that you will put your case forward in the court, but if you do not have a solicitor you can write many letters to her solicitor in such a way that much of the case is presented prior to it coming to court.
For example, if the mother has cancelled your contact time on trivial excuses you might write a stream of letters to him pointing out the various ploys she has used to stop contact. Having put these in writing he has to pass them onto your ex-partner who then has to refute them, explain them, or ignore them. Whatever she does can be used as evidence. It is also a way of stating her behaviour to her solicitor, which may well contradict her version of events to him. Though this is a psychological 'game' it is one that is part of the normal pattern of events.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
When fathers join FNF or a similar group they do so because of their own problem. They assume that others have been through the same problems and know the answers. It is a great disappointment to find that so often there are no simple answers, just help in making you Read More ..are of what is to come. On the other hand, there is a constant demand by the media for people with problems to talk about them, particularly where it involves children. If you are prepared to write to the papers, appear on radio or TV you help the cause generally. Making yourself familiar with the laws and background relating to these problems generally means that you can bring the issues to the public, and make it that much easier to get things done.
Perhaps the biggest problem men have is their inability to discuss their emotions, how they feel about losing their children. Unlike mothers who have a similar situation, men rarely cry on someone's shoulder. It is something you have to learn to do. Not only does it help to discuss your feelings; just talking about a problem will often help resolve it.
For this reason the questionnaire is included. Fill it in and return it to FNF, it will help us see what patterns come up in various circumstances.
REPLY TO RELEVANT QUESTIONS, AND ADD ADDITIONAL MATERIAL AS YOU FEEL APPROPRIATE.
Make sure your answers are numbered.
1. Are you Married/unmarried to mother.
1.1 Your age.
1.2 Which county or country (if outside UK) do you live?
1.3 Do you have a new partner?
1.4 If so, do you have children by your new partner, or does she have children you look after?
2. ABOUT YOUR CHILD
2.1 What are the ages and genders of your children?
2.2 If more than one child, do they act differently to the situation?
2.3 In which county/country do your children live?
3. NATIONALITY 3.1 You
3.2 Your ex-partner
3.3 Your children
4. CONTACT (CURRENTLY)
5. FORM OF CONTACT
5.1 Do you send letters/gifts? If so, how often?
5.2 Are these accepted, ignored, returned?
5.3 Do your children send letters to you?
5.4 If so, are they friendly or hostile?
5.5 If they are hostile, do they claim to be sent voluntarily (stating that the mother has not asked them to be sent)
5.6 Do you phone your children?
5.7. Are calls accepted?
5.8 If so, is it easy to speak on the phone (does the mother monitor calls)?
5.9 Do you meet your child? If so, how often?
5.9.1 Are visits at your home, the mothers home, some neutral location?
5.9.2 Do you have privacy with your child. Is the contact restricted in some way?
5.9.3 Is the time with your child tense or open and easy?
6. OTHER CONTACTS
6.1 Does your child have contact with any of your friends or relatives?
6.2 If so, is it voluntary on the part of the mother or is it part of your contact time?
6.3 Is your child uneasy with anyone you know?
7.1 Do you get easy access to information about your child's education, health, etc?
7.2 Are you prevented by the court from having such information?
7.3 If not, does the school or authorities accept your right to such information?
7.4 If you have no direct contact, do you get information about your child from friends, neighbours, acquaintances etc?
7.5 Do you get information from anyone who is in direct contact with you ex-partner or child?
8. ABOUT YOUR EX-PARTNER
8.1 Has your ex-partner deliberately stopped or disrupted contact, and in any way alienated your child against you?
8.2 How severe would you rate this?
8.3 Do you believe your ex-partner intends to get rid of you entirely from the childs life, or is it part of hostility between you and your ex-partner that the child is caught up in?
8.4 Do you have direct contact with your partner?
8.5 Does your ex-partner have a new partner she wishes to be seen as the childs father?
8.6 What do you think the REAL reason is for your ex-partners behaviour (there may be several reasons, and reasons may have changed over time).
8.7 Do you think you could negotiate with your ex-partner if she would listen?
8.8 Do you think your ex-partners behaviour is her own doing or is she persuaded by others (new partner, family, friends)?
8.9 Has your ex-partner offered to let you see the children but under unacceptable conditions to you?
8.9.1 Is your ex-partner foreign?
8.9.2 Has your ex-partner suffered from depression or emotional problems that prevent her from coping with her own life?
8.9.3 Has your ex-partner made false accusations against you regarding your treatment of her or the child?
8.9.4 Have these accusations been accepted without checking by the authorities?
8.9.5 Has your ex-partner ever provoked you into arguments or actions that have later been used against you?
9. THE LEGAL SYSTEM
9.1 Do you have PRO?
9.2 How often have you taken your case to court?
9.3 Do you feel the CWO's, solicitors, social workers etc involved have understood your case or acted in a biased way?
9.4 Do you feel that matters could have been settled easier if not taken to court?
9.5 What do you think might have been the best course to take when you separated from your ex-partner?
10. OTHER ISSUES
10.1 Were you or your ex-partner alienated against your own parents?
10.2 Do you have friends or relatives who give you emotional support?
10.3 If so, are they willing to act on your behalf in these matters?
10.4 To what extent has the loss of your children affected your life style, finances, etc.
10.5 Has this problem made you ill in any way?
10.6 With hindsight, is there anything you feel you should, or should not have done, that would have improved the situation.
11. Do you have any advice for others based on your experience?
11.1 At what point do you feel the situation went out of your hands?
12. Do you feel that there might be alternatives to lawyers, Court Welfare Officers, Family courts that would be beneficial for Family disputes?
12.1 Would you go to mediation, Family therapy, counselling if it was available?
Please add questions that you feel are relevant, and comment on the questionnaire.
Replies (marked outside PAS) to be sent to FNF head office at:
Stan Hayward, Research Officer
134 Curtain Rd
London EC2A 3AR
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. Read More ..
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 ..
PA News (U.K.), July 3, 2004
A key court decision to grant a father custody of his daughters after the mother flouted contact orders for four years was today welcomed by campaigners.
Fathers 4 Justice said that the High Court ruling was a vital victory and called for more judges to take a similar stance when faced with resistant parents.
The comments come after Mrs Justice Bracewell transferred the residence of two young girls to their father because the mother persistently refused him contact, despite court orders. 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 ..
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