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What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome and Why Does It Matter?

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Parental Alienation is child abuse, and must be stopped before permanent damage is done. Children are entitled to a loving relationship with both parents free from judgment or blame from anyone, much less a parent. Parental alienation happens to moms and dads and can be stopped with proper intervention.
What happens when the children do not want to see one parent?
In cases where the children have aligned with one parent and are rejecting the other parent, parental alienation may be at play. To determine if parental alienation syndrome is an issue a careful analysis of the facts must be made.
Parental alienation syndrome is not a recognized disorder, but has been extensively studied and documented.
The research and findings have revealed extremely negative consequences for the children involved and has influenced courts to award custody to the targeted parent. Hoult, JA (2006), “The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy“, Children’s Legal Rights Journal 26 (1).
The theory of parental alienation syndrome was developed in 1985 by licensed child psychiatrist, Richard Gardner. Children with parental alienation syndrome develop denigration against a parent without justification. The denigration develops from brainwashing by the alienating parent. Further, parental alienation syndrome occurs “when a child becomes an unwitting ally to the alienating parent and occurs when one parent campaigns successfully to manipulate his or her children to despise the other parent despite the absence of legitimate reasons for the children to harbor such animosity.” Hatch, Rebecca (2012), Proof of Parental Alienation in Action for Modification of Custody of Child, American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts 3d (6).
Children with parental alienation syndrome will have a persistent rejection of a parent, ambivalence, support of one parent against the other, absence of guilt, and spread of animosity to extended family of the rejected parent. Id.
Techniques used by the alienating parent include:

  • Not telling the children about phone calls from the target parent,
  • Refusing to acknowledge positive experiences between the children and the target parent,
  • Attacking the target parent’s family, career, and living arrangements,
  • Forcing the child to take sides,
  • Manipulating and rearranging the child’s schedule so that the targeted parent cannot see the child,
  • Excluding the target parent from information or the children’s important school events,
  • Insisting that the child make decisions about seeing or talking to the target parent,
  • Rejecting targeted parent from attending school events and activities,
  • Makes delusional false statements to the children,
  • Does not correct the child’s rude, defiant behavior towards the target parent,
  • And over involves the child in adult matters and litigation. Id. at 7.

These behaviors can lead to severe consequences for the child. The children will likely have difficulty forming future relationships. They may also feel guilt, loss, anxiety, and withdrawal. Id. at 9. Courts have found that it is not in the best interests to keep the children with the alienating parent, and have often given full parenting time rights to the alienated parent. Further, it is important for the parents and children to go through an extensive comprehensive intervention.
When we see cases where PAS may be at play, we request intensive and immediate intervention by a qualified mental health professional. Intensive family therapy may be ordered and, if that does not work, the children may be sent to live exclusively with the non-alienating parent. If you believe PAS may be at play, give us a call to discuss your options and a strategy for moving forward.

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