Sunday, August 26, 2007

Contentious divorces - Parental Alienation Syndrome

I first heard the term Parental Alienation Syndrome back in 1999. It was a very ugly divorce with some very nasty allegations made against my client, the husband, which the judge chose to believe. He changed his mind when the mother absconded with the child when the father was finally given unfettered visitation rights.

The Oklahoma Family Law Blog has a good post titled Parental Alienation Syndrome. I suggest it as a place to start reading on the subject. I suspect a Google or Yahoo search will turn up even more reports.

In my case, I thought the mother's testimony was just too incredible to believe but the judge believed the mother over my client and the psychologist assigned for the custody review. I am not so sure I would describe the mother as much evil as unhinged, but I am not qualified enough to make that assessment stick. I do think that I am correct in writing that a PAL situation shows even more clearly all the damages created by a contentious divorce/custody case. Where other type of contentious divorces have gone off the rails, a PAL case has no rails. Which leads me to the belief that PAL cases requires a strong defense against the parental alienation. Other contentious divorces may occur because of a failing in rationality but that implies the existence of rationality.


Divorce Zone said...

This has got to be one of the most difficult issues to deal with in a divorce. Unfortunately, I don't think that the legal system is well set up to deal with all the complexities of this.

John Doe said...

It's not difficult at all. Given no evidence for concern prior to the divorce, the judge should be highly skeptical of any claims of abuse. Given evidence of an adequate relationship of parent with child before the divorce, which should not be hard to come by, the judge should take it as a red flag for bad behavior on the part of the other parent if that relationship is obstructed or suddenly declines. Preserving a good relationship should take absolute priority over unproven claims to the contrary by a party who can hardly be described as objective. Claims of abuse tend to knock everyone off the rails, alienators know this, which is why they do it. The reflex over-caution of the courts and the appalling slowness with which they act actually help the true abuser. If parental alienation were properly regarded as the child abuse that it is, the courts would be much more effective in spotting it and dealing with it.

Sam Hasler said...

I think John Doe actually describes the difficulty referred to by Divorce Zone. Something no judge wants is to put a child or keep a child in harm's way. Therefore, they do tend to be cautious.

Anonymous said...

As common as it is that a parent claims 'abuse' against the other parent, it is just as common that one parent claims they are being alienated by the other parent.
When a couple divorce, as parents, they often feel they need no long try to 'be on the same page' when it comes to parenting issues. They develop their own paenting style which will likely differ from the other parent.
One parent claiming they are being alienated simply because of a differnce in parently style happens a lot! Negative verbal comments about the other parent is true parental alieantion. However, when children become closer to one parent based on the sincere parenting that is going on and the household created by that parent, and bitterness results from the other parent who (for whatever reason is unable to do the same), taht bitterness often results in claims of alienation.

Sam Hasler said...

Anonymous, I suggest you read the original article on PAL. While what you describe might lead to alienation, it is not PAL.