My Personal Thoughts on Parental Alienation
Parental Alienation cases: experts debate if it’s Parental Alienation, or an actual syndrome called Parental Alienation Syndrome; some experts want to avoid all alienation terminology and call it Hostile Aggressive Parenting, and in the past, some experts coined some of the alienation as Sexual Allegations in Divorce (SAID syndrome). It seems that a lot of time, energy, and effort is spent on debating the terminology. Certainly, it is a worthwhile venture for psychologists to study this heinous problem and determine if this is a societal problem or an actual mental health issue.
Parental Alienation cases are difficult, time consuming, emotionally draining and expensive. A lot of time and energy is wasted. Some of the waste irks me. Here are the top things that bother me in PA cases:
Consideration 1: the ongoing debate
In the everyday world of moms and dads who are suffering through this, it really does not matter so much if it is a syndrome or not. The reality is that fantastic moms and dads have been denied the right to see their child, speak with their child, and just maintain a basic relationship with their child. The even more painful reality is that those children are damaged by the lack of contact. My time spent researching and following the studies in this field is spent reading how this poor behavior affects the children. This research is worthwhile of my time and energy. Children affected by Parental Alienation nearly always suffer from major depression during their adult years and often have a host of other mental health problems ranging from lack of self-esteem to drug and alcohol abuse and alienating their own children.
Consideration 2: the judges
Another issue that irks me about Parental Alienation is the slow or nonexistent response by judges. I understand and acknowledge that judges’ dockets are overloaded, and it takes a long time to get a hearing. However, in my experience with PA cases, there is nearly always a lack of action by the attorneys and courts. The longstanding inaction creates significant damage to the point that sometimes the only remaining relief available is a complete change of custody. After a lengthy custody trial, I find myself wondering if this could’ve been avoided with some minor but consistent sanctions earlier in the proceedings.
Consideration 3: the other attorneys
Parents often visit me when they are financially tapped. They have sought the help from multiple attorneys; all to no avail; and often, while represented the situation became worse. If I can advise one thing to my colleagues: do not take a PA case unless you have attended conferences, have read the research, have the stomach to handle the emotional turmoil of the case. Mediation and settlement are hardly ever beneficial in PA cases. Alienators do not settle. If they do, they will find another dispute. There are few things that work in PA cases. Concepts that are promoted as helpful in a ‘regular’ divorce do not work in PA cases. Do not waste the client’s money to get nowhere. Only take a case when a client is able to fight the necessary fight.
Consideration 4: the parents
How dare I express frustration with the parents? They’ve suffered; they’ve been denied the opportunity to see their child, speak to their child, and just have a relationship with their child. The pain and frustration that ensues from this loss causes some targeted parents to act out of frustration; some proudly so. It’s frustrating to see parents hurt their own case. They post angry videos online where they assert their rights; they do not provide the judge with the appropriate respect. They do not know when to speak or when to be quiet. On the other hand, I see parents that do not pursue their rights for a long time and they suffer in silence. To find that balance of pursuing a relationship with your child under these difficult circumstances is difficult; I get it. I’ve seen it for decades. Please listen to a competent attorney who knows Parental Alienation. Listen to a counselor, who has the credentials and experience with Parental Alienation. I wish I could help each one of you!