Family Law is proof positive that you should never make the mistake of equating justice with the law! They are not
the same. The legal icon of blind justice is accurate but not for the
reasons it was intended.
Justice does seem to be truly blind and cannot even seem to find its way into the courtroom. Instead, she has abandoned the court, leaving it to the domain of ruthless attorneys committed to legal machinations but indifferent to the concept of justice.
Those of us who have felt abandoned by our legal system while fighting for our children know that justice is an elusive idea that is not based in reality. Too many of us have had to deal with bored family law judges who apparently think that parent alienation not only is not child abuse but is nothing more than a contrived accusation by one bitter parent who is just seeking revenge against the targeted parent.
To be fair, it must be said that state courts are in disarray and overwhelmed with toxic divorces marked by a burgeoning number of bizarre allegations, some real and many contrived. They are hamstrung by the workload and the clear lack of direction and leadership from professional organizations such as the American Psychiatric Society and the National Institution of Mental Health. Consider the following obstacles and challenges.
Why Courts Struggle
For those of us devastated by Parental Alienation the problem is obvious and it is hard to understand and accept that we cannot rely on the legal system for help. We have been victimized by malicious campaigns launched by ex-spouses to denigrate us and destroy our relationships with our children. So, why has family law failed us so miserably? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The problem is complex and in many cases courts are hindered from helping even if the judge is so inclined.
Change is possible but will require unrelenting pressure and education not only on the legal system but also on the psychiatric community. I, of course, am neither an attorney nor a psychologist. But, my recent experiences and my research has led me to some interesting observations and conclusions. Consider the following:
There are very clearly defined standards for submitting evidence in court cases. And, family law courts and other legal experts have repeatedly ruled that Parental Alienation Syndrome does not meet the standards of Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Most states have adopted the Federal Rules as their own standards so they conform to what seems like a universal skepticism of "Parental Alienation" as submittable evidence . It is not necessarily because they outright reject the idea of Parental Alienation but because there are no clearly defined and universally accepted standards for diagnosis. Thus, until circumstances change lawyers can successfully argue that PAS falls within the realm of "junk science."
Richard Gardner coined the term Parental Alienation Syndrome in 1985. Unfortunately, his credibility has been impugned because many believe he condoned pedophilia and he ran a for-profit business based on his theories and self-published his own articles. He committed suicide in 2003.
More importantly, other constructs have been developed that focus on severe personality disorders in the alienating parent as the primary cause of Alienation and rejects the concept of "Syndrome." Dr. Craig Childress has worked extensively with the idea that personality disorders are extremely significant. Since such disorders have medical diagnoses and are included in the DSM-5 his work is very significant. Visit Dr. Childress' website here.
PAS has and remains controversial within both the legal and scientific communities. It has not been accepted by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) and critics claim PAS is inadmissible in family law hearings partially due to the DSM rejection and partly for insufficient legal veracity. One specific reason is that the behavior of children who have witnessed or been victims of physical domestic abuse can be identical to victims of Parental Alienation. The critics argue that PAS must be more vigorously studied and the research subjected to peer review which is standard procedure in all scientific investigation.
There have been numerous custody cases where the mother, in an attempt
to win sole custody, fraudulently accused the father of actual or
potential physical, sexual, or emotional abuse against the child.
Because the charges ultimately could not be substantiated judges have sometimes ruled the
mother unstable and granted custody to the father.
Sexual equality also plays into Parental Alienation custody battles. No longer is it a foregone conclusion that the mother is better suited
to be the sole custodial parent. In some ways it appears that the courts
are trying to overcompensate for past inequities and grant custody to fathers regardless of any evidence of Alienation. Thus, fathers may be winning these conflicts at an unexpectedly high rate.
Sometimes, there seems to be a catch 22 - some victims are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If the mother makes any
allegation of Parental Alienation abuse in a family court she might be considered unstable and lose custody
to the state. If she remains silent she is liable to lose her child to
her ex-spouse. The courts sometimes get things spectacularly wrong.
We, who have been victims of Parental Alienation know that it is real. But, what we know that it is only considered "anecdotal." The courts will remain resistant until the psychiatric community accepts it and finds a way to introduce evidence to the courts more effectively. And, that will not happen until there exists a greater body of vigorous scientific research that has been subjected to peer review. Moreover, perhaps some clarity can be found if people stop arguing about the word "syndrome."
In the meantime, perhaps a strategy is to demand court ordered individual and family evaluations. I am convinced that the perpetrators of Parental Alienation suffer from definable personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If therapists' reports begin to disclose the prevalence of disorders in the alienator parent perhaps the courts will not be so quick to make judgements allowed and even encouraged by current orthodoxy. Getting the Narcissistic parent to participate in therapy is another matter.
Family Court Feedback
Many targeted victims of Parental Alienation feel that Family Court is their enemy and that they were betrayed by the people and institutions that are supposed to protect them.
Please share your experience. Each state has different laws, rules, and procedures. We will create an information resource that will help all of us caught in this malfunctioning system.
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