Parental Alienation

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Parental Alienation

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Parental alienation is a term that can be heard with regularity in any family court room across the state of Michigan.  Each and every time the term is used it creates an anxiety on both sides of the aisle.  The cause of this anxiety is most certainly a lack of understanding of the concept, who in their right mind could justify the alienation of a parent from a child?  The culprit in this misunderstanding is the word “syndrome”.

In my opinion the worst thing to happen in the fight against parental alienation was a paper written by Dr. Richard A. Gardner in 1976.  Although Dr. Gardner properly noted many characteristics of alienated children, Dr. Gardner gave us the term Parental Alienation Syndrome.  Those who wish to detract from the validity of parental alienation will grab onto the fact that Dr. Gardner’s concept of a parental alienation syndrome  was not published as a diagnosable syndrome within the DSM 5, the manual published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that includes all currently recognized mental health disorders.  The issue of the “syndrome” becomes the issue as opposed to the very real alienating behaviors of the alienating parent.  Call it what you may, however I would offer this; any parent who would work to alienate their child would appear to be dealing with a mental health disorder of some type.  In talking with therapists I have learned that this is typically indicative of a personality disorder.

The term parental alienation has been used since the 1940’s.  It is used to describe a situation in which one parent maintains a campaign against the other parent through a child.  The alienating parent will go to great lengths destroy the relationship between the target parent and the child.  The alienating parent will diligently work to instill in the child a fear and loathing of the target parent using lies, manipulation, and implanted memories to both alienate the other parent and enhance their own standing with the child.  This alienating behavior is real and does happen in many cases.  The result often times is a successful denigration on the parent child relationship.  This alienating behavior is abusive to the child and needs to be stopped immediately.

To stop this behavior immediately you need to act swift and fast.  First and foremost you must hire an attorney familiar with the concept of parental alienation.  Very often people decide that the alienation is so obvious that they are not going to hire an attorney.  There are many problems with this way of thinking, first and foremost you are not an attorney, and thus you do not have an understanding of law, court rules, or case law.  Another problem with acting as your own attorney in this situation is that the issue is a very emotional issue, and representation has to be objective to be effective.  Lastly, very often cases get much more difficult to fix once a non-lawyer has attempted to litigate issues.  This affects your children, hire an attorney.

You must follow Court Orders and Judgments to a tee.  I hear far too many people tell me that they were attempting to make co-parenting smoother by entering into side deals with the other parent to alter parenting time or other issues.  Too often the result of these side deals is that the targeted parent gets “blamed “for not taking their full parenting time, or some other issue.  Strictly adhere to the Orders and Judgments in your case.  Along with this is the concept that you need to make sure you know your Judgment and Orders verbatim, never let yourself be open to someone else’s erroneous interpretation of your Court documents.

The alienating parent needs to be called out on the bad behavior quickly and consistently.  Do not be afraid to bring these issues to the Court.  If left unchecked alienating behavior can snowball very quickly.   What is an annoyance on January 1st can turn into full fledged alienation by summer.  Do not allow this behavior to go unchecked.  Three words come to mind to help a parent with this phase of defense; 1.  Document,  2. Document, 3. Document.

Lastly, while the alienation is occurring you must be patient with your child.  Remember the child is a victim of the alienating parent just like you are.  Reinforce the fact that you love your child and no matter what you will always be there for that child.

As always if we can be of assistance regarding a parental alienation case or any other family law matter please feel free to call us at (248) 855-6477, or call my cell at (734) 612-7121.

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