Thursday, April 2, 2009

Parental Alienation is a Fact of Life for Many Children

by Mark Godbey
April 2, 2009

Those who alienate their children from the other parent after divorce continue to clamor about the "junk" science behind Parental Alienation, but for those who do not know, Parental Alienation Syndrome has passed the Frye Test in federal court and is recognized as a scientific fact by both the psychological community and by the federal courts.

Once again in the state of California, an attempt is being made to create an illegal law in direct defiance of federal court rulings that recognized parental alienation as a fact. AB 612 is scheduled for a hearing in Sacramento on April 14, this year, in an attempt to get the law out of committee and up for a vote. Last year a similar attempt was made but failed. This year the law was reintroduced by Assemblyman Jim Beall, Jr. (D - 24th District).

Michael Robinson of the California Alliance for Families and Children stated on their website, "We are confident that the Family Law Section of the State Bar is again opposing this bill, as well as the California Psychologists Association. Moreover, this year we believe that Family Court judges (who have not been engaged in this discussion so far) will also oppose the elimination of parent alienation."

Parental Alienation Syndrome Passes the Frye Test
by J. Michael Bone, Ph.D.

In a recent article published in The Comentator(1), Miami psychologist, Michael Poliacoff, Ph.D., wrote an article arguing against the case for considering Parental Alienation Syndrome as a valid diagnosis, as well as for it not being admissible as evidence in court. His argument was legalistic in its posture, citing Frye Standards as well as Daubert. His conclusion was that Parental Alienation Syndrome could not pass these legal tests, and likely never would. That article was published in 2000.

It is perhaps ironic that on November 22, 2000, in the 13th Judicial Circuit here in Florida, that a Frye hearing was held wherein Richard Gardner, M.D., Parental Alienation Syndrome’s originator; and Richard Warshak, Ph.D., one of PAS’s leading psychological advocates ,testified for two days in a specifically styled Frye Hearing. The result was that the Court ruled that Parental Alienation Syndrome did indeed pass the Frye Test. The Frye test is related to a 1923 Federal Appeals Court Decision that for scientific evidence to be admissible in court that it must be gathered using techniques that have gained general acceptance in their field.2 This ruling was the first time in the United states, that PAS crossed this important legal threshold, obviously contradicting Dr. Poliakoff’s predictions.

The key points of the Courts ruling are briefly discussed below. Specifically, the court ruled, “If I do have to apply a Frye Test he has passed the Frye Test, and I find that Parental Alienation Syndrome has passed the Frye Test in my Courtroom which is a Circuit Court Courtroom in the Family Law Division, based on the evidence and the argument before me.”(3) The evidence cited included testimony from Dr. Gardner, his Cirruculum Vitae, excerpts from his writings and other works by other writers. The Court, in its opinion, specifically cited an article published some two years before this hearing in the Florida Bar Journal, which was determined to have “credibility.”(4)

The Court also heard from two psychologists who argued that Parental Alienation Syndrome was not accepted within the scientific community. Their argument was interpreted by the Court as being tantamount to there being some sort of disciplinary turf battle” wherein one faction does believe in PAS ,and the other faction does not. The Court concludes that this disciplinary divisiveness in no way invalidates the general acceptance of PAS by the scientific community. It was also argued that Parental Alienation Syndrome does not appear in the DSM-lV, which they offered as evidence of its nonexistence.

The DSM-lV is the official diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals in their work with patients. It is a resource containing diagnostic codes and diagnostic criteria. The argument was made that if PAS cannot be found in the DSM-lV, that it does not exist. The Court found that this argument was flawed. The Court reasons that PAS was first described in 1985, and the DSM-IV was last updated in 1994, only 9 years after PAS’s original description by Dr. Gardner. Since the DSMs are rewritten every ten to twelve years, reflecting growing scientific knowledge, The Court reasoned that it is not unreasonable that PAS would not appear in the DSM-IV so shortly after it was first described. To support this conclusion,the Court found compelling the argument that AIDS was not in the medical diagnostic manual when it was first described, but that obviously did not invalidated its existence. Additionally, the Court found compelling the argument that Gille de Ia Tourette first described his syndrome in 1885. It was not until 1980 that Tourettes’s Syndrome found its way into the DSM, some 90 years after its description. Therefore, the fact that Parental Alienation Syndrome has not yet appeared in the DSM only nine years after its original description, is an invalid argument against its nonexistence.

The court also found significant the fact that, as proffered by Dr. Richard Warshak, the American Psychological Association approvingly cites works by Dr. Gardner in its child custody guidelines. In fact, Dr. Gardner is the only author amongst this elite list of works cited by the APA, that has three different works cited as essentially being state of the art on the subject of child custody evaluation.

Finally, the Court ruled that all of Dr. Gardner’s arguments were bolstered and confirmed by Richard Warshak, Ph.D. who is a psychologist and full professor at a prestigious university. Also submitted into evidence were multiple articles by various authors that echoed and confirmed the existence of Parental Alienation Syndrome within the scientific community.

The fact that Parental Alienation Syndrome has generated so much controversy and heated debate is an interesting question on its own, and one that will be addressed in a future article. Suffice it to say that this ruling should begin to answer and calm some of these arguments.

1. Poliacoff, Jerome H. “Parental alienation Syndrome: Testing Gardner’s Theory in the Family Courts”
Commentator, vol. 9, pp., 2000.
2. Frye v. United States, 293F. 1013, 1014, (D.C. Cir. 1923)
3. Kilgore v. Boyd, Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida, Hillsborough
County, Family Law Division, Case No. 94-7573, Div. D.
4. Bone, J. Michael and Walsh, Michael, “Detection of Parental Alienation Syndrome and What to Do
About it”, The Florida Bar Journal

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  1. Thank you for posting this very informative and interesting article. For those who live in CA, let's contact our representatives to make sure this measure (AB 612) does not go thru.

  2. Thank for this insightful article. I certainly hope anyone who reads it, but especially those in CA contact their representatives and asks them to not support AB 612

  3. Finally...unfortunately I live in NY. If your children have ever been withheld from you, it is an absolutely unbearable situation. The courts have never recognized the damage that is done by withholding children. My husband's ex-wife consistently denied him visitation. If he argued, he was the bully, he was seen as the bad guy. She was able to haul us into court for more support (which my husband never failed to pay) within six months of our being married (and i note she had been remarried for 8 years and had a child with her 2nd husband). She saw a 2nd paycheck coming. Yet she would hang up on my husband when he called for visitation. 20,000 later in attorney's fees for her demanding more money, she failed to show up to trial which my husband wanted to go along with. Suddenly she wanted to "settle". My husband was advised to sign the settlement agreement which included a new visitation schedule with everything worked out, weekends, vacations, etc. Try to forget about the money his ex-wife had garnished because even if we won, the court would most likely never go after the "mother". Reluctantly he signed. The following weekend when he called to pick up his boys, his ex-wife hung up the phone on him. This woman is not a mother....she's the queen in a chess game....and she pawned her own children. How sad, how tragic...for these children, for my husband and for my now 12 year old son, who lost his brothers. Oh yeah, their "mother" did a really great job. The same year child support ended for each child, they cut off contact with their father. They cut off contact with their then 6 year old brother. They learned what they were taught. Their father is a wonderful, sweet devoted husband and father. My son is incredibly blessed and so is my husband. All I can say is "the Cat's in the Cradle"....I pity these boys and their "mother". The Court needs wake up...If a custodial parent can have a non-custodial thrown in jail for lack of child support, the non-custodial should have the same rights for withholding the children. Parental alientation is very, very alive and thriving. It needs to end and is Child Abuse!!!

  4. Right On - Mark with thanks to CAconservative - This is a great BLOG

    I have put your article up on Ration Shed
    Go -

    Onward - Jim

  5. Hi,

    Thanks for your post. For quite a long time, Parental Alienation Syndrome had not been accepted as a valid point in custody cases. It has been widely criticized universally. Even the APA or the American Psychological Association has been very cautious about adopting any stance on the issue of parental alienation as a valid psychological condition. The Association has often criticized the misuse of the syndrome as well.