Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'You've bankrupted my dad'

'You've bankrupted my dad': 13-year-old girl to sue Child Support Agency after legal battle left father with crippling debts

By Andy Dolan
Last updated at 7:30 PM on 29th December 2009

A teenager is sueing the Child Support Agency in a landmark court case accusing them of trying to destroy her 'hero' father and happy family life to pay off the mother she no longer wants to see.

Emma Chapelhow is launching legal proceedings after the CSA threatened to throw her dad David in jail, seize her home and pet pony to help pay £43,000 in back-dated payments they claim he owes.

Now the 13-year-old girl - who instructs her own solicitor - will become the first minor in England to mount a judicial challenge to the CSA.

Emma Chapelhow
David Chapelhow

Landmark case: Emma Chapelhow claims legal battles have forced her father David, right, to live in a caravan to make ends meet

In 2007, a judge ruled that Emma no longer needed to stay in her mother's care after the youngster told a court hearing she wanted to live with her father on his farm in Wellow, Notts.

Her father David, 42, claims the decade-long legal battle he fought in the family courts against his ex-partner Janette Plummer and the Government agency left him with crippling debts.

The former graphic designer is currently living in a caravan in a muddy field with Emma and his wife Gair, while they rent out their farmhouse to make ends meet.

He paid maintenance to his ex-partner while Emma lived with her in Brighton, but he has challenged the CSA's 'outrageous' demands for the backdated cash.

After years of wrangling he was handed the huge bill in 2006 and told his lifestyle was 'inconsistent with income'. David says that's all down to the CSA believing his ex-partner's 'fantastical' claims of his luxury living.

Emma was left in tears back in September when bailiffs acting for the CSA came to the farm and allegedly threatened to take her pet pony Pringle to help meet the payments. Since then her father has been involved in further court hearings and the matter has still not been resolved.

Now the teenager has warned the CSA that because she has not had a satisfactory response she intends to start legal action.

In a letter to CSA chief executive Mark Grimshaw, Emma wrote: 'My name is Emma Chapelhow and I am 13 years old. In 2007 I moved to live with my father. The judge said that I am old enough and able to instruct my solicitor, which I did.

'The court moved me to my father. They said that my mother could not see me again. I am very happy living with my Dad and Gair, who has spent 10 years fighting for me. He is a hero.

'I know my dad spent everything he had fighting for me and I know that he has no money left, and because of this he rents his house and we live in a caravan. My Mum does not have to pay my Dad for me now and this is unfair.'

Emma Chapelhow and horse Pringle

'Outrageous' demands: The CSA threatened to seize Emma's pet pony, Pringle, to help pay £43,000 in backpayments it claims her father owes

Emma is suing under Article 2 of the Child Support Act 1991 - a guiding principle of the Agency which orders CSA officials to 'have regard to the welfare of any child likely to be affected by his decision'.

She believes that the CSA's action breaches the code as it will bankrupt her father and force her into poverty, which is completely at odds with Gordon Brown's government policies.

Emma said: "I do not understand why the CSA are doing this and why my mother is putting money before my future. I've asked her to stop all this because she can, if she wanted.

'I will take legal action because the CSA have failed to protect me and are still failing to protect me. How can taking my home and financial stability away to pay the mother who the courts are protecting me from not affect my welfare?'

David, who is jointly taking legal action along with his daughter, said: 'They are ignoring her needs as a child and putting both the CSA and the mother she no longer wishes to see before her.

'And to make matters worst when she has written to them they about possible legal action they have ignored her letters too and keep writing back to me.

'Enforcement action will have no effect except to put Emma in child poverty.'

The National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA) claims Emma is the first child in England to sue the CSA.

Since it was created in 1993 the CSA has been constantly under fire. According to the Department for Work and Pensions one-in-four decisions made by agency officials are simply wrong.

Emma's mother Janette Plummer, who lives in a large detached home in Brighton with new husband Lee, has not paid any maintenance to her ex-partner in the three years since her daughter moved in with her dad.

She has said the decision to award custody to Mr Chapelhow had her support and claims that the backdated maintenance would bankrupt him are untrue.

A Child Support Agency spokesman said they could not comment on individual cases, but it was not their policy to carry out any enforcement orders which could affect any child's living conditions.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Parental Alienation is Kidnapping

Parental Alienation is Kidnapping

Currently our laws grossly ignore parental alienation as nothing more than an act of absconding (ie, running away). However, running away means to take oneself. Abduction and kidnapping means to take someone else. Most children are too young or too used to going with a parent that they are unaware that any crime is being committed and in many cases are brainwashed into thinking that they were being abused.

ABSCOND – Etymology: Latin abscondere to hide away, from abs- + condere to store up, conceal Date: circa 1578 :
1 : to depart secretly and hide oneself

ABDUCT – Etymology: Latin abductus, past participle of abducere, literally, to lead away, from ab- + ducere to lead Date: 1825
1 : to seize and take away (as a person) by force
2 : to draw or spread away (as a limb or the fingers) from a position near or parallel to the median axis of the body or from the axis of a limb

Currently in most states, courts and law enforcement reduce the act of parental alienation to nothing more than a civil matter that is misclassified as absconding. Any parent and child(ren) who has been through parental alienation know that it is nothing shy of abduction, kidnapping and in some cases holding a child for ransom.

As you can see from the Webster dictionary definitions it is clear that to abscond is to “hide oneself” where abduct is “to seize and take away.” Many children are not old enough to know what is happening to them and therefore the act of parental alienation is a gross injustice. Currently this biased view gives unjust enrichment and discriminatory power to one parent. By simply creating the custody order at the time of birth you can resolve nearly 100% all of parental alienations and reduce courts caseload dramatically because you have removed a HUGE grey area that plague parents, children, law enforcement and the courts.

Parental Alienation is just starting to be recognized as a serious form child and spousal abuse and therefore I must ask that we give children and both biological parents the justice that they deserve. Our children are more than “just a civil matter”; they are humans who rate human rights, they are children who rate biological rights and they are citizens who should be protected by our states and above all else our nation. Our current child support system, our courts, and attorneys are given the power and authority to hold children hostage for money.

I am calling for revisions to all U.S. Federal, State and Local Codes to reflect that acts of parental alienation are felony acts of child abduction and/or kidnapping as may apply to each case.

Many acts of parental alienation are malicious acts of vengeance against the other spouse and therefore need to be judged according to the time a child is kept from the other biological parent barring true and just cause. Limiting the amount of time that a child can be kept from visitation, communication and other legal rights that both biological parents possess would help reduce the courts case loads.

Stephen Ricket

Saturday, December 19, 2009



This document has been prepared to provide corrections for certain misrepresentations and misperceptions of some of my contributions. There have been unfortunate misinterpretations of some of my positions on a variety of issues. Some of these originated from conflicts in the legal arena, where attorneys frequently select out-of-context material in order to enhance their positions in a court of law. This is the nature of the adversary system, and it is one of the causes of the controversy that sometimes surround my contributions. Some of these misperceptions and misrepresentations have become so widespread that I considered it judicious to formulate this statement.

Misperception: Dr. Richard Gardner is biased against women

Fact: This cannot be reasonably substantiated by anything I have ever written, lectured on, or testified to in a court of law. With regard to the alleged gender bias associated with the parental alienation syndrome, the facts are that I will generally recommend that PAS-inducing mothers in both the mild and moderate categories retain primary custody. When PAS is severe, or rapidly approaching the severe level, and the mother is the primary promulgator, then I recommend a change of custody. But this represents only a small percentage of cases. And these are exactly the recommendations I make in my book The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

Misperception: Dr. Gardner is an advocate for Men’s Rights’ Groups

Fact: I have never been a member of any Men’s Rights’ Groups. In fact, I have never been a member of any advocacy group whatsoever. Many men in men’s rights groups are very pleased with me because I played an important role in bringing to public attention the false sex-abuse accusation in the context of child-custody disputes and testified in support of innocent men in this category. However, in the same groups are many men who are critical of me because they claim I do not generally recommend custodial change for mothers who have induced mild and moderate levels of PAS in their children. As mentioned, I generally reserve such a recommendation for the relatively small percentage of mothers who have produced very formidable levels of moderate PAS and/or severe levels of PAS.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner testifies predominantly in support of men

Fact: There is absolutely no basis for this myth. I have testified on behalf of women who have been victimized by PAS-inducing husbands, and I have testified on behalf of men whose wives are PAS inducers. In fact, in the last few years, the number of PAS-inducing men against whom I have testified has increased formidably, to the point where I see the ratio now to be about 50/50.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner is a hired gun

Fact: When I agree to involve myself in a custody litigation there is a three-step process that each prospective client must take. First, every attempt must be made to involve me as the court’s independent examiner. If this fails I may be willing, after some exploration of the case, to be recognized as the inviting party’s expert, but I make no promises beforehand that I will support that party’s position. I require the inviting party to sign a document in which he (she) agrees to pay my fees, and even for my testimony, if I ultimately decide that the opposing party warrants my support. There have been cases when in the course of my evaluation I have concluded that the opposing party’s position is the more compelling one, and I have ultimately testified on that party’s behalf.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s publications are not peer reviewed

Fact: I have published approximately 150 articles of which approximately 85 have been in peer review journals.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner has his own publishing company, Creative
Therapeutics, Inc., and publishes all his books through his own

Fact: I do own Creative Therapeutics, Inc., and since 1978 I have published most (but not all) of my books through Creative Therapeutics. The implication is that Creative Therapeutics is some kind of a vanity press and that if not for it, I could not find publishers for my books. The facts are that between 1960 and 1968 I published books with the following other publishers: Bantam Books—4, Jason Aronson, Inc.—6, Avon Books—1, Doubleday—1, Prentice-Hall—2, G. P. Putnam’s—1. Furthermore, Creative Therapeutics has not published any of the multiple foreign translations of my books. In 1991 Bantam published the second edition my book, The Parents Book About Divorce. Furthermore, I periodically receive invitations from other publishers to write books. The main reason why, in recent years, I have published through Creative Therapeutics is that I have much more autonomy regarding book size and content, and the returns are more favorable.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner is on the Executive Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMS Foundation)

Fact: I have never been on this board. A review of any of their periodicals listing membership will support my statement that I am not included on their Executive Board. I am certainly sympathetic to the Foundation’s position with regard to the belated accusations of sex abuse by women who have been led by others to believe they were abused in childhood when there is absolutely no evidence for it. Such sympathy does not preclude my recognition of the fact that bona fide sex abuse is a widespread phenomenon and that there are even women who may have limited recollection of their abuses. I am in agreement with the Foundation’s position that psychotherapy has been oversold to the public, and it is a far less scientific method of treatment than generally believed. However, I believe that the Foundation’s position on psychotherapy is too stringent and goes to the point that no form of psychotherapy is considered efficacious.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner believes that pedophiles should be granted primary custody of their children

Fact: I consider pedophilia to be a psychiatric disorder, an abominable exploitation of children. I have never supported a pedophile in his (or her) quest for primary child custody. Because I have testified on behalf of falsely accused defendants, there are some who claim that I am reflexively protective of pedophiles and sympathetic to what they do. There is absolutely nothing in anything I have ever said or written to support this absurd allegation. When I conclude in a custody dispute that an accused father has pedophilic tendencies, I will advise the court to provide protection for the children. I would certainly not recommend primary custody for such a parent.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner supports and is fully sympathetic to the practice of pedophilia

Fact: There is absolutely nothing that I have ever said in any of my lectures, or anything that I have written in any of my publications to support this allegation. This is my position on pedophilia: I consider pedophilia to be a form of psychiatric disturbance. Furthermore, I consider those who perpetrate such acts to be exploiting innocent victims with little, if any, sensitivity to the potential effects of their behavior on their child victims. Many are psychopathic, as evidenced by their inability to project themselves into the position of the children they have seduced, and ignore the potential future consequences on the child of their abominable behavior.
Accordingly, we all need protection from pedophiles. Jail is certainly a reasonable place to provide us with such protection. This is especially the case because the vast majority of pedophiles are not going to be cured, or even helped significantly with their problems, by psychotherapy—the assertions of some psychotherapists notwithstanding. By adulthood the pedophilic orientation has been deeply embedded in the brain circuitry and is not likely to be changed by such a superficial approach as “talk therapy.” Nor is it likely to be changed to a significant degree by conditioning techniques, i.e., “behavior modification.” It is as reasonable to believe that one could accomplish this goal as it is to believe that one could change an adult homosexual into a heterosexual and vice versa.
I am also in favor of Megan’s Law, which requires that communities learn about the presence in their midst of pedophiles who have just been released from prison. I do believe, however, that the same laws should be applied to those who have been convicted of certain other crimes such as rape (which in a sense is similar to pedophilia), murder, arson, and other felonies that present formidable risks to the community. In short, I have absolutely no sympathy for pedophiles, and the fact that I have testified in courts of law in defense of innocent parties—who have been wrongly accused of pedophilia—does not mean that I am in any way sympathetic to those who actually perpetrate such a heinous crime.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner believes that pedophilia is a good thing for society

Fact: I believe that pedophilia is a bad thing for society. I do believe, however, that pedophilia, like all other forms of atypical sexuality is part of the human repertoire and that all humans are born with the potential to develop any of the forms of atypical sexuality (which are referred to as paraphilias by DSM-IV). My acknowledgment that a form of behavior is part of the human potential is not an endorsement of that behavior. Rape, murder, sexual sadism, and sexual harassment are all part of the human potential. This does not mean I sanction these abominations.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner believes that the vast majority of incestuous sex-abuse accusations are false

Fact: I believe that the vast majority of incestuous sex-abuse accusations are true. There are other categories of sex-abuse accusations, e.g., accusations against babysitters, clergy, scout masters, teachers, strangers, and accusations in the context of child-custody disputes. Each category has its own likelihood of being true or false. It is in the category of child-custody disputes that I believe that the vast majority of accusations are false, and there is support for this belief in the scientific literature. This category represents only one of many, and although false accusations in child-custody disputes is common practice, this category represents only a small fraction of all groups combined. When one combines all groups, I hold that the vast majority of sex-abuse accusations are true.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner is in strong support of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)

Fact: I have never been a member of this organization, and I am opposed to its primary principles. Adult men who have sex with boys are exploiting them, corrupting them, and contributing to the development of sexual psychopathology in them. NAMBLA’s position is that if the child consents, then the pedophilic act is acceptable and even desirable. This is a rationalization for depravity. Children can be seduced into consenting to anything, including murder. Society needs to protect itself from those who would exploit our children. Jail is one reasonable place to provide such protection.

Misperception: The PAS is not a syndrome

Fact: There are some who claim that the PAS is not really a syndrome. This criticism is especially seen in courts of law in the context of child-custody disputes. It is an argument sometimes promulgated by those who claim that PAS does not even exist. The PAS is a very specific disorder. A syndrome, by medical definition, is a cluster of symptoms, occurring together, that characterize a specific disease. The symptoms, although seemingly disparate, warrant being grouped together because of a common etiology or basic underlying cause. Furthermore, there is a consistency with regard to such a cluster in that most (if not all) of the symptoms appear together. Accordingly, there is a kind of purity that a syndrome has that may not be seen in other diseases.
For example, a person suffering with pneumococcal pneumonia may have chest pain, cough, purulent sputum, and fever. However, the individual may still have the disease without all these symptoms manifesting themselves. The syndrome is more often “pure” because most (if not all) of the symptoms in the cluster predictably manifest themselves. An example would be Down’s Syndrome, which includes a host of seemingly disparate symptoms that do not appear to have a common link. These include mental retardation, mongoloid-type facial expression, drooping lips, slanting eyes, short fifth finger, and atypical creases in the palms of the hands. There is a consistency here in that the people who suffer with Down’s Syndrome often look very much alike and most typically exhibit all these symptoms. The common etiology of these disparate symptoms relates to a specific chromosomal abnormality. It is this genetic factor that is responsible for linking together these seemingly disparate symptoms. There is then a primary, basic cause of Down’s Syndrome: a genetic abnormality.
Similarly, the PAS is characterized by a cluster of symptoms that usually appear together in the child, especially in the moderate and severe types. These include:
1. A campaign of denigration
2. Weak, absurd, or frivolous rationalizations for the deprecation
3. Lack of ambivalence
4. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon
5. Reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict
6. Absence of guilt over cruelty to and/or exploitation of the alienated parent
7. The presence of borrowed scenarios
8. Spread of the animosity to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent
Typically, children who suffer with PAS will exhibit most (if not all) of these symptoms. This is almost uniformly the case for the moderate and severe types. However, in the mild cases one might not see all eight symptoms. When mild cases progress to moderate or severe, it is highly likely that most (if not all) of the symptoms will be present. This consistency results in PAS children resembling one another. It is because of these considerations that the PAS is a relatively “pure” diagnosis that can easily be made. As is true of other syndromes, there is an underlying cause: programming by an alienating parent in conjunction with additional contributions by the programmed child. It is for these reasons that PAS is indeed a syndrome, and it is a syndrome by the best medical definition of the term.

Misperception: PAS does not exist because it’s not in DSM-IV

Fact: There are some, especially adversaries in child-custody disputes, who claim that there is no such entity as the PAS, that it is only a theory, or that it is “Gardner’s theory.” Some claim that I invented the PAS, with the implication that it is merely a figment of my imagination. The main argument given to justify this position is that it does not appear in DSM-IV. The DSM committees justifiably are quite conservative with regard to the inclusion of newly described clinical phenomena and require many years of research and publications before considering inclusion of a disorder. This is as it should be. The PAS exists! Any lawyer involved in child-custody disputes will attest to that fact. Mental health and legal professionals involved in such disputes are observing it. They may not wish to recognize it. They may refer to it by another name (like “parental alienation”). But that does not preclude its existence. A tree exists as a tree regardless of the reactions of those looking at it. A tree still exists even though some might give it another name. If a dictionary selectively decides to omit the word tree from its compilation of words, that does not mean that the tree does not exist. It only means that the people who wrote that book decided not to include that particular word. Similarly, for someone to look at a tree and say that the tree does not exist does not cause the tree to evaporate. It only indicates that the viewer, for whatever reason, does not wish to see what is right in front of him (her).
To refer to the PAS as “a theory” or “Gardner’s theory” implies the nonexistence of the disorder. It implies that it is a figment of my imagination and has no basis in reality. To say that PAS does not exist because it is not listed in DSM-IV is like saying in 1980 that Lyme Disease did not exist because it was not then listed in standard diagnostic medical textbooks. The PAS is not a theory, it is a fact.
But why this controversy in the first place? With regard to whether PAS exists, we generally do not see such controversy regarding most other clinical entities in psychiatry. Examiners may have different opinions regarding the etiology and treatment of a particular psychiatric disorder, but there is usually some consensus about its existence. And this should especially be the case for a relatively “pure” disorder such as the PAS, a disorder that is easily diagnosable because of the similarity of the children’s symptoms when one compares one family with another. Over the years, I have received many letters from people who have essentially said: “Your PAS book is uncanny. You don’t know me, and yet I felt that I was reading my own family’s biography. You wrote your book before all this trouble started in my family. It’s almost like you predicted what would happen.” Why, then, should there be such controversy over whether or not PAS exists?
One explanation lies in the situation in which the PAS emerges and in which the diagnosis is made: vicious child-custody litigation. Once an issue is brought before a court of law—in the context of adversarial proceedings—it behooves one side to take just the opposite position from the other if one is to prevail in that forum. A parent accused of inducing a PAS in a child is likely to engage the services of a lawyer who may invoke the argument that there is no such thing as a PAS. And if this lawyer can demonstrate that the PAS is not listed in DSM-IV, then the position is considered “proven.” The only thing this proves is that DSM-IV has not yet listed the PAS.
Another factor operative in the controversy relates to the false sex-abuse accusation that is commonly a spin-off of the PAS. It is such a common problem that there are many who equate PAS with false sex-abuse accusations. Those who deny the existence of false sex-abuse accusations at the same time frequently deny the existence of the PAS. Therefore, people who claim that the PAS exists may find themselves criticized as individuals who do not believe in the existence of true sex abuse.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner utilizes coercive interview techniques in which he bludgeons children into saying whatever he wants them to

Fact: I make every attempt to videotape my interviews of children alleging sexual abuse. I have done hundreds of hours of such interviews. Not once has anybody been able to demonstrate coercive interview techniques in the course of these. In fact, my interviews are often viewed in another room—via a monitor—by parents, lawyers, mental health professionals, and sometimes the child’s own therapist. Not once has anybody ever come forth with the complaint that my interviews were coercive, even under circumstances in which the parties were able to interrupt my interview while it was in progress. The interview tapes are available to both sides and yet not once has an opposing attorney ever taken such a tape and even tried to demonstrate to the court that my interview was coercive.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner has been barred from testimony in many courts of law throughout the United States

Fact: This is pure myth. To date I have testified directly in approximately 30 states and in others via telephone. I have been testifying since 1960. Not once has a court of law not recognized me as an expert.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner claims that he is a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, yet he does very little teaching there

Fact: The implication of this statement is that I am somehow misrepresenting myself. I have been on the faculty of the Columbia Medical School since 1963. In earlier years I did more teaching than I have in recent years, but such reduction in teaching obligations is common for senior medical school faculty members. More importantly, people who do significant research and writing generally do far less teaching. This has been my position.
When I was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1983, I was the first person in the history of Columbia’s Child Psychiatry department to achieve that rank who was primarily in private practice (rather than full-time faculty). I had to satisfy all the same requirements necessary for the promotion of full-time academics. And this was also true when I was promoted to the associate professorial rank some years previously.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s protocols for evaluating sex abuse are not recognized by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Fact: My protocols not only follow the guidelines delineated in “Guidelines for Conducting the Sex-Abuse Evaluation” published in 1998 by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, but my book, Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation, is cited as one of the references. Even more importantly, I was invited to serve as a consultant to the committee formulating this document.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s sex-abuse protocol has no scientific validity

Fact: My book Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation provides scientific references to the vast majority of the criteria that I use for differentiating between true and false sex-abuse accusations. No competent professional has ever claimed in a court of law or in a publication that any single criterion in this volume lacks scientific validity. Actually, the criteria that I use are derived from the same literature that others use when differentiating between true and false accusations. However, my list of differentiating criteria is generally longer and more exhaustive than any of the lists I have seen.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s interest in the field of child sex abuse is probably related to the fact that he himself is tainted somehow in this realm, e.g., he was sexually abused himself as a child, or he himself is a sex abuser

Fact: I was never sexually abused as a child. I have never sexually abused a child, nor have I ever been accused of such behavior.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s interest in child-custody disputes probably stems from the fact that he himself was involved in such a dispute

Fact: I have never been involved in a child-custody dispute involving my children.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s work is “controversial”

Fact: The implication here is that because controversy exists there is something specious about my contributions. It is true that most newly developed scientific principles become “controversial” when they are dealt with in the courtroom. It behooves the attorneys to take an opposite stand and create controversy where it does not exist. This is inevitable in the context of adversarial proceedings. A good example of this phenomenon is the way in which DNA testing was dealt with in the OJ Simpson trial. DNA testing is one of the most scientifically valid procedures. Yet the jury saw fit to question the validity of such evidence, and DNA became, for that trial, controversial. Those who discount my contributions because some are allegedly “controversial” sidestep the real issue, namely, what specifically has engendered the controversy, and, more importantly, is what I have said reasonable and valid? The fact that something is controversial does not invalidate it.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner has a publicist

Fact: There was a period of approximately nine months (fall 1992 to summer 1993) when I did engage the services of a publicist. The purpose was to bring public attention to one very important case in which I was involved. That was the only time that I have used the services of a publicist.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner is extremely expensive and only represents rich people

Fact: My fees are higher than average, but commensurate with that of people at my level of experience and expertise. I have also done a significant amount of pro bono work. At any given point I usually have one or two pro bono patients for whom I dedicate myself as assiduously I would had they been paying me. I do not differ here from many other physicians whose fees from those who can pay enables them to provide services at low cost—or even at no cost—to others.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s work on the PAS and sex abuse is not generally recognized by the professional communities

Fact: This vague statement does not identify which people in which professional communities do not recognize my work. As indicated elsewhere on this website, there are approximately 65 articles published in scientific journals on the parental alienation syndrome. Furthermore, institutions in both the legal and mental health realms have invited me repeatedly to lecture on the PAS and sex abuse, and thousands have attended my lectures throughout the United States, in Canada and in some countries abroad.

Misperception: The PAS has not been recognized in courts of law

Fact: Again, no mention is made regarding which courts of law. Although there are certainly judges who have not yet recognized the PAS (I have no hesitation using the word “yet”) there is no question that courts of law with increasing rapidity are recognizing the disorder. Elsewhere in this website are cited 37 cases in which the PAS has been recognized. I am certain that there are others which have not been brought to my attention.

Misperception: The PAS is a discredited theory

Fact: Those who promulgate this myth do not state who has discredited the PAS and by what authority. The facts are just the opposite. An ever-increasing number of legal and mental health professionals are writing articles on the PAS and citing it in courts of law. These two are cited in this website.

Misperception: Gardner believes that judges, lawyers, juries, and evaluators who involve themselves in sex-abuse lawsuits become sexually “turned on” in the course of the litigation

Fact: As the media well knows, sex and violence attract attention. People are more likely to read about these issues than less “interesting” topics. To deny prurient interests is to deny reality. This does not mean that I believe that people are sitting in the courtroom in a state of high sexual excitation while the trial is going on.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner believes that everybody has pedophilic tendencies

Fact: I believe that all people are born with the potential to engage in every kind of atypical sexual behavior known to humanity. It behooves parents and other caretakers to suppress socially unacceptable behavior and to channel the child’s sexual urges into socially accepted forms. This should happen in early childhood. In our society the pedophilic potential has been suppressed successfully for the vast majority of individuals. Those who have not experienced such suppression become pedophiles. There have been other societies in the history of the world that have not suppressed pedophilic tendencies. The fact that such suppression has not taken place is a fact of history. This does not mean that I suggest that we emulate such societies or that I approve of pedophilia. Human sacrifice has been widespread in many societies in the history of the world. This also is a fact of history. To state this fact does not mean that I approve of the practice.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s custody evaluations do not follow the guidelines delineated by the American Psychological Association

Fact: My child-custody evaluative procedures follow every one of these guidelines. Those who promulgate this myth do not say specifically what in these guidelines is not subscribed to by my child-custody evaluative procedures. In fact, my publications describing my procedures have been cited in the 1994 American Psychological Association’s “Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluation in Divorce Proceedings.” The Guidelines cite the first edition of my book on the parental alienation syndrome as well as my 1992 volume True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s sex-abuse evaluations do not follow the guidelines delineated by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Fact: Again, those who promulgate this myth do not state exactly which aspects or elements in my protocol do not follow these guidelines. The facts are that they do. In 1997 the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published “Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused.” I was a consultant to the committee that prepared this document, and my 1992 and 1995 books which describe my protocols are cited in this document.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s PAS has given abusing parents the weapon to use against their accusers. Specifically, they deny their abuse and claim that the children’s animosity is the result of the accuser’s programming

Fact: I do not deny that some bona fide abusers are doing this. The implication of the criticism, however, is that somehow I am responsible for such misrepresentation of my contribution by these abusers. PAS exists, as does child abuse. There will always be those who will twist a contribution for their own purposes. The second edition of my book The Parental Alienation Syndrome provides evaluators with detailed criteria for differentiating between true abusers and PAS indoctrinators.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s work has contributed to sex-abuse hysteria in this country

Fact: In a way, this is a compliment, because it credits me with the power to create a national hysteria that did not exist before my publications. Describing a phenomenon does not mean that I created it. My book Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited was published in 1991, at least six or seven years after the hysteria began. (The reader may recall that the McMartin accusations surfaced in 1983 and the Kelly Michaels accusations in 1988.) Obviously, the sex-abuse hysteria phenomenon was well under way before the publication of my book.

Misperception: Gardner is responsible for judges all over the United States and Canada disbelieving mothers claiming that their children were sexually abused by their husbands. As a result children are not being protected from their pedophilic fathers

Fact: Again, there is a compliment here in that I, a single person, could have such an enormous influence over the judiciary over a whole continent. The alternative explanation, namely, that my contributions have brought to light the abomination of false sex-abuse accusations is not acknowledged by those who promulgate this myth.

Misperception: Dr. Gardner’s work has resulted in people committing suicide and homicide

Fact: There is no question that I have been involved in a few cases in which such tragedies have occurred. I do not differ, thereby, from the vast majority of other psychiatrists who have been in full-time practice for over 40 years. The implication here is that I somehow have been personally responsible for these deaths. Unfortunately, considerations of confidentiality prevent me from making any public statements regarding these particular cases. The old adage is applicable here: “There are two sides to every story.” And my side, without revealing any specific information about any specific case is this: I have never been involved in a case in which I have been directly responsible for anyone’s suicide or anyone’s homicide. And in every such case I could, if I had the opportunity, provide compelling evidence that these terrible consequences had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Richard A. Gardner, M.D.
Cresskill, New Jersey
June 9, 1999

Friday, December 18, 2009

Brazil court supports US dad in son's custody case

Brazil court supports US dad in son's custody case

RIO DE JANEIRO — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a 9-year-old boy living in Brazil should be returned to his American father, but the case will likely be appealed again, officials said. U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the decision.

A panel of three Brazilian judges ruled the boy must be handed over to his father, David Goldman, at the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro within 48 hours, said Ricardo Zamariola, Goldman's attorney.

"He's really happy but he is worried about any eventual future decision that could block the boy being handed over to him," said Zamariola, who added that he didn't expect a final resolution until at least the first half of next year.

Clinton thanked Brazil's government for assistance and said she was encouraged by the court's decision "that Sean Goldman, a young American boy wrongfully retained in Brazil for more than five years, should be reunited with his father David in New Jersey."

In a statement, she also said: "It is my hope that this long legal process is now complete and that the Goldman family will be reunited quickly. They will be in my thoughts and prayers today and throughout this holiday season."

Goldman's lengthy court battle to get custody of his son, Sean, has gained international attention as President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and Clinton have all weighed in, seeking the child's return.

The decision by the federal appeals court in Rio de Janeiro upheld a Brazilian federal judge's earlier ruling.

But Zamariola said he was certain lawyers for Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, the Brazilian stepfather with whom Sean is living, would appeal, perhaps to the Supreme Court.

Lins e Silva's attorney, Sergio Tostes, declined to comment.

Goldman was not present for the ruling Wednesday and didn't return a request for comment made to his U.S.-based attorney, Patricia Apy. Zamariola said he spoke with Goldman and that he was expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday morning.

The case began in 2004, when Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took then-4-year-old Sean to her native Brazil. Goldman says it was to be a two-week vacation.

But she stayed and so did the boy. She eventually was divorced there and remarried. Last year, she died giving birth to a daughter.

Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, had already been seeking his son's return under an international treaty that covers cross-border child abductions.

Bianchi's death generated more interest in the case, which has been discussed this year by top-level diplomats in Washington and the Brazilian capital, Brasilia. It also has been the subject of congressional hearings in the U.S. and has prompted protests in both countries.

Previous rulings favorable to Goldman have been scuttled by other Brazilian courts.

But U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who has traveled to Brazil with Goldman and held congressional hearings on the issue, said he was optimistic Sean would soon be in the U.S.

"It's outstanding news," the New Jersey congressman said of Wednesday's ruling. "Even if there is an appeal, the order is to deliver Sean to the Embassy Friday."

Meanwhile, Sean's Brazilian maternal grandmother has said that Sean wants to stay in Rio. She has filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking that the boy's statements be taken into consideration. A similar request from the Brazilian family was denied earlier this year. The child, who has dual citizenship, has been shielded from speaking directly to the news media.

Both Goldman, a former model who now has a fishing charter business, and members of Bianchi's family, including her second husband, have appeared on television talk shows to make their case.

Goldman and his son reunited in February for the first time since the child was taken to Brazil. They have not seen each other since June.

Associated Press Writers Alan Clendenning in Sao Paulo and Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

The Associated Press: Brazil court supports US dad in son's custody case.

Boston Parent Still Fighting to See His Children After Biased Court Decision

Protest Action by Mr. Andrew Steele, Boston

This are of the web site is about Mr. Andrew Steele. A Boston parent who lost any real contact with his four sons after a Divorce and wanted to make a peaceful statement about the violation of basic rights that occurred. I was able to speak to a good friend of his, Ms. Mandy Varona mandyvarona@yahoo.com who lives in Seattle and is familiar with Andrew and his history. I came away very impressed by his motivation and methods. This was a preplanned and thoughtful action his part. I encourage anyone, especially those in the Boston area, to contact Andrew & Ms. Varona.

December 10th, 2009: (Human Rights Day) The initial news report was:

"An unhappy parent was caught red-handed tagging a courthouse after being denied a holiday visit with his sons. Andrew Steele, 45, of Tacoma, Wash. used three cans of spray paint to write "Steele boys rights denied" in large letters on the Brockton District Court in Boston, Mass.... TheBostonChannel.Com & PatriotLedger.Com

Ms. Varona explained that Andrew had not planned to use regular spray paint! He was going to purchase cans "easy remove" paint -- the same type that is used to spray "Just Married" on cars.

He also prepared a two page "Purpose of Protest Statement" before his action -- which he knew was Human Right's Day, the start of Human Rights week. An excerpt from that statement:


  • My son rights have been and continue to be denied them.
  • My rights have been and continue to be denied me.
  • My children's mother's life has been made very difficult.
  • Some family members have been and continue to be harmed.

FACT: Children need to feel special in Mom's life and Dad's. When they have this they do alright. When they are denied this they are at greater risk of having troubles. (click here to read complete statement)


"Mr. Steele was arraigned in Brockton, MA, court on charges of tagging, destruction over $250 and malicious damage. Steele was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $500,000 surety. He will return to court on Jan. 6." -- from TheBostonChannel.Com

I was told he does not plan on making bail and wishes to continue his protest as a prisoner. We encourage everyone to write him at:

Andrew Steele, #53441
Plymouth House of Corrections
Housing Unit BS1
26 Long Pond Rd.
Plymouth, MA 02360

He has a good friend, Ms. Mandy Varona. She is trying to help Andrew get as much publicity as possible. She is very familiar with his family background and struggles. She can be contacted at: Ms. Mandy Varona mandyvarona@yahoo.com , phone: (206) 313-9888


For many years Andrew worked in construction. He married and the couple had four sons (who now range in age from 8-13). In his 40s he realized he would not be able to work construction for long and wanted to make a career change and become a Children's Book writer. He wrote and published one book (Amazon link below). His wife was not happy with this career change and sought divorce.

The divorce began in 2006 and almost immediately the Judge ordered "supervised visits" and Andrew could only see his four sons every other weekend, from 10am - 5pm, in a visit supervised by someone acceptable to his wife. There had been no type of threatening conduct on his part.

The divorce decree was issued in Nov of 2009 and no change was made to the visitation schedule or procedure. There was NO extra time for any vacations or holidays. Andrew had hoped for a return to more normal contact with his children -- this triggered his plan of action. (Click here for decree - NOTE: Andrew challenges the veracity of the some of the reported "Facts" listed. These documents are usually character assassination of the 'losing' party, but Andrew wanted to be completely upfront in the matter).

Dr. Warshak Discusses Parental Alienation on 20/20 Tonight

Friday, Dec 18, 2009

Dr. Warshak Discusses Parental Alienation on 20/20 Tonight

Parental alienation expert Dr. Richard Warshak will be featured on United States ABC Network's 20/20 program on Friday, December 18, 2009, at 8pm CST or 9pm EST/PST. See 20/20's schedule for more information, to read related stories, or to view the program after it has been broadcast. Stories on 20/20 during this special 2-hour episode related to child custody battles and parental alienation include: Bringing Pietro Home: One Dad's Epic Custody Fight Brandon Henry Was Told His Child Was Dead. To Get the Truth He Headed to Italy. Fighting for Liam: Michael McCarty Journeys to Italy in Hopes of Regaining Custody of Son Abducted by His Mother, Liam Remains in Orphanage Due to Legal Delays

Thursday, December 17, 2009


American Judges Association

When Psychiatry and the Law Join Forces

Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

In the mid to late 1970s, in association with the replacement of the tender-years presumption with the best-interests-of-the-child presumption (and the gender egalitarianism incorporated therein), we witnessed a burgeoning of child custody litigation. Fathers who previously had little if any chance of gaining custody now found court support for their quest. Since the late 1970s, in association with the increasing popularity of the joint custodial concept, there was an even further burgeoning of custody litigation. Whereas previously the courts tended to award one parent sole custody and assigned the other parent visitation status, now litigating parents could each hope for a large share of time with the children. In association with what can justifiably be called a custody litigation explosion (which is still going on), I began to see a disorder, which I rarely saw before, that developed almost exclusively in children who were exposed to and embroiled in custody disputes. The primary characteristic of this disorder is obsessive alienation from a parent.

Originally, I thought I was observing manifestations of simple "brainwashing." However, I soon came to appreciate that things were nor so simple and that many other factors were operative. Accordingly, I introduced the term parental alienation syndrome.

I use the term to refer to a disturbance in which a child is obsessed with deprecation and criticism of a parent (more often the father) denigration that is unjustified or exaggerated. At the same time, the other parent can do no wrong and the nonpreferred parent can do no right. The notion that such children have merely been brainwashed by the preferred parent is narrow. The term brainwashing implies that one parent is systematically and consciously programming the child to denigrate the other parent. The concept of the parental alienation syndrome includes much more than brainwashing. It includes not only conscious but subconscious and unconscious factors within the preferred parent that contribute to the parent's influencing the child's alienation. Furthermore (and this is extremely important), it includes factors that arise within the child-independent of the parental contributions - that foster the development of the syndrome.

Typically, the child is obsessed with "hatred" of a parent. (The word hatred has been placed in quotes because there are still many tender and loving feelings felt toward the allegedly despised parent that are not permitted expression.) These children speak of the hated parent with every vilification and profanity in their vocabulary - without embarrassment or guilt. The vilification of the parent often has the quality of a litany. After only minimal prompting, the record will be turned on and a command performance provided. One not only detects a rehearsed quality to the speech but often hears phraseology that is identical to that used by the "loved" parent. (Again, the word loved is placed in quotes because hostility toward and fear of that parent may similarly be unexpressed.) Even years after they have taken place, the child may justify the alienation with memories of minor altercations experienced in the relationship with the hated parent. These are usually trivial and relate to experiences that most children quickly forget: "He always used to speak very loud when he told me to brush my teeth," "She used to say to me 'Don't interrupt,"' and "He used to make a lot of noise when he chewed at the table." When these children are asked to give more compelling reasons for the hatred, they are unable to provide them. Frequently, the loved parent will agree with the child that these professed reasons justify the ongoing animosity.

The hatred of the parent often includes that parent's complete extended family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents - with whom the child previously may have had loving relationships - are now viewed as similarly obnoxious. Greeting cards are not reciprocated. Presents sent to the child's home are refused, remain unopened, or even destroyed [generally in the presence of the loved parent]. When the hated parent's relatives call on the telephone, the child will respond with angry vilifications or quickly hang up on the caller. The rage of these children is so great that they become completely oblivious to the privations they are causing themselves. Again, the loved parent is typically unconcerned with the untoward psychological effects on the child of the rejection of these relatives.

The child may exhibit a guiltless disregard for the feelings of the hated parent. There will be a complete absence of gratitude for gifts, support payments, and other manifestations of the hated parent's continued involvement and affection. Often, these children will want to be certain the alienated parent continues to provide support payments, but at the same time adamantly refuse to visit with that parent. Commonly, they will say that they never want to see the hated parent again, or not until their late teens or early twenties. To such a child I might say: "So you want your father to continue paying for all your food, clothing, rent, and education - even private high school and college - and yet you still don't want to see him at all, ever again. Is that right?" Such a child might respond: "That's right. He doesn't deserve to see me. He's mean and paying all that money is a good punishment for him."

Those who have never seen such children may consider this description a caricature. Those who have seen them will recognize the syndrome immediately, although some children may not manifest all the symptoms. The parental alienation syndrome is becoming increasingly common, and there is good reason to predict that it will become even more common in the immediate future if custody conflicts become even more prevalent.

Elsewhere (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) I have described in greater detail the causes and manifestations of the parental alienation syndrome. Of the causational factors, those that are most pertinent to this article relate to what I consider to have been the misguided egalitarianism of the "sex-blind" criteria for assessing parental capacity in custody disputes. Whether the result of genetic difference (probably of survival value in past times, when women were primarily child rearers and men hunters and warriors) or the fact that mothers (even today) are more likely to have been the primary child rearers, the mother-child psychological bond is generally stronger than the father-child I believe that the symptoms of parental alienation syndrome - in both mothers and children - have been related to the attempts to preserve this stranger bond. Although many of these mothers' tactics may be considered vicious, manipulative, and deceitful, I have sympathy for these women. They have felt helpless and impotent and have often resorted to primitive techniques because of the failure of more civilized and adult maneuvers to work for them. And children, too, have been threatened by the disruption of the mother-child bond. The children's techniques have been even more primitive because of their naivete about the world. Although they have selected maneuvers that seem absurd and preposterous to the adult, these maneuvers do not appear so to children because of their cognitive immaturity and less sophisticated ability to defend themselves against the disruption of the mother-child bond. Here I focus on the therapeutic and legal approaches to the treatment of these children and their families, which (with increased experience) I have divided into three types. Each type warrants its own special therapeutic and legal approach. Finally, I will propose guidelines for evaluators and courts, which if implemented are likely to reduce, if not prevent entirely, the development of the parental alienation syndrome.

The Three Types of Parental Alienation Syndrome Families

Based on my more recent work with these families, I have divided them into three categories: severe, moderate, and mild. Although there is actually a continuum, and many cases do not fit neatly into one of these classifications, the differentiation is still important with regard both to psychotherapeutic and legal approaches. If evaluators are to provide the most judicious recommendations, it is vital that they determine first the proper category in which the family fits. In each category I will discuss the mothers, the children, and the appropriate psychotherapeutic and legal approaches. I will use the mother as the example of the preferred parent because this is the case in the majority of such families. My explanation for this disparity has relevance to my theory of the causes of this disorder. However, the same considerations apply to the father when he is the favored parent.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that in many (if not most) cases the therapy of these families is not possible without court support. Only the court has the power to order these mothers to stop their manipulations and maneuvering. And it is only the court that has the power to place the children in whichever home would best suit their needs at the particular time. Therapists who embark upon the treatment of such families without such court backing are not likely to be successful.

Severe Cases of the Parental Alienation Syndrome.

The mothers of these children are often fanatic. They will use every maneuver at their disposal (legal and illegal) to obstruct visitation. They are obsessed with hatred of their husbands. In many cases, they are paranoid. Sometimes the paranoid thoughts and feelings about the husband are focused on him alone; in other cases, this paranoia is just one example of many types of paranoid thinking. Often the paranoia did not exhibit itself before the breakup of the marriage and is a manifestation of the psychiatric disintegration that often results from protracted divorce (especially custody) disputes.(2) Central to the paranoid mechanism is projection. These mothers see in their husbands many objectionable characteristics that actually exist within themselves characteristics that they do not wish to recognize. By projecting these unacceptable qualities onto their husbands, they can consider themselves innocent victims. When a sex-abuse accusation becomes incorporated into the package, such mothers may be projecting their own sexual inclinations onto the father. (3 6, 7) In the service of this goal they exaggerate and distort any comment the child makes that might justify the allegation. And this is not difficult to do because children normally will entertain sexual fantasies, often of the most bizarre form. I agree with Freud (8) that children are "polymorphous perverse," and they thereby provide these mothers with an ample supply of material to serve as nuclei for their projections and accusations.

Such mothers do not respond to logic, confrontations with reality, or appeals to reason. They will readily believe the most preposterous scenarios provided by or elicited from their children. Experienced and skilled mental health examiners - who claim that there is no evidence for the accusation are dismissed as being against them or as being bribed by the husband. And this is typical of paranoid thinking: it does not respond to logic, and any confrontation that might shake the system is rationalized into the paranoid scenario. Even a court decision that there is absolutely no evidence that the father is guilty of sex abuse does not alter her beliefs nor reduce her commitment to deprecation of the father. Energizing the rage is the "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" phenomenon.

The children of these mothers are similarly fanatic. They often share her paranoid fantasies about the father. They may become panic-stricken over the prospect of visiting their father. Their blood-curdling shrieks, panicked states, and hostility may be so severe that visitation may seem impossible. If placed in the father's home they may run away, become paralyzed with morbid fear, or be so destructive that removal becomes necessary. Unlike children in the moderate and mild categories, their panic and hostility may not be reduced quickly in the father's home. However, there are children in this category whose state of agitated rage against the father will become reduced if required (especially by court order) to remain in their father's home over an ongoing period.

Regarding the therapeutic approaches in this category, traditional therapy for the mother is most often not possible. Usually, she has absolutely no insight into her deep-seated psychiatric problems and is thereby totally unreceptive to treatment. Often, she will consider therapists and other evaluators who believe that her delusions are not warranted to be joining in with her husband. These examiners thereby become incorporated into the paranoid system. A court order that she enter into treatment is futile. Judges are sometimes naive with regard to their belief that one can order a person into treatment. Most judges appreciate that they cannot order a frigid wife to have an orgasm or an impotent husband to have an erection. Yet, they somehow believe that one can order someone to have conviction for and commitment to therapy. Accordingly, the court does well not to order such treatment because it will only make a mockery of therapy.

It is important for judges to appreciate that treatment for the children is most often not possible while the children are still living in the mother's home. No matter how frequently they are seen in treatment, no matter how skilled the therapist, the time in therapy is only a small fraction of the total exposure time to the mother's vilification of the father. There is a pathological psychological bond here between the mother and children that is not going to be changed by therapy as long as the children live with the mother.

Accordingly, before meaningful treatment can begin the children must be removed from the mother's home and placed in the home of the father, the allegedly hated parent. This may not be accomplished easily, and the court might have to threaten sanctions (such as fines or permanent loss of custody) and even jail if the mother does not comply. Following this transfer there must be a period of decompression and debriefing in which the mother has no contact at all with the children. Only in this way will the children be given the opportunity to reestablish their relationship with the alienated father without significant contamination from the mother. Even telephone calls must be strictly prohibited for at least a few weeks, perhaps longer. The transfer can be monitored by a court-ordered therapist or guardian ad litem who has direct input to the court and who the mother knows will be reporting any resistance or uncooperative behavior. Then, according to the therapist's or guardian ad litem's judgment, slowly increasing contacts with the mother may be initiated, starring with monitored telephone calls. The danger here, however, is that these will be opportunities for reprogramming the children against the father.

In some cases this program may be successful, especially if the mother can see her way clear to entering into meaningful therapy (not often the case for mothers in this category). In these cases the children might ultimately be returned to the mother. However, if she still attempts to alienate the children it may be necessary to assign primary custody to the father and allow limited visitation with the mother to protect the children from significant reprogramming. In extreme cases one may have to sever the children entirely from the mother for many months or even years. In such cases the children will at least be living with the healthier parent. My experience has been that in such cases the animosity toward the father gradually becomes reduced. In contrast, if the court allows the children to remain living with such a disturbed mother - and believes that therapy of the children will "cure" them of their alienation - then it is likely that there will be lifelong alienation from the father. I recognize that some readers will consider this approach very stringent, even punitive. From the point of view of the mother it certainly is; with regard to the welfare of the children, it is the most humane approach.

Moderate Cases of the Parental Alienation Syndrome.

The mothers in this category are not as fanatic as those in the severe category but are more disturbed than those in the mild category (who may not have a psychiatric disturbance). In these cases the rage of the rejected woman is more important than paranoid projection. These mothers can differentiate between allegations that are preposterous and those that are not. There is still, however, a campaign of deprecation and a significant desire to wreak vengeance on the father by alienating the children from him. Many are quite creative in their excuses to obstruct visitation. They may be unreceptive to court orders; however, they will often comply after threats of fines or transfer of custody. When a false sex-abuse allegation is incorporated into the parental alienation syndrome [a not uncommon additional weapon](3, 6, 7) they will be able to differentiate between the children's preposterous claims and those that may have some validity. Whereas the mothers in the severe category have a sick psychological bond with the children (often a paranoid one), the mothers in this category are more likely to have a healthy psychological bond that is being compromised by their rage. The mothers in the moderate category are more likely to have been good child rearers before the divorce. In contrast, the mothers in the severe category, even though nor significantly disturbed before the separation, often have exhibited formidable impairments in child-rearing capacity before the separation. Therefore, mothers in the moderate category can most often remain the primary custodial parent if the combined efforts of the court and the therapist or guardian ad litem are successful in enabling the children to resume normal visitation with the father.

The children in this category are less fanatic in their vilification of the father than those in the severe category but more than those in the mild category. They also have their campaigns of deprecation of the father but are much more likely to dispense with their scenarios when alone with him, especially for long periods. A younger child may often need the support of an older one to keep the campaign going. The younger children are often the parrots of the older one, and they develop the parental alienation syndrome by imitating an older sibling. However, the primary motivation for the children's scenarios is to maintain the healthy psychological bond with the mother.

With regard to court-ordered therapy for these families, it is important that one therapist be used. I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough. We are not dealing with a situation in which the mother should have her therapist, the father his therapist, and the children their own. Such a therapeutic program, although seemingly respectful of each party's individual needs, is not likely to be effective in treating parental alienation syndrome families. Such fractionization reduces communication between family members, sets up antagonistic sub-systems within the family, and is thereby likely to intensify the pathological interactions that contribute to the parental alienation syndrome. Again, it is crucial that the therapist be court ordered and have direct input to the judge. This can often be facilitated by a guardian ad litem or a child advocate. The mother must recognize that any obstructionism by her will be reported immediately to the judge, either directly by the therapist or through the guardian ad litem or child advocate. The judge must be willing to impose sanctions, such as fines or jail. The threat of loss of primary custody can also help such mothers to "remember to cooperate."

My experience has been that mothers in the severe category, having absolutely no insight into their psychiatric problems, do not generally have therapists. However, mothers in the moderate category often seek therapists. However, they typically select one with whom they develop a mutual admiration society in which the therapist (consciously or unconsciously) becomes the mother's champion in the fight. Most often, the mother chooses a woman as a therapist - especially a woman who is herself antagonistic toward men. Often, the mother's therapist has little, if any, contact with the father and so does not hear his side of the story. When they do meet with him, they typically will be hostile and unsympathetic. Sometimes the children will be brought to this therapist, ostensibly to help them deal with the indignities they are suffering at their father's hands. Although the court may appreciate the pathological nature of the bond the mother has with her therapist, it may be reluctant to order a cessation of such treatment. The court, however, does well to at least prohibit the children from being "treated" by her [as mentioned, rarely a man]. Even if the court were to order the mother's therapist to stop treating her, it is likely that she would find another person who would support her position.

The court should order the mother to see the court's therapist even though her cooperation is not likely to be significant and even though she may be influenced significantly by her own therapist (whom she may still insist on seeing). The court's therapist must have a thick skin and be able to tolerate the children's shrieks and claims of maltreatment. Doing what children profess they want is not always the same as doing what is best for them. Therapists of the persuasion that they must "respect" their child patients and accede to their wishes will be doing these children a terrible disservice. These same therapists would not "respect" a child's wish to refuse a polio shot, yet they will respect the child's wish not to see a father who shows no significant evidence for abuse or neglect. The therapist should recall that the children were likely to have had a good relationship with the father before the separation and that strong psychological ties must still be present. The therapist should view the children's professed hatred as superficial and as designed to ingratiate themselves with the mother. To take the allegations of maltreatment seriously may help entrench the parental alienation syndrome and may result in years of, if not lifelong alienation.

It is crucial that the therapist appreciate that the children need him or her as an excuse for visiting with the father. When "forced" to visit with the father, they can say to the mother that the therapist is mean or cruel and that they really do not want to see the father but that the therapist "makes them." The judge, too, can serve this function for the children. With a court order, they can say to their mother, "I really hate my father, but that stupid judge is making me see him." I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough. It is the most effective way of reducing the children's guilt when they visit, and, in many cases, it may be necessary if the visitation is to be possible.

It is important to appreciate that older children may promulgate the mother's programming down to young ones. And the older children are especially likely to do this during visits with the father. The mother thereby relies on her accomplice to work over the younger ones when in the enemy camp [the father's house). These older children many even mastermind inside jobs in the father's house. Accordingly, a divide-and-conquer approach sometimes is warranted. This is best accomplished by requiring the children to visit separately - or at least separate from the older sibling programmers - until they all (including the mother) have had the living experience that the terrible consequences of being alone with the father were not realized. This is a good example of an important aspect of the therapy of these families; namely, that less is done via the attempt to get people to gain insight and much more is accomplished by structuring situations and providing individuals with actual experiences. Here again, the therapist must have the court's authority to implement such structuring.

Transition periods (that is, the points when the children are transferred from mother to father) may be especially difficult for children with parental alienation syndrome. It is then (when both parents and the children are together) that the loyalty conflicts become most intense and the symptoms most severe. Accordingly, it is risky to have the father pickup the children at the mother's home. In that setting - with the mother directly observing the children - they are most likely to resist going with their father and will predictably gain their mother's support (overt or covert) for their reluctance. Alternative transitional arrangements must therefore be devised, arrangements that do not place the children in a situation in which they are with mother and father at the same time.

A good transition place is the therapist's office. The mother brings the children, spends some time with them and the therapist, and then goes home - leaving the children alone with the therapist. Subsequently, the father comes, spends some time with the children and the therapist, and then takes them to his home. Or a truly impartial intermediary, with whom the children have a good relationship, can pick the children up at the mother's home and bring them to the father's home. A therapist, guardian ad litem, or child advocate can serve in this role. The problem with the latter plan is that it is usually expensive, especially if the intermediary person is a guardian ad litem (most often a lawyer) or therapist.

Once the court has made a final decision that the children shall remain living with their mother, then they are able to dispense with their campaigns of hatred. This is a very important point. The children develop their campaigns of denigration in the desire to maintain the psychological bond with the mother. The custody litigation has threatened a disruption of this bond. Once the court has ruled that the children shall remain living primarily with their mother, they can relax and allow themselves to enjoy a more benevolent relationship with their father. In short, the court's order obviates the need for the symptoms, and so they can be dispensed with.

Sometimes, mothers in this category suddenly decide that they want to move to another state. Some suddenly decide that they want to remove themselves (and children, of course) from the unhappy scene of the custody conflict (including the whole state) and "start all over" or "find themselves" at some remote place (hundreds and even thousands of miles away from the father). Some claim better job opportunities in another state. Some suddenly become "homesick" after many years of comfortable adjustment in the state in which the children were raised. It would be an error for the court to take these arguments seriously. Rather, the court should inform the mother that she is free to leave the state at any time she wishes; however, she should understand that if she does so it will not be with the children.

It is important for judges to appreciate that not all therapists are suited to work with such families. As mentioned, they must have thick skins to tolerate the children's antics as they claim that they are being exposed to terrible traumas and indignities in their fathers' homes. They must also be comfortable with taking a somewhat dictatorial position. This is especially important in their relationship with the mothers of these children. The therapist must appreciate that more of the therapy relates to manipulating and structuring situations than to providing people with insight. False perceptions will be altered to the degree that the therapist can provide people with living experiences. Therapists with a strong orientation toward psychoanalytic therapy are generally compromised when treating parental alienation syndrome families. I am a psychoanalyst myself and involve most of my adult patients in psychoanalytic therapy. However, when a parental alienation syndrome is present, the therapeutic approach must first involve a significant degree of people manipulation (usually by court order) and structure before one can sit down and talk meaningfully with the parties involved. Moreover, therapists who accept as valid the patient's wishes (whether child or adult) and consider it therapeutically contraindicated to pressure or coerce a patient are also not good candidates to serve such families. I, too, consider myself sensitive to the needs of my patients. As mentioned, doing what the patient wants and doing what the patient needs may be two entirely different things. It is for this reason that the courts play such an important role in the treatment of families in which parental alienation syndrome is present. Without the therapist's having the court's power to bring about the various manipulations and structural changes, the therapy is not likely to be possible.

Mild Cases of the Parental Alienation Syndrome.

The mothers of children in this category usually have developed a healthy psychological bond with their children. They believe that gender egalitarianism in custody disputes is a disservice to children but are healthy enough not to involve themselves in courtroom litigation in order to gain primary custody. Some of these mothers may undertake some mild degrees of programming their children against their fathers. Others recognize that alienation from the father is not in the children's best interests and are willing to take a more conciliatory approach to the father's requests. They either go along with a joint custodial compromise or even allow (albeit reluctantly) the father to have sole custody with their having a liberal visitation program. However, we may still see some manifestations of programming in these mothers to strengthen their positions. There is no paranoia here (as is the case for mothers in the severe category), but there is anger, and there may be some desire for vengeance. The motive for programming the children, however, is less likely to be vengeance (as is the case for mothers in the moderate category) than it is merely to entrench their positions in an inegalitarian situation. Of the three categories of mothers, these mothers have generally been the most dedicated ones during the earliest years of their children's lives and have thereby developed the strongest and healthiest psychological bonds with them.

The children in this category also develop their own scenarios, again with the slight prodding of the mother. Here the children's primary motive is to strengthen the mother's position in the custody dispute in order to maintain the stronger, healthier psychological bond that they have with their mothers. These are the children who are most likely to be ambivalent about or receptive to visitation and are most free to express affection for their fathers, even in their mothers' presence.

With regard to therapy, in most children need a final court order confirming that they will remain living primarily with their mother and complete reassurance that there will be no transfer of primary custody to their father. This usually "cures" the parental alienation syndrome. If the children need therapy it is for other things, possibly related to the divorce animosities.


In the majority of cases of parental alienation syndrome, it is the mother who is favored and the father who is denigrated. However, there are certainly situations in which the mother is vilified and the father favored. For simplicity of presentation, and because mothers are more often the favored parent, I have used her as the example of the preferred parent - but recognize that in some cases it is the father who is preferred and the one who may be brainwashing the children and the mother who is the despised parent. In such cases, the fathers should be divided into the aforementioned categories and given the same considerations as described for mothers.

I fully recognize that the division of these families into three categories is somewhat artificial. In reality, we have a continuum from severe to mild cases. However, the distinctions are valid and extremely important if one is to make judicious therapeutic and legal recommendations. It is crucial that the court make every attempt to differentiate between mothers in category one (severe) and those in category two (moderate). The former mothers are often so disturbed that transfer of custody is the only viable option. The latter mothers, their antics notwithstanding, generally still serve better as the primary custodial parent.

Last, a special comment about the guardian ad litem. I have generally found collaboration with guardians ad litem to be very useful when conducting custody evaluations.(2, 9, 10) They can generally be relied upon to obtain documents that a parent might have been hesitant to provide or to enlist the court's assistance in getting reluctant parents to cooperate. The guardian ad litem can be a powerful ally for therapists. However, there is a definite risk when recommending that the court appoint such a person. A guardian ad litem who is not familiar with the causes, manifestations, and proper treatment of children with parental alienation syndrome may prove a definite impediment during treatment. The guardian ad litem traditionally takes pride in supporting the children's needs. Unfortunately, many reflexively support the children's positions. They may not appreciate that they are promulgating the pathology. Some have great difficulty supporting coercive maneuvers (such as insisting that the children visit with a father whom they profess they hate), because such maneuvers are so different from their traditional approach to clients in which they often automatically align themselves with their clients' cause. For guardians ad litem to work effectively with families of parental alienation syndrome children, they must accommodate themselves to this new orientation toward their clients. Accordingly, judges do well when appointing ,guardian ad litem to secure an individual who is knowledgeable about the special approaches necessary for these families.

A Proposal for Preventing the Development of the Parental Alienation Syndrome

All agree that preventing the development of an illness is far more desirable than treating a disorder that has already developed- lust as the parental alienation syndrome developed after the introduction of new criteria for determining parental preference in custody disputes, we are in a position to reverse this pathological situation by introducing what I consider to be more judicious criteria for such determinations. I recommend that we give preference in custody disputes to that parent (regardless of sex) with whom the child has developed the stronger, healthier psychological bond. Because mothers today are still more often the primary child rearer, more mothers would be given parental preference in custody disputes adjudicated under this principle. If, however, in spite of the mother's superiority at the time of birth, it was the father who was the primary caretaker - especially during the early years of life - such a father might very well serve better as the primary custodial parent.

This proposal is essentially sex blind (thereby satisfying present demands for gender egalitarianism) because it allows that a father's input may outweigh the mother's in the formative years, even though he starts at a disadvantage. It uses the psychological bond with the child as the primary consideration in custody evaluations. A mother may be good with infants and toddlers, who are totally dependent on her, but she may do poorly with adolescents, whose independence she has difficulty tolerating. A father may be almost completely inept in taking care of an infant but may excel as a parent when he can share sports and other activities with children at subsequent levels of development.

I refer to this proposal as the stronger, healthy psychological bond presumption, which, I believe, is the one that would serve the best interests of the child in a custody dispute. It is important for the reader to appreciate that the parent who had the greater involvement with the child during infancy is the one more likely to have the stronger psychological bond. However, if the early parenting was nor "good," then the bond that develops might be pathological. Accordingly, I am nor referring here to any kind of psychological bond at all, but a healthy psychological bond. It is not a situation in which any psychological bond at all will do. A paranoid mother, who has so programmed her son that he, too, has developed paranoid feelings about his father, may have a strong psychological band with her son, stronger than that which he has with his father. But this is certainly not a healthy bond, and its presence is a strong argument for recommending the father as the primary custodial parent.

In summary, the stronger, healthy psychological bond presumption is best stated as a three-step process:

  1. Preference should be given to that parent (regardless of sex) with whom the child has developed the stronger, healthy psychological bond.

  2. That parent (regardless of sex) who was the primary caretaker during the earliest years of the child's life is more likely to have developed the stronger, healthy psychological bond.

  3. The longer the time lag between the earliest years and the time of the custody evaluation or decision, the greater the likelihood that other factors will tip the balance in the direction of either parent.


1. Gardner, Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation. Academy Forum (A publication of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis) 29(2):3-7 (1985).

2. _______, Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics (1986).

3. _______, The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sex Abuse. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics (1987a).

4. _______, Child Custody. In Basic Handbook of Child Psychiatry ed. J. Noshpirz. New York: Basic Books, Inc., vol. V, 637-646 (1987b).

5. _______, Judges Interviewing Children in Custody/Visitation Litigation. New Jersey Family Lawyer 7(2):26ff (1987c).

6. _______, Clinical Evaluation of Alleged Sex Abuse. In Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book ed. P. Keller and S. R. Heyman, Sarasota, Florida: Professional Resource Exchange, Inc., vol. VII, 61-76 (1988a).

7. _______, Judges Interviewing Children Who Allege Sex Abuse. New Jersey Family Lawyer 7(8):153ff (1988b).

8. Freud, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex: II-Infantile Sexuality (1905). In The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud ed. A. A. Brill. New York: Random House, Inc. (The Modern Library), 592-593 (1938).

9. Gardner, Family Evaluation in Child Custody Litigation. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics (1982).

10. _______, Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics (1989).

Richard A. Gardner. M.D.. is clinical professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. This article is taken from his book. Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation, published in 1989 by Creative Therapeutics of Cresskill, N.J. - ED