Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Unfortunately, this syndrome is difficult to prove in court, but I believe it to be one that is more prevalent than judges even realize. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in child-custody or child-access disputes. It results from a parent's repeated denigration of the other parent or "brainwashing" of the child against the other parent (the targeted parent) in an attempt to control child access.
This process may start out as seemingly innocent. For example, a child may have visitation with her father, and the anxious mother may react by calling the child during her visit, and indirectly imply that she is not safe with her father. This may cause the child to become stressed or frustrated, confused or even angry. It is, in essence, a form of emotional abuse.
I know of someone close to me who actually had his ex-wife call up on his Christmas Day visit with his daughter in his home (I will note here that he was only enititled to an hour's visitation before the ex-wife called, threatening to involve the police if the child was not returned immediately). During this phone call, the mother was found to be emotionally unstable, frantically crying on the phone with her child, almost screaming to the child: "Are you ok???" Of course the child was ok. She was more than ok. She was spending time with her daddy opening presents from Santa on Christmas Day! Clearly, this was an attempt to instill fear and confusion into the child, so that the child would no longer feel comfortable visiting with her daddy at his home. This incidence is a perfect example of the alienating parent's blatant attempts to limit child access and denigrate the target parent, the father. Unfortunately, the alienation did not stop there. This father was denied access to his own child for over a year. It was not until he hired a lawyer and took his ex-wife to court that he was able to resume visitation with his own child. Meanwhile, the little girl would telephone her father crying, telling him how much she missed him while the mother just stood over her listening and apparently not caring enough about her child's needs to allow her to see her father. Appalling. Appalling that she would put her selfish needs over her own child's needs (and rights!!!) to have a relationship with her daddy.
I would like the court system to become more actively involved in recognizing these cases when they appear on their dockets. Children have been found to become so depressed and anxious over the constant attacks on the other parent, and new family situation if there is one, that some have found that the only way out is suicide.
Emotional abuse of children is not given the same attention as physical abuse of children, which is indeed a very sad reflection of how our society regards children and their rights. Denying a child the right to have a happy, healthy relationship with his or her other parent violates that child in a despicable way. When one's own angry and vindictive desire to regain power and control in a relationship that is now over begins to negatively affect the children of that relationship, it is the responsibility of the courts to determine who should have custody of the children. Surely a parent who continually puts down the other parent, or makes false allegations against that parent and his/her ability to care for the children deserves to have rights as custodial parent revoked.