First and foremost, if you were searching for information about Parental Alienation, it is likely that you may be personally concerned about these issues in your own life and family. If so, it is vitally important that you realize that the specific issues that appear in Parental Alienation cases are very different than those arising in even a contentious divorce when alienation is not an issue. A few examples may be illustrative.
It is well understood that visitation interference is a central theme in Parental Alienation cases, as are false allegations of abuse. If one’s attorney is not familiar with this, it is very likely that improper advice will be given, such as “not making waves,” that the “kids will come around” and “not to make an issue of a little bit of visitation being missed.” If alienation was not present in an ongoing divorce, this advice would be very likely appropriate.
In the context of high conflict divorce where alienation is present, it is well understood that false allegations of abuse against the Targeted Parent abound as a strategy to gain advantage in the custody dispute.
If an otherwise competent attorney, however not intimately familiar with alienation, is representing a client who has been wrongly accused of being abusive to their child, they might very well recommend that that client agree to say, an Anger Management Course, so as to placate the other side and to convey to the Court that their client is being responsible. Such advice is commonly given even though the client in question does not have an anger problem. Such advice might also be given as a means for that client to have visitation, perhaps supervised, rather than have the visitation completely cut off.
Again, if Parental Alienation was not present in a case, such advice could be sound under certain circumstances. However, if alienation is present, such advice would very likely stigmatize that parent in the perception of the Court as being an angry and difficult parent, when this is not the case, causing further injury to the relationship with the child.
Further, such advice, perhaps resulting in unnecessary supervised visitation, would likely send a message to the child that this parent is perhaps “scary” or somehow inferior. Why else would they need a supervisor? In other words, such advice would ironically act in the service of the alienation.
As further example, imagine that the Court has ordered a Custody Evaluation or therapy for an alienated child. If an otherwise competent therapist, who is however unfamiliar with alienation, was appointed, it is likely that they would take a position of supporting the child’s resistance to seeing the Target Parent, essentially treating that child as if they had been the victim of domestic violence when such was never the case.
Likewise, an otherwise competent Evaluator who is however unfamiliar with Parental Alienation, would very likely take the child’s complaints about the Target Parent at face value without ruling out bona fide abuse and otherwise negative parental behavior.
Such an evaluation would then yield recommendations that likewise would support and even encourage the alienation.
Finally, it is important to understand that dealing with Parental Alienation in divorce is a very specialized area, in both the legal and the mental health arenas. Therefore, it is vitally important to understand that these competencies should not be assumed in the selection of an attorney or in the selection of a mental health professional.
Having been directly involved in the training of both attorneys and mental health professionals regarding Parental Alienation, I have developed an acute sensitivity to these issues of professional awareness and professional performance concerning alienation in the context of divorce. If anything, one should assume that most attorneys and most mental health professionals are not familiar with Parental Alienation. This is a much safer operating assumption than the reverse.
In next week's article, I will provide information on selecting the right professionals to assist with your Parental Alienation case.
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