Missing the Alienation

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April 23, 2014

NPO Logo National Parents Organization improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting every child's right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.
Missing the Alienation
By Linda Kase-Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-r

Jason Patric
Linda Kase-Gottlieb
Why do mental health professionals and attorneys who evaluate or work with alienated children frequently mistake alienation for estrangement?

The main reason is that cases of parental alienation are counterintuitive. That is, the brain is hardwired to misinterpret and misunderstand the family dynamics in these situations. That leads to a number of common cognitive errors (thinking errors) that, in turn, lead to serious errors in professional reasoning and decision-making. In other words, the brain is tricked by alienation cases just as it is tricked by an optical illusion. Consequently, many professionals, including mental health professionals and attorneys, get these cases backwards. Often, the targeted parent is unfairly criticized for having allegedly contributed to his or her rejection, and the alienating parent is either absolved or believed to have made only a minor contribution. Thus, unless the professional has an in-depth understanding of alienation and estrangement, cases of severe alienation are frequently mistaken for estrangement.

This phenomenon has been described in some detail by Steven Miller, M.D., a physician who studies clinical reasoning and clinical decision-making. For an excellent summary, readers might wish to refer to a chapter that Dr. Miller wrote entitled, “Clinical Reasoning and Decision-Making in Cases of Child Alignment: Diagnostic and Therapeutic Issues,” in the book, Working with Alienated Children and Families, edited by Amy J. L. Baker, Ph.D. and Richard Sauber, Ph.D.  Dr. Miller examines the complexity of alienation cases, explains why such cases are so counterintuitive, even to professionals, and describes how even the most experienced mental health practitioner can succumb to a variety of cognitive and clinical errors. Read more...

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‘Women Leaving the Workforce in Record Numbers’ Bodes Ill for Fathers
April 21, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
One of the key indicators of the status of fathers’ rights and their ability to achieve equal parenting post-divorce is the level of workforce participation by women. The more mothers opt for staying home with children, the more fathers must opt for paid work. And when those facts come before family court judges, mothers receive sole or primary custody essentially as a matter of course. Read more...

Child Support Protest Under Way in Florida
April 20, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
There’s a two-person protest underway in Highlands County, Florida. The two aren’t terribly articulate, but they know what they’re talking about; the points they make are some of the most trenchant on the subject of their protest, which is child support. These two know whereof they speak because they’ve been abused by the system, so they’re passing out fliers on the steps of the courthouse trying to recruit supporters to their cause. Read about it here (Highlands Today, 4/11/14). Read more...

Update: Dorothy Lee Barnett Agrees to Extradition in Kidnapping Case
April 18, 2014by Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Utah
Dorothy Lee Barnett appeared in court in Australia via Skype to consent to her extradition to the United States to face charges of parental kidnapping and falsifying passport documents. Back in 1994, she lost custody of her one-year-old daughter to her ex-husband, Benjamin Harris Todd. She’d claimed he was abusive toward her and their daughter, but the South Carolina judge in the case found against her and required her to undergo psychotherapy. That was based on a psychologist’s diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. Read more...

Ontario Judge Slaps Mom, Children’s Aid Society with Record Sanctions in Custody Case
April 17 , 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A Superior Court judge in London, Ontario has levied a whopping $1.4 million in court costs against the Children’s Aid Society and another $600,000 against a mother in child custody suit. The case stretched over three years taking 154 days of court time and became known around the courthouse as “the case that will never end.” Read about it here (London Free Press, 4/10/14). Read more...

Office of Child Support Enforcement: Most Arrears Owed by Parents with ‘Little or No Income’
April 16 , 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement has come out with its latest information about child support entitled “The Story Behind the Numbers: Major Change in Who is Owed Child Support Arrears.” While there’s some good news, sadly, the bad news remains much the same. And even the good news may obscure facts that many would regard as discouraging. Here’s the report (ACF, March, 2014). Read more...


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