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October 10th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
New York Post
columnist Andrea Peyser gets more wrong here in a short column than I thought possible (New York Post, 10/1/12).  Maybe it’s hard for some people to write more than one piece a week and make sense, but when she took on the ongoing Kelly Rutherford/Daniel Giersch custody case, she must have put her foot in something; it smells.

Peyser is the sort of pop-off journalist who’s long on attitude and short on facts and judgment.  Her linked-to piece is a good example.

The Rutherford/Giersch case is like a lot of custody cases we read about in which one party, usually the mother, takes to the press to make her case and get sympathy, while the dad refuses to respond to press inquiries, preferring to make his case in court.  And, when the mother is not only pretty and blonde, but a TV celebrity to boot, her bid for sympathy is sure to find plenty of willing supporters.  So it’s no surprise that Rutherford has appeared on countless television talk shows bemoaning the “loss” of her kids in a temporary order by a Los Angeles judge.

If there’s been a single one of those shows or articles about the case that paused to scrutinize Rutherford’s claims in the least, I haven’t seen it, and Peyser’s is no exception.  For one thing, none of them seems to notice that Rutherford hasn’t “lost” her kids at all.  On the contrary, she’s got an order for roughly 50% parenting time, something that fathers around the world would fall on their knees and give thanks for.

Peyser’s all twisted up about the fact that Rutherford is required to, as a very temporary measure, fly to Paris to see her children.  Now, for many people, that would be onerous or evenimpossible, but not for her; she’s got the money to go anywhere in the world.  It’s true that money can’t cure jet lag, but of all the millions of fathers separated from their kids by far more than jet lag, how many of them has Peyser gone to bat for?  Any?  The one eternal truth of family courts and family law is that fathers are marginalized in the lives of their kids; all too often, they lose them altogether, often based on false allegations of abuse or domestic violence leveled at them by the mother.  How many of them has Peyser written about?  Where’s her deep compassion for their kids?

No, she’s too busy trashing Daniel Giersch, a man about whom she knows nothing with the possible exception of what she’s heard Rutherford say about him.  Now there’s a credible source.  What we all know about Giersch is that he’s lost his visa to enter this country.  Why’d that happen?  No one seems to know right now, but at least one report says it’s because Rutherford or her first lawyer in the custody case told the State Department that Giersch has been running drugs and arms in South Africa.  Has he done that?  Neither Germany (his home country) nor France (his country of residence) seems to think so, since there are currently no investigations of him in either country, at least none anyone’s reported on.

That suggests that the reason Giersch can’t be with his children in this country, nor they with him, is because of some artful and very possibly false pleading by Rutherford.  But Peyser knows none of that, or if she does, prefers to pretend that Giersch wears the black hat.

But her ignorance doesn’t stop there.

But Kelly has fallen victim to a specious claim that’s getting nearly as common as divorce itself. Kelly is accused by her ex of “parental alienation’’ — a new fad in bust-ups that’s wielded against women like a club.

Specious claim?  Fad?  Wielded against women?  Hey, it doesn’t get much less informed than that.  My guess is that Peyser went to NOW’s website and searched for anything the organization had on parental alienation and let her “research” go at that.  After all, those are basically NOW’s talking points on parental alienation syndrome, and Peyser must have gotten her claims from somewhere.

Unfortunately, that “somewhere” wasn’t anywhere reliable or responsible.  It’s hard to call something “specious” that’s backed up by the type of scientific data that supports PAS.  The concept goes back to the early 80s and in fact further.  It was noticed and recorded by at least eight different researchers working independently of each other.  The ensuing years have accumulated hundreds of peer-reviewed studies from researchers in some 40 countries on the subject of PAS.  Dr. William Bernet of Vanderbilt University has recently published a book gathering the state of the art information on PAS together in one place.  Other clinicians like Richard Warshak, Amy Baker and Linda Gottlieb have published extensively on PAS.

Peyser knows nothing of any of that.

“Wielded against women?”  Of course since Peyser hasn’t read anything accurate on PAS, how could she know that all PAS literature makes clear that both men and women are known to engage in alienating behavior?  That’s what happens when you stick your head in the sand – you can’t see things that are plain to everyone else.

Of course if Rutherford was the one responsible for getting Giersch’s visa revoked, that looks very much like alienating behavior, and pretty effective, too.  If you’re determined to get the kids all to yourself, what could be simpler than just having their father legally stranded thousands of miles away?  It looks like the perfect solution.

But then that pesky judge came along and fouled things up.  Judge Teresa Beaudet ruled that it would be Giersch who had custody until permanent orders could be made.  That came as a great surprise to Rutherford who doubtless counted on the usual pro-mother order being issued.  But Beaudet seems to have taken California law seriously, at least the part that requires judges to consider which parent better facilitates the relationships of the children with the other parent.  Beaudet wrote that, “Daniel has facilitated the relationship of the children with Kelly . . . and Kelly simply has not done so.”  Giersch’s visa revocation fits perfectly with that, but to Peyser I suppose it’s just some inexplicable coincidence.  Wow.  Ignorance and naivete all in one short piece.  That’s quite an accomplishment.

Because it’s inconvenient to her “poor Kelly” thesis, Peyser ignores the law that governs custody decisions in the state.  It’s not just the facts about PAS, but applicable law that Peyser tosses aside like so much trash in her zeal to locate a wronged mother where there is none.

It’s fine with me for people to dispute PAS as a disorder that should or should not be included in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  It’s also fine with me for people to dispute who should or shouldn’t get custody in any given case.  Those can be principled discussions.  What’s anything but principled is Peyser’s column and others like it that display not only an astonishing ignorance, but a disdain for facts.

The NY Post isn’t exactly known as a beacon of objectivity or even good taste, but even by its standards, Peyser’s piece is junk.

Thanks to Bill for the heads-up.

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