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September 18, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

The National Organization for Women and other anti-equal-parenting organizations have long ignored the science on Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), even going so far as to claim there’s not any. It doesn’t get much more anti-intellectual than that, even in the U.S. with our long and rich history of same. NOW and others of its ilk have an anti-father agenda and they’re not about to let a little thing like decades of science on PAS, conducted in over 40 different countries, get in their way.

Of course the American Psychiatric Association recently finalized its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V, and one of the most serious debates leading up thereto was whether to include PAS as a discrete diagnosis. Some with scrupulous scientific questions about inclusion and a great number of people whose aim is to deny to fathers anything that might possibly assist them in getting a fair shake in custody matters opposed inclusion of PAS. And a great number of PAS inclusion proponents fought for it. In the end, the committee did the prudent thing; it included the concept of PAS but called it something else. That allows PAS to be recognized for what it is – a potentially serious emotional disorder in the children of alienating parents - while providing a fig leaf to those who opposed its inclusion in the DSM-V.

For the time being, that strikes me as a fair enough outcome. But the utterly debased arguments of NOW and other anti-dad advocates still show them in the worst possible light. As I said here, opposition to recognition of PAS is wrong for everyone (Fathers and Families, 7/2/12). It’s not just completely wrong on the science, although it is certainly that, but worse, it’s bad for children, mothers and fathers.

Children obviously suffer from an alienating parent and studies strongly suggest the emotional/psychological problems spawned thereby can last long into adulthood, impairing the adult’s ability to form stable, long-term relationships. Targeted parents suffer as well when the alienator convinces the child to hate and fear the target.

I use the term “target” for the obvious reason, outright denied by NOW, et al, that fathers as well as mothers can be alienators. Of course there are far fewer fathers who have custody, so it’s mostly mothers we see alienating their children, but fathers have proven themselves more than equal to the task, when given the opportunity. Just read Linda Gottlieb-Kase’s fine text “ The Parental Alienation Syndrome” and you’ll see plenty of case histories of alienation by parents of both sexes.

But so terrified are NOW, et al of fathers gaining even a modicum of power in family courts that they oppose recognition of PAS. The irony of course is that, in so doing, they’re simultaneously opposing empowering mothers to fight alienating fathers. From where I sit, that looks like taking political ideology a bit far. After all, when one’s misandric ideology turns around and bites the very people – women – you claim to support, something’s gone awry. But NOW’s ideology trumps all.

Anti-father advocates do far more than oppose inclusion of PAS in the DSM-V, though. Despite its well-known and thoroughly studied processes and effects, those opposed to children having a relationship with their fathers post-divorce go further to claim that all mothers who alienate children are really just protecting them from evil fathers. In that narrative, anything a mother says about a father, regardless of how plainly false, impossible or just plain loony, is true and any evidence to the contrary, regardless of how well-founded, logical, proven by evidence, etc., must be false.

Glenn Sacks did yeoman work in exposing the fables of the “protective mother” set, revealing their claims for what they are – (a) mostly fevered imaginings and (b) anti-father. So in case after case – Sadia Loeliger, Amy Neustein, Holly Collins, Mazultov Borukhova and countless others - mothers plainly abusing their children are depicted as “protecting” them against evil fathers. And when the fathers mention the fact, whether in court or out, the same anti-father groups simply claim that everything the mother says is true, again despite evidence, logic or common sense.

In that way, NOW goes to bat for child abuse. It’s not a pretty picture.

It turns out that the resistance to recognition of PAS can have terrible consequences. We always knew it could, because, well, how could it not? But in case anyone forgot, there’s this case (Washington Post, 9/16/13).

Upset that her husband had gained custody of their two children, a son Jaelen, 13 and daughter Faith, 9, Marilyn Edge apparently murdered them with poison last Saturday in a California motel room. That’s no run-of-the-mill parental murder of children, the likes of which sadly happen all too frequently. It’s the culmination of six years of alienation of the kids by Marilyn against their father, Mark Edge. Although the details of the case are still coming to light, it’s clear that, from the very beginning of their divorce in 2007, Marilyn had been engaged in a single-minded campaign to oust Mark from their lives.

The Edges were married for less than 10 years and divorced in December 2007, [Mark’s attorney Marian]Weeks said. Marilyn Edge claimed her former husband, who routinely traveled to Afghanistan where he worked as a contractor, failed to make child support payments, according to court records.

She also claimed the children of a friend of her ex-husband were sexually abusing her kids, but the allegations were never proven, Weeks said.

Needless to say, Marilyn was given full custody of the children.

Weeks said the case began to turn in the ex-husband’s favor in September, when a judge reduced child support payments and ordered joint custody. At the time, Edge hadn’t seen his kids in more than 1 1/2 years because his ex-wife refused to let him visit, the lawyer said.

Mark Edge was stymied again by his ex-wife, who moved to Arizona shortly after the judge’s order, saying she was getting a job transfer. He only saw his children three or four times via video phone calls, Weeks added.

“All he wanted was to spend time with his children,” Weeks said. “But Marilyn could not let that happen.”

At a hearing last Wednesday in a Georgia courtroom, a judge found that Marilyn Edge was alienating her children from her ex-husband and said he should be given full custody, Weeks said. It’s customary for the custody transfer to happen the same day as the judge’s order, Weeks said, but Marilyn Edge said the children were staying with her parents in Arizona.

The judge gave her until noon Sunday to turn over the children. On Friday, Mark Edge received a text from his ex-wife saying, “’I will see you on Sunday and I have their school records,’” Weeks said.

That grace period, given to a woman who’d denied all contact with his children to Mark for years, allowed her the opportunity to murder them and attempt suicide.

The judge in the Georgia case eventually grasped what Marilyn was up to, but by then it was too late. That judicially-granted hiatus allowed her to murder the children rather than allow custody by Mark.

Had anti-father forces not been so effective at denying even the possibility that children need two parents in their lives instead of only their mothers, had they not been so successful at casting aspersions on PAS, maybe the judge would have acted more quickly. Had he/she done so, perhaps Mark would have gotten custody long ago or at least maintained a significant relationship with them. And maybe Jaelen and Faith would still be alive.

Judges and all the various hangers-on in family court – the guardians ad litem, custody evaluators and the like – must be educated about PAS, and when they see it, they must not hesitate to put a stop to it. Most cases of alienation don’t end up as tragically as this one did, but PAS is invariably a form of child abuse. As such, it is not in the child’s best interests to be exposed to PAS. In our system of child custody, only judges have the ability to both recognize PAS and do something about it. That ‘something’ often means a change in custody and strictly supervised visitation by the alienating parent.

The judge in the Edge case did that, but too late. Judges need to overcome their pro-mother bias and, for the sake of the children in whose best interests they’re charged with acting, prevent the child abuse that is PAS.

And organizations like NOW should hang their heads in shame and issue multiple mea culpas for their disgraceful efforts to get us to misunderstand and ignore the alienation of children.

The National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

The National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting. Thank you for your activism.

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