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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

September 1, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Yesterday, I was privileged to give a presentation at a webinar sponsored by the Canadian organization Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO). I’ll post my speech and a link to it soon. As luck would have it, this post to a Connecticut attorney’s website deals with Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome, and he makes some of the points I did.

The lawyer, Brian Kaschel has seen a dramatic increase in claims of parental alienation, not because people are using the tactic more than they used to, but because attorneys, judges and mental health professionals are more likely to recognize it and take action. Kaschel points out the obvious - alienating behavior has “been around as long as custody and visitation battles.”

As important, Kaschel recognizes parental alienation for what it is, “emotional child abuse.” The more people who realize that one basic fact, the better. The more aware everyone in the family court system is that parental alienation of children is abusive, the more they’ll act to separate alienating parents from their children and the opportunity to abuse them. I don’t mean removing them from the parent’s care altogether, but balancing parenting time so that (a) an alienating parent won’t have the opportunity to brainwash the child and (b) the targeted parent will have more of an opportunity to disprove the alienator’s false narrative.

As I said in my presentation to the PAAO, parental alienation and PAS are opportunistic phenomena. Without the time to inculcate the child with the alienator’s false narrative, alienation becomes difficult or impossible. Equal, or near-equal parenting is the most obvious way to drastically reduce PA and PAS. The fundamental reason is that it cuts down on the alienator’s opportunity to alienate and gives the targeted parent a full chance to demonstrate his/her bona fides to the child. Failing equal parenting laws, the best defense against parental alienation is the education of judges, lawyers and custody evaluators on the realities of PA and PAS.

In my presentation, I made one other recommendation. I think that the code of ethics for lawyers should require them to discharge a client who’s engaged in the alienation of a child. Indeed, the ethical obligations lawyers have probably already require them to do so. After all, the core of alienation is a fictional narrative created by the alienator to turn the child away from the targeted parent. If an attorney is aware that his/her client is alienating, by definition, the parent is presenting to the court claims that are not true. In other words, that parent is either very close to committing perjury or actually doing so. All lawyers are ethically required to withdraw from representation of a client whom they know to be lying to the court, and so it should be with PA and PAS.

As Kaschel points out, Connecticut is one of many states with so-called “friendly parent” statutes. That means judges are required, in deciding custody, to consider which parent is more likely to promote a full and healthy relationship with the other parent. Those statutes have always looked to me to be aimed directly at alienating parents. No alienating parent can be said to be promoting the relationship of the other parent with his/her child. Unfortunately, too many judges seem willing to simply ignore those statutes.

Exactly that happened in the Francis Joseph case that I’ve blogged about before. There his ex did everything in her power to keep their daughter from being with her father whom the court expressly found to be responsible and loving toward her. No less an expert than Dr. William Bernet of Vanderbilt University, perhaps the world’s leading authority on PAS, testified that her behavior was alienating. But the judge simply ignored the requisites of the friendly parent statute and ordered the mother to have custody.

No statute can overcome the ingrained pro-mother bias of particular judges. But education about PA and PAS, plus laws requiring equal or near-equal parenting can certainly help. And it’s good to know that lawyers are starting to be educated on the subject as Brian Kaschel’s post makes clear.

#ParentalAlienation, #ParentalAlienationSyndrome, #childabuse, #friendlyparentstatutes

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