June 11, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
“Protective” mothers are at it again. This time their gullible mouthpiece is one Marisa Endicott writing in – surprise! – the Huffington Post (Huffington Post, 6/9/17). As usual, it’s an effort to convince readers that parental alienation is just a clever ruse by abusive fathers to get custody of their kids.
Now, to be clear, by the standards of this type of article, hers is pretty good. Of course that’s setting the bar about as low as it can be set. This stuff usually wouldn’t pass muster with the National Enquirer. Back in February I wrote several pieces on an article by Laurie Udesky that was so abysmally awful it almost defied description (see further links at the bottom of the linked-to post). Endicott’s is significantly more balanced and, frankly, ethical than that, but still it misrepresents the realities of its subject.
That process begins at, well, the beginning. The subject of the article’s headline, “How parental alienation syndrome is changing custody cases across the U.S.” is nowhere discussed in the article. No effort whatsoever is made to compare custody cases at some point in the past with those of the present and attribute the differences – if there are any – to PAS. Is PAS changing custody outcomes? Who knows? But whatever the case, you won’t find the answer in Endicott’s article.
PAS? You won’t find much about it there either. Endicott has a good bit to say about parental alienation, but precious little about PAS. I hate to be picky, but the title of her piece indicates it’s about PAS, so I expected that to be the case. It’s not.
Neither is any accurate definition of either PA or PAS.
His case was based on the theory of parental alienation, a condition that describes a child who turns against a parent because of the other parent’s manipulations and indoctrinations.
No, that’s not the definition of PA. Endicott managed to not locate the definition despite its being readily available. Indeed, she apparently interviewed Dr. Amy Baker, one of the pre-eminent authorities on PA and PAS. She could have simply asked her for the definition and saved herself the trouble of looking it up in a book. But she didn’t.
The basics aside, Endicott’s thesis is that of the “protective” mothers movement generally – that abusive fathers use allegations of PA or PAS in courts to deprive “protective” mothers of custody of children. She scrupulously avoids supporting that claim however, preferring to take the route these articles always do. She never once managed to pick up the telephone and talk with a parent, male or female, who’s been the target of alienation.
That’s true despite the fact that, in keeping with the genre, she extensively interviewed a woman named Jaclyn who claims to be the victim of an abusive ex who used PA to wrest custody from her. The result is a narrative that not only tells but one side of an obviously complicated story, but refuses to indulge the possibility that Jaclyn’s ex and the court that awarded him custody might have been right.
When Jaclyn moved to Ohio with her two young children, she thought she could begin a new life. She and her husband had divorced outside of the courts, and he had given her sole custody of the kids.
But her ex-husband, whom Jaclyn had accused of domestic abuse, changed his mind — and took her to family court. His case was based on the theory of parental alienation, a condition that describes a child who turns against a parent because of the other parent’s manipulations and indoctrinations.
To Jaclyn’s shock, her ex-husband alleged in court that she had interfered with his communication with the kids and coached their daughter to reject him. Moreover, he accused Jaclyn of being mentally unstable because of these purported efforts.
The judge granted him full custody. And Jaclyn was relegated to supervised visitation two hours a week.
Anyone with any sensitivity to PA will notice a few obvious things about that passage, for example the first sentence. Jaclyn moved away with the children from wherever her ex was (we later learn it was California). Did she do that with the approval of the court? Endicott strategically neglects to say, but if Jaclyn just picked up and moved, she clearly interfered with her ex’s ability to see his kids. As one speaker at the recent International Conference on Shared Parenting made clear, that type of relocation can be an aspect of parental alienation. It can also be a form of child abuse.
But by sketching the case so lightly, Endicott fails to address questions about Jaclyn’s case that scream for an answer if the truth is to be made known. And of course she didn’t speak to Jaclyn’s ex who naturally would have provided facts and probably experts to back up his claim of PA. Again, Endicott carefully avoids any facts that interfere with her narrative of a mother wronged.
Notice too Endicott’s even lighter sketch of the trial that resulted in a change of custody from mother to father. According to her, he simply alleged PA and, one sentence later, “the judge granted him full custody.”
But of course the matter was a bit more complicated than that. After all, family court judges are extremely reluctant to switch custody. So, although Endicott refused to go into it, the judge in Jaclyn’s case held at least one hearing at which mental health professionals testified. And the chances are that the evidence of Jaclyn’s alienation of her kids was overwhelming. That’s usually the precursor to a mother being “relegated to supervised visitation two hours a week.”
From the outside looking in, it appears that Jaclyn probably was the alienator her ex said she was, experts testified to the fact, the judge understood the testimony and took fairly extreme remedial action. My guess is that the judge probably either ordered or recommended that Jaclyn have counselling in order to mend her abusive ways.
But who knows? Endicott’s article isn’t aimed at educating readers but on gaining their sympathy. So getting into the nitty-gritty of Jaclyn’s behavior isn’t part of the program.
More on this tomorrow.
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