June 12, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Picking up from yesterday’s piece about yet another scurrilous article attempting to cast aspersions on the concept of parental alienation and/or parental alienation syndrome (Huffington Post, 6/9/17). Marisa Endicott’s article isn’t as bad as Laurie Udesky’s similar one back in February, but it’s still well beneath the standards of anyone who’s seriously seeking the truth about their chosen subject.
And, without saying so directly, Endicott’s, like all other such pieces, is a thinly-veiled effort to place yet another obstacle between fathers and their children. Typical of the genre, she chose a mother as her sole representative of a parent who claimed abuse, was met with a counterclaim of PA and lost custody of her kids. Despite the fact that fathers are as capable of alienating as are mothers, people like Endicott never manage to locate one. Doing so would upset their preferred narrative that PA and PAS are simply methods by which abusive and unscrupulous fathers take custody from deserving mothers.
Also typical is Endicott’s very sketchy description of various matters about Jaclyn’s (her chosen mother) case. That of course leads me to believe that Jaclyn’s ex probably had good reason for claiming PA against her and the court equally good reason for finding her to be an alienator. In such a situation, someone with Endicott’s agenda can’t give her readers too many facts about the case.
In the three years since litigation began, Jaclyn has moved back to California to be near her kids and the unfolding case. Despite her painstakingly gathered arrest and police reports, confession letters, recordings and witness statements, the court so far has not budged, even though the children themselves, Jaclyn said, are now alleging abuse by their father.
See what I mean? Arrest and police reports? What do they consist of? Who was arrested and why? Have the kids told the judge they’re being abused? What do the psychologists say about that? Endicott says not a word. She does so, I believe, because, as throughout her article, she’s more interested in suggesting injustice than revealing it. Put another way, if the details of those police reports, etc. helped her case, wouldn’t she have mentioned them?
That conclusion is only corroborated when Endicott touches – ever so lightly – on some of Joan Meier’s findings on the use of PA in child custody disputes.
A preliminary examination of 238 cases indicates that fathers accused of abuse (adult or child), who in turn accused the mother of alienation, won their cases 72 percent of the time. They won 69 percent of the time when child abuse was alleged and 81 percent of the time when child sexual abuse was alleged. In the seven cases where judges credited both abuse and alienation in the ruling, the father won every time.
Wow, 238 cases! That’s a lot of fathers claiming PA, right? Actually, not so much. In this instance, Udesky’s dreadful article reveals more than Endicott’s. Here’s what Udesky said about Meier’s study, quoted in my first piece on her article:
In some 36 cases where a mother accused the father of abusing their children, the court nevertheless ruled in the father’s favor 69 percent of the time. The tendency to discount the mother’s accusation was even more pronounced where sexual abuse was alleged: In the 32 such cases Meier identified, the father prevailed 81 percent of the time.
So, out of 238 cases Meier managed to locate 36 in which a mother accused a father of abuse and he countered with a claim of PA or PAS. Of those, fathers “won” in 28. And of the 32 dads Meier found who were accused of sexual abuse, 26 “won.” In other words, contrary to the headline to her article proclaiming that PAS “is changing child custody cases across the U.S. Meier could only find 22% in which a claim of abuse was met with a claim of PA or PAS. And of course she’s dealing only with the 1.5% of cases that are decided by a judge. 22% of 1.5% = 0.33%. That doesn’t sound like a game-changer to me.
As far as we can tell from both Endicott’s and Udesky’s articles, Meier made no effort to ascertain whether the judges’ findings of alienation in those cases were warranted or not. Meier’s goal apparently doesn’t include doing so. From here it looks like she’s just trying to get some basic figures on how often this happens.
But unquestionably, whether those judges made the right decision is surely the nut of the matter. As anyone at all familiar with the literature on PA and PAS knows, alienation can be a terrible form of child abuse that no child should have to endure. Getting right the determination of whether or not alienation is occurring is vitally important in any custody case in which the issue is raised. But never do advocates against acknowledging PA admit that most basic of concepts.
Endicott wants readers to believe that (a) there are a lot more cases in which PA is alleged than there actually are and (b) when fathers do so, it’s an almost-automatic slam-dunk winner for them. Her goal seems to be to convince readers that all any dad has to do is allege alienation by Mom and he’s got a good chance of getting custody.
But by failing to ask the obvious question – “Did the judges get it right?” – she destroys any credibility her article otherwise might have had. One obvious reason the fathers cited by Meier had such a success rate may be that they only raised the issue of alienation when there was substantial evidence to support them. Nowhere does Endicott entertain that idea.
And what about that “success rate” I just mentioned? Here’s how Meier defined it:
The researchers defined winning as any time the litigants received some or all of what they requested, ranging from more visits to full custody.
So a father who started with nothing and convinced a judge to give him one day per month of supervised visitation was counted a “winner” just the same as Jaclyn’s ex who got sole custody of their child. A lot of fathers who’ve spent the time, money and heartache to bring an alienation case to court and are “rewarded” with a smidgen more parenting time wouldn’t call it a win, but Meier does. Needless to say, so does Endicott.
Worse is the fact that Endicott quotes favorably both Meier and Connie Valentine, co-founder of the California Protective Parents Association for the proposition that, if a mother alleges abuse, then abuse occurred. (Interesting that they don’t make the same assumption about allegations of alienation.)
It’s critical that abuse take precedence over alienation claims when it is alleged, said Joan Meier,…
“Assess the abuse first. Put alienation completely to one side,” she said. “If it happened or if it may have happened, you have no business going on about alienation...
Notice that, for Meier, abuse is abuse, but alienation is an alienation claim. In her second sentence, abuse is a given, but alienation “may have happened.”
That of course is so much nonsense. In a court of law, everything is an allegation until someone makes an admission or evidence is adduced sufficient to prove the claim. And so it is with “abuse” and “alienation.” Each is nothing more than an allegation until it’s proven.
Valentine is the same.
“Let’s just try to stand in the abuser’s shoes. Suddenly my child accuses me of what I’ve been doing and tells somebody,” said Connie Valentine, co-founder of CPAC. “Well, the first thing I want to do is get a hold of that kid and shut them up, and how do I do that? Well, this PAS thing is really handy.”
Again, the person claiming alienation is “the abuser,” not the alleged abuser, not the person against whom a charge has been leveled by someone with something to gain. No, to Valentine and, as far as I can tell, to everyone else in the failing movement to discredit PA and PAS, once a mother accuses a father of abuse, he stands convicted.
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