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March 20, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Having misled her readers about the incidence of fathers getting custody of their children in U.K.’s family courts, Guardian editor Sonia Sodha stumbles on to the topic of parental alienation (The Guardian, 3/5/20).  Predictably, she’s no more factual with it than with her previous subject.

Recall that Sodha linked to a study by Harding and Newnham to attempt to buttress her theory that family courts are as likely to give custody to fathers as to mothers (Nuffield Foundation, 5/2015).  The remarkable fact of course is that it does the opposite.  The two researchers were very clear that, overwhelmingly, when fathers got some form of child custody, it was because the mothers with whom they were involved were so deficient as parents that social services organizations all but ordered the dads to seek custody. 

It also shows that, in over half the cases studied, the judges ordered that the fathers should have no overnight time with their children at all.

According to Sodha, that constitutes gender equality in family courts.  Amazing, but true.

And so it is with her take on parental alienation.  As with custody, Sodha has nothing new to say.  Hers are the standard tropes of the anti-father movement that crop up like toxic weeds now and then.  So naturally she elides the differences between parental alienation syndrome and parental alienation.  And of course she’s at pains to pretend that claims of alienation are only made by fathers against mothers and never vice versa.

That of course is simply untrue, as even a cursory glance at the science on PA would have revealed had she bothered to do so.  Or, if reading’s to hard for her, she could have just picked up the phone and called a mental health expert who’s schooled in diagnosing PA.  But needless to say, Sodha didn’t do that either.  Her aim is to mislead, not to learn and disseminate facts.

Then there’s Sodha’s refusal to admit that PA even happens.  Never mind the fact that mental health professionals all over the world have seen it, diagnosed it, testified and published about it.  And never mind the fact that any family lawyer who’s been around for as long as a few years, has seen it and probably more than once.  No, to Sodha the very idea of PA is nothing more than a scheme hatched by clever dads to wrest custody from “protective” mothers.  Nowhere in her article does she admit that some claims by mothers of domestic abuse are fabricated to gain an advantage in the custody case.  Nowhere does Sodha admit that many claims of PA, whether by mothers or fathers, are objectively true.  And nowhere does she admit that PA is what it is – child abuse.

And, speaking of abuse, nowhere does Sodha admit that women sometimes assault their husbands.  For her, domestic violence is a one-way street; only men are perpetrators and only women and children are their victims.

Does Sodha quote a single person with a point of view different from hers?  She does not.  Does she quote from any source of any kind in opposition to her ideas?  Nope.  Does she make even the slightest pretense that her piece is balanced?  Not a chance.

I don’t know if it’s nonsense like this that’s caused The Guardian’s readership to decline to almost nothing over recent years, but my guess is it could be.  Sodha’s piece is so dramatically at odds with well-established facts and so bigoted in its opinions that I can easily imagine readers abandoning the rag as the simple agitprop it so often is.

If we really care about children, we’ll all admit that, sadly, parental alienation exists, that neither sex has a monopoly on the behavior and that courts must be educated in the nature and uses of PA.  We need to do all we can to ensure that judges get right cases in which allegations of PA arise, that they can tell the difference between true PA and PA allegations used only for their impact on the case at hand.  Until we do those things, we’re not doing our best for children.

Sonia Sodha and others like her mislead readers about parental alienation.  As such, they demonstrate that they care little or nothing about the sometimes-terrible damage done to children by PA and, in so doing, make common cause with alienators and child abusers.  It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s an accurate one.

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