Parental Alienation Frequently Asked Questions

My lawyer / judge doesn’t believe in Parental Alienation? What do I do? – OR – My lawyer doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on? Help! – OR – I like my lawyer, but he / she is not aggressive. What do I do?

These are some of the questions that we are frequently asked. In this day and age, with the peer-reviewed scientific literature that’s readily available along with the judicial opinions from the family courts around the country (and from the courts around the world), it’s absurd to question the existence of Parental Alienation. It’s akin to saying: We never went to the moon. But many lawyers continue to believe, mistakenly, that Parental Alienation doesn’t exist or that "it’s not in the DSM" or some similar nonsense. Why? There could be several reasons. One, the lawyer is not specialized in the area of Parental Alienation and is simply unaware of the latest research / caselaw in this area. Two, the lawyer is reluctant to challenge the ignorant, biased, and/or incompetent professionals who are involved in the case for the fear of "burning bridges" with the local professional community. Third, the lawyer may believe that the assigned judge "doesn’t believe in Parental Alienation." Whatever the reason provided, there is no excuse for not taking timely, aggressive, and appropriate measures when alienating behaviors are present. As a New York family court judge recently ruled: "There is no doubt that parental alienation exists." Our team has represented clients (and helped their local lawyers) in family courts around the country and internationally. We take pride in taking timely, aggressive, and appropriate action. Give us a call. We are ready to help.

My lawyer doesn't seem to understand what's going on. What should I do?

Parental alienation cases are profoundly counterintuitive. A professional who is not knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in these cases faces a very high risk of failure and turning a bad case into a worse nightmare imaginable for a loving parent. Well-meaning lawyers often tell clients to "cut back," agree to a "cooling-off period," or advise them to "not be aggressive" in court filings, or simply to "give the kids some room." These professionals fail to understand that parental alienation is child psychological abuse and the children who are being brainwashed, programmed and alienated need help — and they need it now!

Encourage your lawyer to read professional literature on parental alienation. Courts around the country have found parental alienation to be a real phenomenon and devastating. Our firm has consulted with, counseled and/or teamed up with lawyers around the country to assist them in litigating these tough cases.

Is Parental Alienation Syndrome in the DSM-5?

The concept of parental alienation is included in the DSM-5. Also, Parental Alienation Syndrome meets the scientific standards necessary to be recognized and presented as evidence in American courts. The term PAS is not in the DSM-V because it does not meet the standard definition of a mental disorder; because Parental Alienation Syndrome in children is cultivated by an external source (the alienating parent), it is not considered an internal condition, which is a requirement for inclusion in DSM-5. The members of the DSM-5 Task Force have gone on record to make it known that they have "never said that they doubted the reality or the importance of parental alienation." And, recently, the co-authors of the DSM-5 chapter on personality disorders have clarified that the concept of parental alienation is firmly covered by the DSM-5.

What are the gender dynamics of parental alienation? Do dads alienate the kids away from mom?

Yes, male-centered bias is a common myth about parental alienation. Cases frequently occur where the father becomes the preferred parent while mom is alienated.

Documentation tips?

It is important to keep records of interactions with the other parent and the children. Take screenshots of text messages, save voicemails, maintain records of each custody exchange with a neutral witness present. It is also smart to record your participation in school activities and extracurricular activities to demonstrate your involvement in your children's lives.

What should I do if the kids won't go with me for visitation?

Custody arrangements can be and are legally enforceable. If the court finds that a parent has encouraged children to violate their parenting plan, the judge has the authority to place the children in the custody of the rejected parent and order further intervention and sanctions upon the alienating parent. In the most extreme examples, alienating parents have served jail time for contempt of court when parenting time orders continue to be violated.

How do I not take this personally?

Parental alienation manifests itself in many disturbing and hurtful ways. Children will say things and act in ways that seem completely out of character. It is important to remain patient and know that they are deeply emerged in a psychological conflict that they themselves may not understand. Trust the healing process once you have recognized alienation and intervened.

Why is my child so gullible?

Parental alienation is a psychological condition built through a complex pattern of behaviors. Divorce is a complicated and scary time in a child's life, they will look for stability where they can.

Is parental alienation always a deliberate act?

Parental alienation can happen subconsciously. Overbearing and protective behaviors by one parent can imply and reinforce to the children that the other parent is unsafe and volatile.

How do I deal with provocation from the children? It's like they want me to lash out!

Remain calm and document unreasonable and irrational behavior from the children. "Pushing buttons" is a common alienation tactic. Getting angry in response to provocation reinforces the narrative (See! he/she does have anger issues!) created by an alienating parent and exacerbates the damage already done.

What are the dangers of inaction?

A common phrase in reunification therapy is "time is a major enemy." Alienating behaviors must be stopped as soon as they are recognized; the longer false assumptions exist in a child's mind, the likelier they are to become permanent beliefs. Children can become entrenched in dysfunctional dynamics. While it is imperative that alienating behaviors must addressed as soon as possible, time is not the enemy of healing. Children should not feel forced into a relationship with the alienated parent, but eased into comfortable interactions where positive memories can be created and reinforced. At the same time, children should not be the ones making decisions — it's not for the children to decide if/when they are ready for the appropriate reunification program.

My child believes I have done and said things that never happened, how do I address this with a therapist?

False beliefs are a complex symptom of parental alienation, which require delicate care. Telling the child they are lying or believing lies will make them feel defensive and as though they are being treated like a "stupid child." Don't get angry or punish them for their beliefs. Respectfully present your own evidence and narrative while making the child feel validated as an individual with an opinion. Let them feel heard, not lectured to or blamed.

When does therapy do more harm than good?

Therapists are supposed to be neutral mediators who are there to listen and develop healthy coping mechanisms and behaviors. If the children come to believe the therapist has an ulterior motive or agenda, the unhealthy conflict dynamic will continue in therapeutic sessions. While the problem of parental alienation stems from designating "bad" and "good" parents, reversing the titles does not solve the problem. Children must feel respected and safe with therapists, the goal of reunification therapy should be to diffuse hostility and heal the family dynamics, rather than "fixing" the alienating parent. Denigrating the preferred parent as a "scapegoat" for estrangement may further alienate the children and push their loyalty away from the rejected parent.

What is the role of trust in the reunification process?

Children need to believe that their best interests are the therapist's goal. If they feel the therapist is "working for" one parent or the court, alienated children will become increasingly resistant to reunification. The process of alienation and reunification can be very confusing and jarring to a child's psyche, they are often pulled into situations beyond their maturity and understanding. Children can feel as though they are pawns in custody battles; it is extremely important that they do not see therapy as another venue for them to be fought over, and that they feel as if they have someone in their corner.