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Notes from Forensic Forum: Parental Alienation

Notes from last week’s Forensic Forum in Chicago: A most excellent program; cutting edge information and illuminating insights into managing PA cases.

Dr. Warshak captured in two hours the important clinical and legal management issues with PA cases. Judge Michele Lowrance made an important observation: many “targeted” parents act out in court; they cry, are angry, and show disappointment with the court. The alienating parent learns to be charming and composed. The result: the targeted parent gets reprimanded by the court, empowers the alienator, and fuels the PA fires further. Good observation and a word to the targeted wise. Says Dr. Warshak: “alienated parents need to learn to have a thick skin.”

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One observation that wasn’t made I will make here: the best GALs contribute heavily to the early phases of the case, and the ultimate outcomes. Much deserved attention was placed by the panel on the roles of clinicians and 604(b)s in PA cases, but in my view, a wise and experienced GAL can be influential in an initial intervention and a properly managed outcome.

To my clients this morning I said that the tide is starting to turn in recognition and management of PA cases. Judges are being educated (thanks to Judge Kevin Busch for a sound and learned presentation during the panel segment) and problems with prior clinical protocols are being discussed. Clinicians like Dr. David Finn (Illinois) and Dr. Warshak (Texas) are developing cutting edge and clinically sound protocols for managing PA cases, and creating forums where targeted parents and their victimized children have a forum for reunification. As of yesterday, I am optimistic for what the future PA management landscape looks like, and I grieve a bit today for those in the past who lost contact with their beloved children through the inability of the courts to discern a toxic alienation fact pattern.