Articles Posted in Clinical Issues in Divorce

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One of the hallmarks of my practice is the ability over the years to manage, and aggressively attack, Parental Alienation cases.  In order for an attorneys to effectively manage a case involving HCPs (High Conflict Personalities), personality disorders, and PA ( Parental Alienation), the attorney should have years of experience dealing with these cases, along with years of experience interfacing with clinicians that not only understand PA, but that are also willing to bring that expertise to the case and create, along with my work, and effective strategy to deal with the alienated children (through both legal and clinical channels), to create reintegration plans for the targeted parent, and to devise court orders that set sanctions and appropriate boundaries on the alienating parent.
Dr. Bone is a reliable expert commentator of PA and the issues surrounding litigating these cases:
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This is a particularly good article that was sent by a past client of our Firm. I am fortunate that many of my current and past clients stay engaged with the literature and groups that deal with Parental Alienation, to the point that they wish to share the benefits and knowledge of what they may have acquired as we worked on their case, and the client witnessed for themselves the identification of these alienation scenarios and the strategies that I have developed (with the benefit of the insights of many great clinicians, authors and PA experts through the years).

This article is quite good and focuses on an important issue for today: Why We Persevere and Stay on Course for the Child Victims of Parental Alienation.   These children are being harmed by the PA.  Most love their targeted parent, but have been coerced and brainwashed to reject the loving parent.  This sentence, from Dr. Stines’ essay, captures the point: It is much easier to reject someone you know will never leave, than it is to reject someone you can barely hold on to.

Strategy, Perseverance, Patience. Three of my many keys to managing these cases.

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When a child is resistant to seeing a parent, the reasons can be reduced to two basic phenomena: alienation or estrangement. Alienation refers to a child’s resistance or refusal to see a once loved parent, typically within the context of divorce or post divorce. In the case of “Estrangement” it is that parent’s own actions that have caused the child to not want to be with that parent.

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I have included below most of the text of the amended Illinois SB 4113, which seeks to establish a rebuttable presumption that an award of equal parenting time to each parent is in the best interests of the minor child(ren) in a divorce case.

For many years, my firm has represented Fathers in complex child custody cases, and in many cases  my Dad clients were rightfully awarded the primary custody of their children.  I have fought vigorously to level the playing field for my Dad clients through the years, some who faced false allegations, false OPs and other challenges in their divorce cases. These cases can be battles, but with the right strategy and management, the right decisions can be reached in these cases. Equally so, I have fought for women, in their own custody cases, some facing false allegations of parental alienation from a narcissistic husband.  My goal has always been to develop strategies for both my male and female clients to combat parental alienation, false allegations, and to create outcomes that serve both my clients and the true best interests of the children.

So with SB 4113, the question becomes whether this legislation will, in and of itself, create that level playing field for parents?  I note that many of the more vocal Bar associations have opposed this bill, and I can say that some judges with whom I have discussed this do not favor the bill. But, the idea of such a bill has a lot of favor, especially with men and women who, for too long, have been impacted by a legal system that oftentimes does not serve the best interests of children fully.  Will SB 4113 create that foundation so that the court is required to factor in a presumptive 50/50 allocation of time to both parents?  I am hopeful that SB 4113 perhaps undergoes some revisions that might make its passage more palatable.  I note that a 50/50 presumption is a satisfying idea, but that in many cases, many judges and clinicians do not believe that a 50/50 time allocation is appropriate in most circumstances and with most families.  An equalization of time is beneficial where the parents live proximate to each other, where the parents both share positive parenting traits, work schedules can accommodate 50/50 time, the age and circumstances of the kids favor shared time, and myriad other factors that can benefit a true shared parenting environment.  I believe that a shared parenting bill could be written that might be more dense, more detailed and more fleshed out that might give a solid and detail-rich shared parenting bill a real likelihood of passage.

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The Illinois legislature is considering now a Shared Parenting bill that would create a legal presumption that shared child custody and parenting would be the “presumed” status for divorcing parents, absent a showing that such shared parenting is not appropriate.  I have had a chance to discuss this bill with some of the judges with whom I appear before (it’s not unusual for experienced lawyers and judges to talk about important issues in private settings, without discussing specific cases).  I’d say that the majority do not support presumptive shared parenting, insofar as the limitations created by such a bill would be problematic in ways that are discussed in the article, below.

The other side of the coin with this issue is that, in my experience, without  “push” from the legislature, many judges still consider some parents as “visitors” in their children’s lives and resort to recommending parenting schedules that are anachronistic, and akin to the “standard order” visitation schedules that were common in the last century in many Illinois counties.

In my practice, my approach and view is that every family system is different, and there is no “one size fits all” approach that works for a parenting plan after divorce.  Many myriad factors need to be evaluated and considered, with the aim of providing the children with the best possible developmental outcome from the divorce of their parents.  For good and loving parents, the children should have substantial contact with both parents; the clinical research supports this idea.  For parents with deficits, or histories of personality disorders, substance abuse, or violence, or traits as parental alienators… the standard is very different, and the parenting plan needs to address these problematic issues, too.

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From time to time, interesting questions are posted on some forums that discuss divorce, and especially divorce when dealing with soon-to-be ex spouses, and ex-spouses, that are poor parents, or a persons with pathologies like narcissism. Here is one recent question posed by a parent, with some suggestions:

 3am my 4 year old woke up and had terrible croup. Couldn’t breathe and was hysterical. Of course STB ex sleeps until I started talking loudly enough…we ended up at the ER. He is fine but I can’t conceptualize ever leaving my son overnight in my STB ex’s care overnight. He is clueless and a total sociopath narcissist. How do you wrap your brain around the notion of leaving your little ones when the other parent is not competent?

When a healthy spouse is in a marriage with a narcissist, for example, or even just an incompetent or selfish parent, the healthy parent ends up doing 99.9 percent of the caregiving, including monitoring and medicating the children when they are ill. However, once the separation of the spouses is complete, the caregiver spouse is no longer present to be the caregiver and decision maker, the buffer for conflict, and the guarantor that the kids are well cared for when they are ill.

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Spouses with NPD can be toxic to live with. One aspect of life with a narcissist is the emotional abuse that accompanies being in a relationship with NPD. In the following article, Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D discusses a scenario with a partner with NPD, and the emotional damage that these interactions cause.

” Have you ever noticed how some people will throw a deaf ear at your plea for change and your cry for help…just because. And then, the more you speak, the less you are heard. It’s as though they want you to believe that no matter how you ask what you seek, it will not be forth coming…just because.

Take Andy and Rebecca, for example. Andy has a habit of engaging restaurant servers into conversations about matters unrelated to the meal at hand. On this one evening, he was chatting with Rebecca in a back and forth banter over a recent physical assault/encounter of theirs.

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I have been a member of the APA for many years, and benefit tremendously from the APA’s publications, research papers, and educational materials, such as the podcast below. Children involved in a divorce do tend to experience worry, anxiety, and some depression, and these symptoms and illnesses are often situational, and not long lasting. Other children can be affected by anxiety disorders that are more chronic, more severe, and require proactive treatment.

Podcast: Anxiety Disorders in Children

Fear and anxiety are part of most normal children’s lives. But how do we know when anxiety is a problem in need of professional help? In this episode, Golda Ginsburg, PhD, talks about how to recognize the signs of an anxiety disorder in your child and what are the most effective, evidence-based treatments.

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In my law practice, a divorce with a narcissist involves unique issues and challenges. Many toxic narcissists, in divorce, use emotional abuse to denigrate and control their partners, and are notoriously difficult in the case to achieve settlement with, even on minor issues. In my view, boundaries need to be set with narcissists in the case, and I have years of experience understanding these traits of NPD in divorce and custody cases, as well as managing NPD personalities in the litigation. Again, boundaries are critical, as well as establishing control over the NPD in the case. In other words, I try to disempower the NPD, and then empower my clients, many of whom no longer feel they have any power or voice in the relationship.

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Relationships require give and take. They are built on mutual respect, love, trust, and compassion. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, those components often cease to exist after a short period of time. Narcissistic people are not empathetic. They aren’t willing to hold another up the ladder of success. They need complete attention and expect their partner to put them up on a pedestal.

In a case study by Susan Heitler, Phd called Narcissism: A Redefinition and Case Study of Treatment, she points out the conflict-focus in couples therapy and how narcissistic personality disorder affects relationships. In her findings she lists,

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PsychCentral has an interesting summary for one of the more pervasive forms of personality disorder that some people face in a marriage or divorce, and yet this form of Personality Disorder is not well understood. There is a significant comorbidity ( co-existence) with other personality disorders. This personality disorder/trait exists in about 2.5 percent of the population, and like NPD and BPD, and the toxic behaviors can be aggravated by a marriage that is failing, or with a divorce. My firm has been dedicated for many years to a) understanding these traits and toxic behaviors, and b) managing them within the context of divorce and custody litigation.

” People with paranoid personality disorder are generally characterized by having a long-standing pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others.  A person with paranoid personality disorder will nearly always believe that other people’s motives are suspect or even malevolent.

Individuals with this disorder assume that other people will exploit, harm, or deceive them, even if no evidence exists to support this expectation. While it is fairly normal for everyone to have some degree of paranoia about certain situations in their lives (such as worry about an impending set of layoffs at work), people with paranoid personality disorder take this to an extreme — it pervades virtually every professional and  personal relationship they have.