Articles Posted in Parental Alienation

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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.

I believe in and support shared parenting, in those cases where it is the right thing to do for both parents and kids.  In cases where there is negative parenting, parental alienation, and/or domestic violence or psychopathology, I also believe in rooting out these pathologies and restricting parents that harm kids and the other parent.

SB 4113 now moves on to the full house for consideration, and it will be interesting to see whether it reaches the desk of the Governor for signature in its present form.

 

AMENDMENT TO HOUSE BILL 4113
2     AMENDMENT NO. ______. Amend House Bill 4113 by replacing
3 line 18 on page 7 through line 11 on page 11 with the
4 following:
5     "(750 ILCS 5/602.7)
6     Sec. 602.7. Allocation of parental responsibilities:
7 parenting time.
8     (a) Allocation of parenting time. Best interests. The court
9 shall allocate parenting time according to the child's best
10 interests. Unless the parents present a mutually agreed written
11 parenting plan and that plan is approved by the court, the
12 court shall allocate parenting time. There is a rebuttable
13 presumption that it is in the child's best interests to award
14 equal time to each parent. In determining the child's best
15 interests for purposes of allocating parenting time, the court
16 shall consider all relevant factors, including, without
17 limitation, the following:
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 2 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1         (1) the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
2         (2) the wishes of the child, taking into account the
3     child's maturity and ability to express reasoned and
4     independent preferences as to parenting time;
5         (3) the amount of time each parent spent performing
6     caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24
7     months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation
8     of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2
9     years of age, since the child's birth;
10         (4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between
11     the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect
12     to the child;
13         (5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child
14     with his or her parents and siblings and with any other
15     person who may significantly affect the child's best
16     interests;
17         (6) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school,
18     and community;
19         (7) the mental and physical health of all individuals
20     involved;
21         (8) the child's needs;
22         (9) the distance between the parents' residences, the
23     cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each
24     parent's and the child's daily schedules, and the ability
25     of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
26         (10) whether a restriction on parenting time is
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 3 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1     appropriate;
2         (11) the physical violence or threat of physical
3     violence by the child's parent directed against the child
4     or other member of the child's household;
5         (12) the willingness and ability of each parent to
6     place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
7         (13) the willingness and ability of each parent to
8     facilitate and encourage a close and continuing
9     relationship between the other parent and the child;
10         (14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other
11     member of the child's household;
12         (15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex
13     offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so,
14     the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment
15     the offender has successfully participated in; the parties
16     are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this
17     paragraph (15);
18         (16) the terms of a parent's military family-care plan
19     that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent
20     is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being
21     deployed; and
22         (17) any other factor that the court expressly finds to
23     be relevant.
24     If the court deviates from the presumption contained in
25 this subsection, the court shall issue a written decision
26 stating its specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 4 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1 support of the deviation from the presumption.
2     (b) Restrictions Allocation of parenting time. Unless the
3 parents present a mutually agreed written parenting plan and
4 that plan is approved by the court, the court shall allocate
5 parenting time. It is presumed both parents are fit and the
6 court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time as
7 defined in Section 600 and described in Section 603.10, unless
8 it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent's
9 exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child's
10 physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. If the court
11 deviates from the presumption contained in this subsection, the
12 court shall issue a written decision stating its specific
13 findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of the
14 deviation from the presumption
15     In determining the child's best interests for purposes of
16 allocating parenting time, the court shall consider all
17 relevant factors, including, without limitation, the
18 following:
19         (1) the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
20         (2) the wishes of the child, taking into account the
21     child's maturity and ability to express reasoned and
22     independent preferences as to parenting time;
23         (3) the amount of time each parent spent performing
24     caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24
25     months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation
26     of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 5 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1     years of age, since the child's birth;
2         (4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between
3     the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect
4     to the child;
5         (5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child
6     with his or her parents and siblings and with any other
7     person who may significantly affect the child's best
8     interests;
9         (6) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school,
10     and community;
11         (7) the mental and physical health of all individuals
12     involved;
13         (8) the child's needs;
14         (9) the distance between the parents' residences, the
15     cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each
16     parent's and the child's daily schedules, and the ability
17     of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
18         (10) whether a restriction on parenting time is
19     appropriate;
20         (11) the physical violence or threat of physical
21     violence by the child's parent directed against the child
22     or other member of the child's household;
23         (12) the willingness and ability of each parent to
24     place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
25         (13) the willingness and ability of each parent to
26     facilitate and encourage a close and continuing
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 6 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1     relationship between the other parent and the child;
2         (14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other
3     member of the child's household;
4         (15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex
5     offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so,
6     the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment
7     the offender has successfully participated in; the parties
8     are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this
9     paragraph (15);
10         (16) the terms of a parent's military family-care plan
11     that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent
12     is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being
13     deployed; and
14         (17) any other factor that the court expressly finds to
15     be relevant.
16     (c) In allocating parenting time, the court shall not
17 consider conduct of a parent that does not affect that parent's
18 relationship to the child.
19     
14 on page 16, by replacing lines 19 and 20 with the following:
15     "(a) After a hearing, if the court finds by a preponderance
16 of the evidence that a parent"; and
17 on page 18, lines 8 and 9, by changing "clear and convincing a
18 preponderance of the" to "a preponderance of the".
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I came across this podcast that features Megan Hunter, and offers some useful information about Personality Disorders and Divorce.  A significant of my practice involves divorces and child custody issues that feature traits of personality disorders that affect the custody and wellbeing of children. Megan distinguishes between a situational aspect of divorce, where parents under high stress exhibit negative behaviors, and that of divorces that involve Personality Divorces, False Allegations, and potentially toxic levels of Parental Alienation.

Megan is an executive with my colleague Bill Eddy’s High Conflict Institute. Bill Eddy is the author of Splitting and I was privileged to work with Bill and Randi Kreger on the 1st Edition of Splitting, having offered the name of the book to Bill (it was a natural thought…splitting indicating a synonym for a divorce, and the psychological phenomenon that some PDs have), providing some limited content, and writing the foreword for the 1st Edition.

splitting-1
Megan Hunter is the CEO of Unhooked Media – a company focused on relationship and conflict resolution through print, digital, and the spoken word. She is the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Personality Disorder Awareness Network.

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A lot of the work that I do for my clients that contact me involves issues with Parental Alienation.  Parental Alienation can take many different forms, from a low grade “gatekeeping” function where a parent fails to support the parentign of the other parent in a divorce, to more toxic kinds of cases, where a disordered parent targets the other parent with a campaign of false allegations, and/or conducts a campaign of “brainwashing” of the minor children to share the same hate and contempt that the alienating parent has for the targeted parent.

A case from the state of Maine came into focus this week, and involves a mother claiming in a very toxic and high conflict divorce that the father of the minor female child had sexually abused the child. The mother, with a Ph.D. and backed by financial resources, conducted a campaign to have her husband (then unemployed) found to be liable for both child sexual abuse and domestic violence. It should be noted that any claims of child abuse and domestic violence must be taken very seriously, and all forensic and legal tools employed to determine whether a child has been harmed.  However, in some cases, the claims of abuse are false and are part of a campaign to destroy a parent’s relationship with a child.

One example of a claim made: ” On or about the week of June 13, 2011, H (mother) made yet another false claim with DHHS, claiming that M (father)  was poisoning the minor child with methamphetamines andthat Malenko possessed child pornography on his computers. Just after this Order entered, H contacted DHHS and made claims that M had hit the child in the head with a frying pan. These claims were all false. As a result of these false claims, the then four year old child had an invasive medical exam conducted at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital with H’s consent.”

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I received a call from another attorney, who is out of state, with questions about Parental Alienation. He has a case in which he represents a targeted parent, in this case a Mom who, despite having sole cusody of her child, has now seen the child refuse to visit with her or live with her. The court’s initial reaction was “kids vote with their feet.” The Child Rep in that case has no understanding of PA, and has told the attorney that he believes the Father to be innocent of wrongdoing, does not see ho this charming man can be causing this, and it must be a relationship problem between Mom and the child. I walked my distant colleague through some strategies, and discussed with him my methodologies for managing cases with alienation. At the end of the conversation, he was very thanksful and both of us omindful as to how challenging these cases can be.

I reminded him as well that it is my belief that Parental Alienation is a form of child abuse.

Below is an excert from a solid article from Dr. Michael Bone, with whom I have worked on a case in Florida soem years ago.  I was asked by a Jacksonville, Florida lawyer to co-counsel with her on a very challenging case involving psychological issues and Parental Alienation.  Dr. Bone was retained as a consulting expert, and did exemplary work on the case.

 

Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood.


 

Criteria I: Access and Contact Blocking

Criteria I involves the active blocking of access or contact between the child and the absent parent.

Criteria II: Unfounded Abuse Allegations

The second criteria is related to false or unfounded accusations of abuse against the absent parent.

Criteria III: Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation

The third of the criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is probably the least described or identified, but critically is one of the most important. It has to do with the existence of a positive relationship between the minor children and the now absent or nonresidential parent, prior to the marital separation; and a substantial deterioration, of it since then.

Criteria IV: Intense Fear Reaction by Children

The fourth criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is admittedly more psychological than the first three. It refers to an obvious fear reaction on the part of the children, of displeasing or disagreeing with the potentially alienating parent in regard to the absent or potential target parent. Simply put, an alienating parent operates by the adage, “My way or the highway.” If the children disobey this directive, especially in expressing positive approval of the absent parent, the consequences can be very serious. It is not uncommon for an alienating parent to reject the child(ren), often telling him or her that they should go live with the target parent. When this does occur one often sees that this threat is not carried out, yet it operates more as a message of constant warning. The child, in effect, is put into a position of being the alienating parent’s “agent” and is continually being put through various loyalty tests. The important issue here is that the alienating patent thus forces the child to choose parents. This, of course, is in direct opposition to a child’s emotional well being.

See: http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas

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On the heels of a trial last week involving a longstanding campaign of parental alienation, in which my client was seeking reunification therapy so that his child would be treated, and counseled, to learn to want to have a relationship with her targeted father again.  I see more and more of these cases. Often, I am called in the middle of a pending case after a parent understands that their current lawyer, and the court, do not understand what is occurring.  In other cases, I am called after a divorce has been completed, and the children that were awarded to one parent no longer wish to have a relationship with the other parent.

I can also say that Parental Alienation is gender neutral. Both Dads and Moms can be targeted by the disordered parent for an alienation campaign.

What is Parental Alienation:

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Today is Mother’s Day, and aside from wishing all of our Moms a wonderful day, I wanted to point out as well that parental alienation exists with mothers as targets. More often than one might think.

Today, a Mom posted this:

” And please don’t ever give up……There were three of us moms in Nashville, Boston and New York who became fast friends online because we were alienated from our children. It took between 2 and 5 years respectively but all 3 of us are reunited with with our children. Take care of yourself, live a full life and, like us, your children may come to see through the lies the alienator told them to find their way back to you. Sending you love, hugs, and prayers.”

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Today is Parental Alienation Awareness Day. My practice has been focused rather intensely on the problem of the pathology of parent alienation for over 20 years. I have seen both Fathers and Mothers the victims of attacks, and targeting for alienation, by the disordered parent that seeks to damage the relationship between the parent and the child(ren). Parental Alienation exacts a terrible toll on both the targeted parent, as well as the child, whose developmental life is always impacted by being removed from a beloved parent’s life.

Fortunately, within the court system, guardians ad litem, evaluators and judges are becoming more aware of the traits and symptoms of PAS. It has been my job, for over these 20 years, to identify these pathologies, and do all possible to intervene in the alienation, and to use proper methodologies in the court system to reverse it, and reunify the child with the loving parent.

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I am always careful to identify good articles on the emerging clinical science behind Parental Alienation. Here’s an excellent review by Dr. Kruk for your consideration.

Credit: Edward Kruk Ph.D.

Recent Advances in Understanding Parental Alienation Implications of Parental Alienation Research for Family-Based Intervention