Many years ago, I helped a bit with Bill Eddy’s first book, a landmark publication called Splitting that discussed and defined for the first time what it can be like to go through a divorce with a High Conflict Personality, such as a person with BPD or NPD traits. Here is a video from one of Bill’s series, discussing the analogy between splitting in politics, and the splitting that can occur in divorce.
Splittign behaviors can lead to conflict distortions, false allegations, and parental alienation, in a divorce and child custody case. It is always good to understand these phenomena, and to appreciate ways to manage them successfully in a divorce case.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.”