Divorce and Alienation
“Custody battles” between parents that affects the children, making them feel alienated from one of their parents.
The “effects of divorce” that affect children.
How others, like the child’s therapist, other professionals associated with the case, and even the police in the community can be affected by parental alienation.
Parental Alienation is a theory about how children are alienated from one parent when there is a divorce in the family. The theory was created by Drs Byron G. Johnson and Annette M. Lareau in their book, “Losing Our Shared Selves: The A Sociology of Divorce”. This theory is a way to help understand the behaviors of children when they are having trouble with having two parents that have divorced. This theory talks about the difference between healthy parenting and unhealthy, or pathological, parenting. Healthy parenting means that the parent cares for their child’s needs and helps them to feel close to them. Pathological parenting means that the parent tries to control their child so that they can only see things from this parent’s point of view and not from any other viewpoint from society.
This is dangerous to a child’s well-being and go a with them throughout adulthood as well. There are many theories that can help us understand parental alienation, such as the conflict theory, time-limited dependency.
When there is a little-known fact about these kinds of theories is that they are only theories created by people with clinical backgrounds. There has been no clinical evidence to back up these theories and it only brainstorms other people’s ideas.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
The term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was created by Dr. Richard A. Gardner in 1985, to name the disorder which occurs when a child is prevented from having a normal emotional bond with one parent by the other. He called this the alienation of affection syndrome in his article “Parental Alienation Syndrome and The Diagnosis of Child Abuse.” This term is used when a child has an abnormal hatred for one parent that can be proven by at least three signs that are listed below;
- The child expresses a desire to hurt the parent
- The child shows unreasonable fear of the parent
- The child demonstrates a desire not to have any contact with the parent
- The child refuses to maintain contact and communication with the parent, or does so minimally, resulting in a persistent deficit in the quantity and quality of contact between the other parent, and his or her children.
Courts and Legal Systems
The minimal acceptable quantity and quality of communication is left up to that local court system’s discretion, if the parent is lucky to get that far. If not, it can cause lifelong toxic conditions for both parent and child. When these four signs are present, it is time for the parents to go to court and fight for sole custody of their child. Once Judge and legal professionals find that there are four of these signs present, then they would grant an order for Dr. Gardner’s Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) or a formal diagnosis from his or her own third party mental health professional. It may also include the therapist’s report as well, and any medical evidence that they can gather to prove that this disorder is present. It is important for the child to have a therapist or mental health professional involved in the case. This proves that there is an issue of alienation from one parent or the other, and that can help in court.
In court, both child and parents should be given a chance to speak before a judge. The judge then makes a decision in regards to the custody of their children. This can happen in the beginning of a divorce or at any other time. If the judge believes that there is a case of PAS he/she will order that the psychiatrist examine each parent to determine if the child is being alienated from them. This takes several weeks or even months, and if it turns out that it is not there, then the visitation schedule will go on as normal. Therefore a judge is reluctant to do this unless there is a compelling reason.
If this ruling is made then they must take the next step and have an interview with both parents about their relationship with one another. This is done by a neutral person that has no ties to either child or the parents. This person is usually a social worker, therapist, or other professional. The goal of the interview is to determine if anyone is being controlled, harmed, or manipulated by any one of the parties involved in the custody battle. It determines how much each parent needs to be supervised. If PAS is present then it can be used in court as evidence for an alienating parent’s divorce case. It is worth pointing out here that this is very difficult to prove and takes the skills of a highly competent person to understand the situation and subtleties used by the alienating parent.
Dr. Gardner believes that the PAS is due to one parent trying to have complete control over the other parent and their children, so they can abuse them emotionally. He also believes that a child can be alienated from a parent due to one of three reasons;
- The abuse itself is so harmful and damaging that the child has no choice but to alienate from the parent.
- The child’s feelings towards a parent are influenced by that parent’s actions towards the child.
- The alienation is triggered by something that occurs during the divorce, such as one parent throwing insults at the other, making threats or even using physical force against the other parent, or one of them moving out of state or country with their children.
Dr. Gardner states that in order for a child to be alienated from a parent there must be at least one controlling factor present, if not then this will not occur.