Parental alienation: part two – treatment routes

Parental Alienation, as a story of our time, is most often encountered in families where litigation is high and ongoing. Cases in the UK courts, which have dragged on for years, often end up intractable and at a complete stand still because no-one knows what to do.

When a child is alienated and the family is stuck in the court process, it is as if no-one dare to move.  The family ‘dance’, already broken by the separation process, has become frozen in time.  CAFCASS, ill equipped as they often are to understand or deal with the issue, can exacerbate the problem when it reaches this point, by pointing out the obvious, there doesn’t seem to be very much that anyone can do.  The child is in complete refusal, often accompanied by expressions of terror and high levels of anxiety about any prospect of seeing the rejected parent, the aligned parent is upholding the child’s position, sometimes deliberately, sometimes out of fear about what will happen next and the rejected parent is on the outside of the family dynamic, scapegoated, powerless and often angry.

The problem is that when the family dance has frozen in time in this way it is because the efforts that the family system has been making to adapt to the changes brought about by separation, have failed.  This is a family system in deep trouble and the child’s actions speak volumes.  If a rejecting child could say it in words it would go something like this –

the people I once loved and depended upon, the people who make up the whole of who I am, are angry with each other.  I seem to be the focus of that anger and it has fractured my sense of wholeness and wellbeing in the world.  I no longer know who I am and I am very very frightened.  For a while I tried to cope by switching my allegiance from one parent to the other and back again, now I can’t do that anymore because instead of making it better, it has made it much much worse. I cannot cope with going back and forth anymore and feeling the pull of the two separate parts of who I am.  Either one parent demands that I love them more or both parents demand that I love them individually more than the other.  One way or another, my health and well being are under too much pressure, I cannot cope anymore and so I am going to do what all human beings do when they are in this position, I am going to psychologically split and project all of the bad feelings onto one person and the good feelings onto the other.  When I do so I will feel much much better on the surface and my school performance will be excellent.  I will seek refuge in learning and behaving as well as I possibly can, so that the feelings of guilt, shame and horror, that I have buried deep inside me after making the agonising decision to choose one parent over the other is far removed from my consciousness.  I will deny that I feel anything other than fear of that parent and I will invent stories eventually to ensure that I am able to keep my strategy for staying safe in place.  If anyone tries to challenge me, I may invent more stories to explain my rejection and I may reveal these to the parent I have ‘chosen’ to be the good parent, because when I do, I get the feeling that this is welcomed.  Don’t push me back to that place where I could not cope with the feelings of being torn in two, don’t ask me to think about it, don’t even speak about it and all will be well.  Keep things just as they are, no-one move.

When I come to work with a family system that has been affected by alienation, the dance is almost always frozen in this way.  The freezing has also extended to many of the professionals who have been involved, who have also succumbed to the child’s desperate need to keep everything in its place.  Some professionals consider that therapy for the parents is the way to unfreeze the dance, others that the child should be given time to grow up a little bit. My take on it is that if we always do what we have always done in these situations, we will always get what we have always got, my first action is to do something different.

That something different is to take control and responsibility away from the child.  A child who has ‘managed’ the family system into this frozen state is a child in emotional and psychological danger.  Professionals who interview the child and support his ‘decision’ are not acting in the best interests of the child in my opinion, they are further burdening the child with a responsibility that he is unable to deal with.  The first action that I take, when working with children and families in these situations is to help the child to understand that from now on, I will be the responsible adult in the family system and as such, I will make the decisions and cope with the consequences of those.  In doing this for the child, I am enabling him to know that I understand, at a very deep level, that he has had to manage the adults and that from now on he doesn’t have to.  The next thing I do is to restart the relationship between the child and the rejected parent and continue this throughout all of the therapeutic work that I do thereafter.

This re-starting of the relationship can be remarkably straightforward when the child understands that there is an adult in the system who will carry the burden of coping with loyalty conflict for them.  Even the most terrified children, those who have acted as if they have a phobia of their rejected parent will, given the right kind of support, find that those terrors melt away and that the parent that they once loved is still there, still waiting for them.  Getting to that point of reunification however can be quite difficult, particularly if there serious issues to deal with such as personality disorders in a parent.  That is when it takes a court managed process to bring about change.

Understanding what kind of alienation is present in the family is my key task in any work that I do.  Whilst alienation of a child presents itself in a uniform way, the reasons for the presenting issues must be clearly understood before any remedy can be applied.  A case of alienation can be understood in several ways, the way that I understand it is as follows.

The case is ‘pure’ alienation if the child is severely rejecting, is exhibiting all of the signs of alienation and the aligned parent cannot work with me on changing behaviours because of a personality disorder.

The case is ‘hybrid’ if the child is severely rejecting, is exhibiting all of the signs of alienation and both parents have acted in ways that have caused the child to withdraw.

The case is ‘justified rejection’ if the parent who is rejected has caused the child to withdraw because of poor parenting, over demanding approaches or continued demands for loyalty.

This differentiation of alienation is taken from the work of Canadian therapists and researchers, all of whom have been significant in reformulating the work of Richard Gardener who originally gave the problem of rejection the name Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Whilst much work has gone on in the world to understand and deal with the problem of parental alienation, treatment routes in the UK are hard to find.  In fact it is difficult to find any therapists across the UK who are actively working in the field although there are many psychologists and psychiatrists who understand and recognise the problem.  In my most recent work with families, I have come to understand that, whilst my input is crucial to get relationships restarted, the most effective family ‘therapists’ are the parents themselves.  This is particularly true in hybrid cases, where the inability of the parents to adapt well to the changing family dance, has caused the problem in the first place.  Working with education, parenting co-ordination, therapy and facilitation of time spent between child and parent, in these cases it is possible to restore a functioning separated family system that frees the child to love both sides of their identity.

In cases where deliberate and malicious efforts on the part of one parent to eradicate the other have caused the rejection, strong and determined court intervention is the only way to liberate the child.

In my work I depend upon psychologists and psychiatrists to undertake an assessment in cases where I suspect that an aligned parent cannot work with me because of psychological barriers.  This formal assessment allows me to determine whether the aligned parent is capable of change with my help or whether they are in need of more long term therapeutic input. In cases where personality disorders are present, it is unlikely that the child will be released from their predicament without being released from the care of that parent.  This is when a change of residence can be most beneficial for a child.

In hybrid cases, those in which the behaviours of both parents have contributed to the frozen stance, a change of residence is not the first choice of treatment.  In these cases, it is necessary to enable both parents to change their behaviour and to move the family dance into a more functional adaptation from where it is possible to support the restarting of relationships.  In these cases, parenting co-ordination can often support a longer term, sustainable behavioural change that frees the child from the grasp of conflicted loyalties.

Finally, in cases where children are justified in their rejection of a parent, either through poor parenting or determined actions on the part of that parent, education, instruction and then a programme of supervised parenting time can enable a parent to change the behaviours that have caused the rejection in the first place.

In all of the treatment routes above, the parents are the key players and the court, where it is involved, becomes the super parent, holding the tension and the control over the family, whilst new behaviours are learned and put into practice.

The wild card of course in this is CAFCASS and the power it holds for good or bad to help the family to begin to unfreeze the dance and move on.  In too many cases CAFCASS cause not the liberation of the family system but the deep freezing of the dance so that no-one can move for many many years.  This is possibly not something that is done deliberately but it is definitely something that is done out of ignorance and the inability to understand the deeper dynamics of family change. With such a critical role to play in family separation, particularly in high conflict cases, CAFCASS should, in my opinion, be required to undertake the training that would enable them to identify very quickly where the family dance has frozen because of the phenomenon called alienation.

Treatment routes for parental alienation are not easy to find and where they can be found they are (as in our own case at the Centre for Separated Families), overstretched and limited by the lack of therapists who have the skill and the knowledge to work confidently with such families.  Richard Gardener said that therapists who do this work need to have the grit and determination to work against the prevailing family culture and the system in which it is located.  This is often, in my experience the hardest element to deal with, the fear and the frozen belief amongst professionals that to do something is worse than doing nothing.  What we know about children who are affected by alienation, however that alienation was arrived at, is that they do face difficulties as they grow older.  For children whose parents are  unable ever to address the difficulties that cause the family dance to freeze, this difficulty can last a lifetime, eroding relationships with both parents eventually and leaving them feeling like orphans. For that reason alone, doing something is most certainly better than doing nothing.

As the UK wakes up to the problem, we may find that treatment routes expand and that it becomes more possible to tackle the issue systemically in society as well as in the family itself.  I hope so and at CSF, we continue to work hard to develop the kind of training that can enable more therapists to understand and work with the issue so that we are increasing the treatment routes as well as providing them.

I firmly believe that one day, we will look back at the way in which we failed so miserably to provide the support to families as they go through separation in bewilderment and shame.  Someone said to me recently that the lack of support and the mess that it has caused families will be a similar national shame as sending children to Australia has become and I agree.  Family separation is one of the most distressing things that can happen in our society, that families freeze in their efforts to overcome the terror and uncertainty is no surprise.  As we move on, with a government who is, at least listening, I hope that we can begin to repair the generational damage and free families up so that they can dance again.

(This series of posts are based upon excerpts from a forthcoming book entitled ‘Understanding and Coping with Parental Alienation – a handbook for separated parents’  by Karen Woodall)

Next week – Helping yourself, helping your children, coping and managing rejection and healing the family system

55 comments

  1. Jane Jackson · June 4, 2012

    Another great article Karen.
    Particularly poignant as my granddaughter will be 12 on Friday, and I can hear her saying those words, gosh breaks my heart.
    I last saw her in 2007, five empty years.

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      Sending my support Jane, whoever in the family is stricken by the awful loss of alienation suffers and grandparents suffer so much grief and sadness and helplessness. Keep in mind that you are still your granddaughter’s grandmother, you always will be, that cannot be taken away from you even if you cannot see her. As she grows older there may be opportunities for reconnection and though it is painful, you need to find a way to live and live well whilst keeping that door ajar and your heart ready for those possible times. With all good wishes Karen

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  2. Jenny · June 4, 2012

    I agree Jane.
    It is very poignant. And so wrong.
    Cafcass so often – with others – pass responsibility to children who cannot understand the position they are in and who will later in life have to bear the consequences of decisions they make.
    I would go a step further than the comparison with sending children to Australia. My comparison would be with priests who abused children and were known and tolerated. What’s happening to children amounts to abuse in my book. Done by one of their parents, aided and abetted by Cafcass, the courts and other ‘professionals’. And ignored by society and those who make the laws of our land.

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      It is abuse Jenny, nothing short of it and ignored and diminished and waved away with an arrogance that is breath taking. It happens, it hurts and it damages children and CAFCASS should be have mandatory training in understanding PA and ensuring that the right treatment routes are brought in. Very best wishes Karen

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  3. hobosinfrance · June 4, 2012

    Karen, this is the most reader-friendly, comprehensive article that I have read on the topic of addressing parental alienation. Thank you.

    My grandson lives in France with his dad and us, ie paternal grandparents. Grandson exhibited symptoms of parental alienation when he was not even 4 years old, it was becoming very severe, to the point where he bit himself (self-harming) when his mum telephoned to speak with him. After just a few weeks, grandchild’s mum stopped contacting him all together; we don’t know where she is, other than that she was in the UK. But, she could now be in Turkey.

    There is no designated help route here in France, not where addressing parental alienation is concerned, not yet. Our GP was my son’s first port of call, and he took that step as soon as I told him about parental alienation. Our GP was superb, he was dealing with a double whammy, grandson also has ASDs, and France has an abysmal record where Autism is concerned.

    It very slowly emerged that deep memories of his mother’s abusive treatment of him, and his fear that mother was very close by – to his mind, at the end of the telephone line that ended just outside the house – were the crux of the problem.

    So, when working with a very young child, who has other very real, but not separation/divorce associated, baggage that weighs him/her down, and an absent parent who is absent through choice, what is the best way to help the child through parental alienation?

    Rightly or wrongly, I always have in mind the facts that every child has one natural mother and one natural father. People change, an abusive parent might not always be an abuser. Every child has a right to know from whence s/he came, the right to know where his/her roots can be located, in time.

    Kindest regards

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      Hello Hobosinfrance,

      I think that you are dealing with some issues that are, as you say, very real but not separation/divorce related so much as separation and not good enough mothering related. Unfortunately your grandson is going to need to be helped, as I can see that you are helping him, to understand that his mother is unwell and that she could not give him what he needed. That may need to be done in ways that he can understand, through your presence and enduring love is one way and through the ability that you have to help him to understand that not every mother or father is a good enough one.

      He does need to know his roots and that can be done in ways that are most beneficial to him if you can show him how everyone comes from a mother and father but not everyone lives with a mother and father. Show him that some of the children who do not live with a mother or a father do not do so because their mother or father is poorly/angry/ill/not good enough to be his parent.

      Your grandson is alienated but it was what I would term justifiably so, he is justifiably afraid and anxious about his mother and you need to help him understand that it is ok to feel that way. That way you are teaching him to trust his feelings – ie: he was being hurt, he got anxious, his mother was not nice to him, he was upset. His mother can’t come back and hurt him now, he is safe with the people who love him. Not all mothers are good mothers, he was unlucky to get one that was not good enough, but his dad is more than good enough and his grandparents are more than good enough and he is surrounded by love and care and safety.

      It is sad that he doesn’t have a good enough mother but oh so wonderful that he has people like you to give him all the riches in the world. He is a lucky lucky boy. Keep him safe as you are doing, show him his roots one day but it is probably only ever going to be a matter of vague interest to him because he has all that he needs in love and care and safety right where he is now. That isn’t making his alienation worse, when alienation is justified rejection and the parent isn’t interested in change then there is nothing that can be done other than to keep the child safe and sound in the love that he does have.

      Very best wishes Karen

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  4. Bobtb007 · June 4, 2012

    Hi Karen
    Super article, I am in alignment with your thoughts and projected choices of therapy
    However moving forward to practicalities
    How do we “force” maybe effect a change in the system that will deliver a judgement from a judge that puts a frozen family into the safe hands of a therapist who is committed to working with the whole family for the ultimate benefit of the child?
    As we are dealing with (almost) solely with cases that have reached the doors of the court and knowing that we have one of three types appearing
    1 a parent who is in genuine fear of the other parent
    2 a parent who is genuinely (and subconsciously) fearful of “loosing” “parts” of her child to the other parent i.e. who is not spiteful or revengeful but has trouble letting go
    4 a parent who is spiteful and will fully would alienate the child from the other parent
    When
    All the court sees is a (mother) who would surely only resist because she has good cause?
    I don’t think many judges actually acknowledge that there are vengeful and spiteful women out there and from my experience I have yet to see one genuine mother, they all seem to have an agenda to at its most benign want to restrict contact to minimal levels up to the highest of making false claims of DV(and child abuse) to promote their cause
    When and how, can or will the court be willing to even investigate such possibilities?
    Russ

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    • hobosinfrance · June 4, 2012

      Russ, I know Karen will have information to hand about the judiciary’s attitude to the concept of parental alienation, but I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near being seriously considered at this time. I would love to be wrong, but my personal experience tells me otherwise.

      Kindest regards

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      Russ/Hobosinfrance,

      The judiciary is aware of the concept and some are more than able to accept it and consider it. The Judiciary however are not one unified whole, they are a disparate bunch and some get it more than others. The further out of London one goes, the less likely you are to find depth understanding however in a case I gave evidence in recently, the barrister cross examining me was trying to ridicule me by saying PA doesn’t exist, I think he called it ‘cod psychology’ and the Judge pulled him up short and said, hang on a minute, it does exist, I have just been on a training course about it. Wind out of sails doesn’t come close to the barrister’s face!!

      So its patchy, but we are making inroads now.

      And Russ, Judges do accept that there are spiteful and vengeful women out there and they do also only see the poor woman in front of them. I know that you only see the difficult women, the ones that are making the false claims of DV etc, but there are so many others out there who are not and some who have been victims of DV but whose evidence has been ignored and they have been put in danger because of it.

      The problem we have is there is no uniform training for CAFCASS, no accountable body that scrutinises their work and no records of outcomes for children in these cases. And its only going to get worse I fear.

      K

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  5. pauldmanning · June 4, 2012

    As Karen rightfully says at the very root of the problem of that “dance” lies Cafcass and its total inability to make any kind of change in their attitudes towards parents. Their sole purpose is to exacerbate the parental division and to look to apportion blame, when what they should be doing is trying to get the parties to harmonise as best they can, but i’m sorry to say that they more harm than good. What I fail to understand is why Cafcass continue to get away with their constant failures and fabrications, with their glossy booklet claims that they will treat you with respect and honesty when in fact they treat you with contempt and make you feel small and unworthy as a father. Cafcass are a barrier for the wise implementations of what you have stated here Karen about child alienation, a barrier so enormous that I fail to see how we can get past them. Unless we put pressure on Cafcass, to break them and their power, they will continue to promote the dance of child abuse. Strong words you may think, but I can assure you that Cafcass promote and are the main abusers of our children because of their poor training and self inflated ego’s. When a child guardian actually goes on record as saying to my son “your daddy has the muddles, and doesn’t really have your interests at heart” then how can that be right, how can that be good for my son to hear, how can it help him emotionally? Karen I would respectfully suggest that your words and kind genuine efforts are wasted on the likes of Cafcass, and unless you concentrate on their removal nothing will change and nothing can. You need to get them into court to prove that they are damaging our children and causing untold heartbreak, not to say suicides, in family lives. I am of the belief that your efforts, although wise and kind and well thought out and demonstably true, are not going to cahnge a thing, unless you concentrate on the enemies removal from the dance. Karen put your efforts into getting rid of the wicked choreographer of bad dance, Cafacss, then maybe we can get on with your suggestions, because we will have the ballroom to ourselves without being tripped up by anyone. I tell you Cafcass are the problem, REMOVE THEM!

    Like

    • hobosinfrance · June 4, 2012

      Replace CAFCASS with what or who, Paul? Return to the old Court Welfare Officers system? Create a new arm of the Social Services? Neither route will change anything, because the rot doesn’t start with CAFCASS.

      There would need to be an alternative to CAFCASS, purely because the judiciary can’t manage without reports that can, if carried out properly, provide a clear path for parents to come to agreement that is ultimately in the best interests of their children. That does happen, but too rarely.

      Please, don’t misunderstand me, I would dearly love to see the current CAFCASS regime totally wiped out, metaphorically speaking of course, but what is the alternative?

      Kindest regards

      Like

      • pauldmanning · June 5, 2012

        Hobosinfrance.

        Hello there.
        I fail to see you point when you say “replace Cafcass with what?” Either you believe they are fit for purpose or not, (and they are certainly not) if they are not then the point about what to replace them with is prefunctory. Its like the german people who could have asked ‘well what do we replace our nazi party regime with?’ the answer is… hell knows! but sure enough they should have gone! Once you know of the corruption and gross negligence of Cafcass, as I certainly do from bitter experience the first feeling you have is,
        get rid! The government has a duty of care to our children and also how parents are dealt with by its appointed authority Cafcass, they are demonstrably failing miserably and making more enemies of parents than friends. You only need to look at the comments here and on other of Karen’s blog posts to see that, you don’t need to be a genius to work that one out. As to what should replace the wickedness of Cafcass, well thats easy…. Such highly trained and educated people as Karen and her organization “Centre for separated families” and such caring institutions, could easily be appointed to oversee and retrain court workers and set out proper guide lines. Also highly trained mediators can be utilised more and should be made compulsory for bickering parents, I mean what is it that they have to hide in not doing so? The Cafcass court system is purposely adversarial, the courts are for criminals and are no place for our children or any self respecting caring parent. There are a host of solutions staring the government in the face, but whay they don’t want to see them is because they don’t really care a flying monkey about the misery they are causing to me and other poor innocent parents. Look, in answer to your question, anything has to be better than the corruption and poorly trained staff of Cafcass, Let me in and I will show you, with the help of caring common sense people like Karen Woodhall, etc. Cafcass the old wine skin, and you don’t ever put new wine in one!

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      Hello Paul,

      I think that the work of changing the system is a multi stranded effort and that my best work is done in what I am skilled at doing which is working with people who are experiencing the outcomes. Others will do the work of knocking down the walls, if I take my eye off what I am doing, I might both lose the chance to help and not get more treatment routes up and running which is my main aim at the moment. I hear what you are saying though – my voice will continue to speak up as loud as possible. Sending my support Karen

      Like

  6. el dermo · June 4, 2012

    if your looking for alienating parents to be punished by the court sadly dream on. can you imagine the dilemma for the court? most PA is not about refusing contact. its about what happens when the children are with the AP. few courts are going to change residence and this will only be considered anyway where the alienation is open and clearly evident?

    the system cannot cope with PA. that’s why you can hardly mention it in most family courts..its like a bizarre monty python sketch. probably happens in most separations but when you get to entrenched PA ie beyond the time that you would expect things to calm down, then the court will simply hope that you walk away.

    whats incredible here is that CAFCASS are so reluctant to address the whole thing. My CAFCASS officer saw reduced contact as a solution as resentment can often kick in where a rejecting child refuses contact with a target parent.. classic example of dealing with the symptoms of a problem not the cause.

    bit like the fatherhood institute. advocating help services for dads but avoiding the reasons why they might need them in the first place, classic volunteers in the soup kitchen. feeding the homeless (perfectly laudable) but not addressing the reasons for homelessness..

    when you get thrown into it you realize how common it is. then you get the feckless fathers label when dads who cannot cope or don’t have the strength or money to go through the family law circus walk away.

    this country is more concerned with the dukes bladder infection rather than the welfare of its children.is it a third of children who have no contact with dad after two years of separation? thankfully not everyone’s head is buried in the sand.

    thanks for this Karen.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      Too many CAFCASS officers make it worse instead of better, it is a scandal and as you say, as a nation we are more concerned with the bladder problem of an old man than the health and welfare of our children, which is national shame in itself. K

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  7. Bobtb007 · June 4, 2012

    So in a few posts do we agree?
    PA is not recognised by the courts so as inciteful as Karen is if they don’t recognise it things won’t change
    What alternative is there?
    I say turn to the target parent and educate them how to counter its power
    I have done so, it’s a blend of love, support and truth, telling the child that he is welcome to love both parents equally, that you give his love for the alienating patent your approval, pointing out early enough that the other parent is not telling the truth but it’s still ok to live that parent, loads more I could add……., but won’t
    Then in court play the system (know its weaknesses and exploit them), it’s the only option we have whilst the system supports lying NPA, BPD and high Machiavellian parents hell bent on destroying your relationship with the children no matter the consequences to the children
    Russ

    Like

    • Bobtb007 · June 4, 2012

      Oh sorry forgot to say

      Get 50/50 shared time as a start point let the other patent prove that your not good enough

      Like

    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      A raft of ways of talking to children to alienation proof them is essential, please send as many thoughts this way as you can, especially those that work for your kids, other people might find that they can adapt them into their parenting of their children.

      Presumption of 50/50 – well we had a chat about that on the previous posting, I definitely go for the balancing of power so that assumptions cannot be made about who is the most important parent. I continue to not be persuaded that 50/50 starting point is the miracle people think it is.

      But I am thinking about it and reading and researching. K

      Like

  8. Bobtb007 · June 4, 2012

    Bloody iPhone auto correction patent = parent, live = love

    Like

  9. el dermo · June 5, 2012

    time is important but being fixated on 50/50 care is a cul-de-sac. children can be alienated by the parent who has less time.if you are able to parent in a way that removes the children from conflict than great. time then is important. a fixation on time though can lead you away from the main strategy that you should have. warshack suggests that two nights a week gives you a chance of challenging it. if you go to the family circus you will get every other weekend if you are lucky

    the important thing is what amount of time allows the children to maintain a god relationship? children caught between hostility might manage it better with blocs of time rather than 50/50 ? . ..

    Like

    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      I have worked with some children where we have shifted PA reactions via a long holiday period and then every other weekend from Friday night to Monday morning then another long holiday period. Its definitely time that makes the difference. But I also agree with Warshak’s two nights a week gives you a fighting chance. Am thinking about this whole thing as I go along. K

      Like

  10. Bartholomew · June 5, 2012

    My worries about Parental Alienation are that it shifts the blame entirely onto parents, as always, and justifies things like mandatory mediation or parenting class programs and the like – which just don’t work where one party has already made up her mind that she will be intractable, precisely because she knows that she needn’t be anything else.

    The heart of the problem is an adversarial justice system, and those who milk this system; the “first” abusers in all this are all those parties working in or supporting the family justice system; they set up expectations that mothers ought to behave wickedly. To be fair, there are excellent lawyers, experts, advisers and guardians working in the industry, who do put the children first, but the majority (armed with the Children Act 1989 and case law precedent, and bankrolled by corporate interests) don’t want to see an abusive system change.

    But wait one second: let us not forget the complicity of health and education sector workers in all this. The health and education sectors still routinely enforce the idea that only the resident parent matters, and that the non-resident parent is not to be communicated with or included in any of the decisions and processes concerning his child.

    Health and education workers are the people that we look up to for supporting the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children (where the courts and court advisers may have failed to do this). Yet, like the fascist police during Vichy France, these workers are brutes and ignoramuses that do not serve those who look to them for protection, but participate in the criminal treatment and criminalization of families, routinely letting down children and their biological parents.

    Britain now has a world-class record for promoting and fostering child abuse of several different kinds. How did we sink to this deplorable state?

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    • hobosinfrance · June 5, 2012

      Not all health and education workers are “brutes and ignoramuses”, Bartholomew. Just as not all Social Workers, CAFCASS officers, solicitors, barristers and Family Court judges are corrupt and self-serving. I honestly don’t believe that generalising and tarring all with the same brush is the way forward. Much quicker and immediately productive to cut out the rotten and re-build from a decent base, I believe. But, certainly, the cap fits many of them, enough of them to have brought Britain to what you rightly (imo) call “this deplorable state”.

      Response to pauldmanning – I didn’t ask “what should replace the wickedness of Cafcass”, I asked you what/who do you suggest should replace CAFCASS. I’m not a genius, but I am adequately intelligent. I’m not a father, but I have suffered immensely at the hands of CAFCASS, corrupt solicitors and Family Court judges, and I have supported my family through their suffering at those same hands – I’m still supporting them.

      Your eventual suggestions were, centres for separated families, and highly trained mediators. That’s fine, So, who is going to foot the bill for the setting up and the training? Do you know who and what funds CAFCASS, Paul?

      While I’m responding, I’ll just add, if your ideas bear good fruit, what will happen to the many British families who are forced into the England & Wales Courts circus, even though they don’t live in Britain? Would they also have access to English-speaking centres for separated families, and highly trained English-speaking mediators? With respect, I think you will find you need to look outside a much bigger box than you envisage.

      Kindest regards

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      • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

        If I could just add a gentle suggestion here that it would not take very much to train CAFCASS staff in PA. It could be done on a shoe string. We trained CMEC’s Options service over a six month period, the cost of bringing that service to life was less than one CAFCASS officer’s salary per year..not a huge amount to invest in bringing about a world of difference. K

        Like

      • pauldmanning · June 5, 2012

        In Reply to you Hobsoinfrance. Hi again.
        You have your answer in looking at Karen’s reply Hobo, there are highly trained people out there that the government can use to retrain and put in place a better system than that of Cafacss. I am sorry, looking at your post again, you question WAS in regard to what replaces Cafcass, I think I have answered that in my first first answer to you. As to what, or who, pays for a new incumbent in that role, well who is paying Cafcass, how are they funded? So use that same funding just redirected at an organization and in the hands…(other than the idiot A Douglas)… of someone who is responsible, wise, experienced and with the knowledgable of the dynamics of family breakup and how our children think and act, someone who can actually do the job and probably for half the price. I’m not to worried about the details on the ‘after’, they can be sorted easily, what I do know in my heart is that Cafcass should go, and go now, before they kill more parents, no details here on that, I just know how wicked they are. I know Cafcass inside and out I know things about them they think I don’t know, nuff said.
        Peace to you and to our children, God bless you Elliott.

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      Hi Bartholomew,

      the issue about PA is that it is the parents issue, it is their responsibility and it is their failure to cope that has caused the issue in the first place. Alternatively it is one parent who is doing the alienating and not being detected by the professionals so getting away with it. Either way the failure of the state is in not providing the kind of support that can help parents to overcome the problem and adapt to change, or the kind of support that can identify PA and intervene in ways that support children.

      As HIF says not all of the state machinery is bad, some social workers, some CAFCASS people even, some Judges get it and some family services do too. There just isn’t enough and not enough consistency.

      K

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      • Gregory- · June 6, 2012

        To be fair to CAFCASS, in my case, they did at least one thing right: in an 1.5hr conversation, when the going was too painful to continue, they convinced me to stay. 3 years on, the going’s still tough, but the best decision I have ever made.
        They also referred my eX partner 3 times to counselling/therapy due to her “fragile state of mind” but failed to follow through and she’s evaded every time; this I think was their biggest failure.

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  11. Bartholomew · June 5, 2012

    Hobo – I agree with you that it is “not all.” In fact, there are a few very excellent people working in the industry, as I noted in my post. That, however, should not excuse the fact that the industry more broadly is rotten to the core.

    Anyway, my point was that parental alienation was something “engineered,” “facilitated,” “encouraged,” and so on. Of course, there are all the selfish and possessive animal/human emotions that create a propensity toward alienating behavior in the first place. But the law could easily address and check those emotions, just as it currently does with rape, theft, murder, and so on.

    So once again, let’s not be too quick to blame the parents for their criminal behavior; the state has a bloody hand in fostering that criminality.

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    • karenwoodall · June 5, 2012

      in my view Bartholomew, the state’s hand is in not providing enough for parents who are negotiating such a distressing change. But we cannot remove responsibility from parents, either one or both because PA cannot exist without two people in a family system at war with each other or one parent being targeted by the other. If we remove responsibility from parents and the who system was not rotten to the core then children would still be alienated and then who would take responsibility for it? K

      Like

  12. Chris beard · June 5, 2012

    Please keep up your good work, I feel my kids are subject to pure alienation and we are frozen, and you would appear to be a tiny chink of light and hope I can see,
    We are at dartford county court and they ,like many crave your enlightenment .
    God bless and speed, Chris

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    • GrandmaM · June 6, 2012

      Karen Thanks. Italicised section in your latest blog gives me a glimmer of insight into behaviour of beloved grandson.
      After 10 yrs close/happy times I’ve now for 16 mths been denied all contact because of conflict between my son and his ex-wife (divorced 8 yrs ago).
      My grandson is alleged to have said that ’he never wants to see his dad again’.He recently deliberately snubbed and cold-shouldered me at a local event.
      It feels like he has become an alien being!
      His statement and mother’s caused my son’s Family Court application to be rejected.It seems that only prolonged therapy –or a miracle- can change anything.
      Mother and stepfather implacably refuse mediation.Grandson is a very bright boy but apart from our despair I grieve for his future emotional needs and relationships.
      I wish you well and look forward to publication of your book.

      GrandmaM

      Like

    • Gregory- · June 6, 2012

      I know this Court like the inside of my pocket, Chris.
      Good Luck

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  13. Gregory- · June 6, 2012

    Oh God, what to do when PA symptoms have not yet set in such extreme as described above yet PA continues on every other front apart from outright denial? Visit dates constantly moved around, school homework refused, holiday travel refused, bad mouthing and blackmail… Yet on the surface, for the court – a completely different, fabricated story… How long till my child, unable to cope will give in? How long till PA becomes extreme rejection? How long till my child looses one of her parents… How long till I loose my child… What to do?

    Like

    • hobosinfrance · June 6, 2012

      Gregory, I don’t feel that you will lose your child. One day, your child will not be backed into corners, will not be pressurised, will not be faced with unfair choices, will not need to withdraw for the sake of her own self-preservation, she will be able to say, ‘enough is enough’. To help her to effect that change for the better, just stay with it, remain aware, do your best, be what you are, a good and caring dad. As we say in France, “bon courage”, you are not on your own.

      Kindest regards

      Like

      • Gregory- · June 6, 2012

        Esprit de corps, thanks Hobos 🙂

        Like

    • el dermo · June 9, 2012

      gregory

      what to do?

      i am in no position to offer guidance other than that based upon my own experience.

      firstly educate yourself about PA. can be a poisoned chalice in some ways as it can become obsessional in the sense that this is so emotive and we are all looking for an answer to our own situations. important to to look after your self and try to switch off (easy eh?). very important though as your child will need you always. if your not a member of fnf join and get your self to one of the PA workshops delivered by Karen.

      also get support from others. i have support from two people in particular who are going through this, one parent has no contact is in the court circus and has been for many years,the other has limited contact and has because of the children s ages avoided the circus in recent years, such people are gold dust not just to me but they inspire me in terms of their love and care as parents. their children are very lucky and i believe one day will realise that.
      for each situation should have a strategy based upon the personalities of the children, the personality and behaviour of the AP and the time you have,.and of course you.

      i have an adult stepson totally alienated and two younger boys partially alienated. by no means the worse case scenario and i have contact with the younger boys.

      play to your strengths. forget your ex and her need for counselling and focus on your strengths as a parent. unconditional love is a very powerful gift. it is yours to give.its what we all need as children and indeed it has a potency as we become adults and our parents become bit players in practical terms but our anchor in emotional terms still.

      someone once said that being an alienated parent was like being tied to the tracks of a railway line and hearing the whistle of a train in the distance, support education and time may be three things that allow you to cut yourself free?

      most of all remember that you are not alone. its a long game and time ahead can be influenced by you. its a painting partially completed and its not just the AP who holds the brush.

      never give up.

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      • Gregory- · June 13, 2012

        Thank you El very much for your kind advice, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, sans FNF so far but getting closer. Best of luck to you too.

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  14. phil · June 6, 2012

    Karen,

    As always an excellent article and the paragraph about how the child feels and acts, summarises the situation in a way that I have never seen written before. My own situation has been going on for nearly four years and court proceedings terminated around 2years ago with a 12 month CAFCASS guardianship ending around 12 months ago. I have four children, two of whom were under 10 and the court helped ensure I had access alternate weekends and for a three hour session mid-week. The older two were over the age of 10 and “wishes and feelings” were taken into account. CAFCASS recorded that they had no desire to see me ever again, that I could send them presents and birthday cards, but not to expect a response. I have not any contact with the older two for nearly four years and the CAFCASS Guardian admitted they had no power to make anything happen – indeed, Mummy ensured that the CAFCASS Guardian had had little contact. I see my younger two on a regular basis but note that they are very aware of their older siblings desires never to see me again. The CAFCASS officer did warn that I would eventually lose them as they grew up.

    My points are as follows: Looking back, CAFCASS had originally given me the feeling that they were working for the best interests of the children and for the children to have access to both parents. Over time with the court appearances and the CAFCASS reports, it slowly became apparent that I had little chance of success, especially with my older children. All CAFCASS were doing was to record the children’s wishes and feelings for the Court without explanation. Thus, to comprehend Parental Alienation in action, one cannot say that it can be seen to happen from the outset. It is only after you have been through the courts, heard the CAFCASS reports and then tried to question said reports that you can honestly say that this is a case of “Parental Alienation”. It is only when you look back and you can be certain that there is a pattern of events that can identify Parental Alienation as then causation . I say that because I believe that in my case, my ex-wife’s solicitor was excellent at guiding her through the process, to say the right things at the right times, to make the right noises but in reality give nothing. It is after all a “dirty” adversarial process and CAFCASS were limited to being the eyes and ears of the court full stop. On day one I had no evidence to suggest that PA was about to run rampant.

    Finally, we also need solutions for cases (such as mine) where they are no longer ongoing. There appears little reason or hope in going back to court in the current system. The answer must lie in public awareness and education. Maybe we need a series of articles in the social media or a storyline in the popular soaps to reach out and show all the affected children that their problems are common and not isolated. These need to be skilfully created with perhaps the right support mechanisms in place. I know from my own experience that when people ask about my contact with my kids, they presume (to my face at times) that I was the bad parent and there must be a good reason why I don’t have contact! Education to the affected, education to the general public (and other family members) and education for the yet to be affected. Not a simple task perhaps but not beyond the realms of Coronation Street or Eastenders. As you say, Parental Alienation is a BIG problem with few effective remedies.

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  15. Paul · June 6, 2012

    I don’t see why Gardner’s theory on PAS needed to be reformulated other than to make it more palatable, pollitically. As he pointed out himself, it always takes one alienating parent to make a parentally-alienated child, no matter what the contribution of the other parent. Also no one today argues against the fact that a cluster of symptoms describes the condition. Therefore it is both medically correct and appropriate to use the term syndrome to describe the condition in a child. I don’t know what the fuss is all about; PAS exists.

    A child can become alienated from a parent for reasons other than PAS. PAS is the issue that matters to parents who have unreasonably lost contact with their child through the actions of a hostile ex-partner and for no fault of their own. I know you’ll say this is too simplistic, Karen, but that is the essential truth that lies behind every child with PAS no matter what the experts may say.

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  16. karenwoodall · June 6, 2012

    As you suspect Paul I dont agree. kelly and Johnstone, friedlander and walters and Bala and Fidler have done some fantastic work in reformulating our understanding and helping to get the tailored treatments that are necessary. it just is not the case that PA is always about one malevolent parent and one innocent one – rarely does Ghandi marry Margeret Thatcher or alternatively Mother Theresa marry Hitler (i have to credit professor Bala for that one). differentiation is essential, especially when rejected parents are contributing to the pa phenomenon and their behaviour must change order that the dynamic changes. it is not about making it palatablye policitically Paul, its about making it easier to understand and treat, that is my view is the most essential thing of all. K

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    • Paul · June 6, 2012

      I don’t suggest one parent is always innocent or doesn’t contribute, Karen. However, you will never come across a diagnosed case of alienation where a child develops the full blown symptoms without one parent acting malevolently, either deliberately or tacitly, to cause the other parent to be irrationally rejected. And I stress the use of the word irrational. Where a father effectively self-harms his case by behaving with overt hostility himself, towards his co-parent, one can hardly say the child is irrational in rejecting him. It is harmful parental behaviour, including over-controlling as well as manipulative behaviour that triggers alienation and this is the predominant cause of the condition. Everything else is froth. It is also fostered, inadvertently perhaps, by Cafcass in the course of prolonged proceedings with highly inappropriate wishes & feelings reports that can precipitate the loss of a parent altogether when it leads to either ‘no further contact’ or ‘indirect contact only’ ‘until the child wishes it’ type of order. Wishes & feelings reports can be highly misleading and a direct source of harm to a child but the main trigger is always a malevolent parent. As PAS is considered a psychological disturbance, it requires a medical diagnosis. I cannot realistically see how Cafcass officers can be trained to work like doctors. This is like social workers making amateur assessments of Munchausen mothers, as they routinely did, when in actual fact, a double diagnosis is required by both paediatrician and adult psychiatrist. Cafcass should have a duty to report the signs. Alienation should be a reportable form of child abuse and the courts should then have a legal duty to investigate. If the judiciary then stepped in to apply a regular stream of change of residence orders this would soon slip into public consciousness to help stem the tide of this growing abuse of children.

      Like

      • karenwoodall · June 7, 2012

        Hi Paul, well I am afraid I disagree with your assertion that there always has to be one parent being malevolent and deliberate to cause a parent to be irrationally rejected. I don’t know where you get that from, Gardener perhaps? In working with families, I come across some where PA is very severe and both parents have caused it through their inability to stop fighting each other. These are probably the most difficult to treat, because one of the parents has usually decided that the other is alienating and has become something of an expert in PA and is unable to look at how their own behaviour has contributed to the dynamics that have caused the child to reject. Those cases are the ones that I dread, the hardest to treat and the ones with the poorest outcomes for re-establishing a positive dynamic.

        I am commenting from the basis of the work that I do with families, the research that informs my work and the outcomes that I achieve in that work. I can only say it as I see it and understand it. PA is a much more complex and multi layered problem than Gardener first proposed. The idea that there is always one parent actively alienating is a dangerous one to continue proposing because it is not always the case. The reformulations of PA are amazing in their ability to help therapists like me find the right treatment route. And believe me, when you get the differential right, the treatment route can be astonishingly quick. Pure cases, Hybrid cases, there is a massive difference in how you treat them.

        But continuing the notion that in every case of PA there always has to be one malevolent and deliberate alienator and the other parent is much less to blame only serves to further the attitudes amongst too many parents who could change the dynamic in their situation, that they don’t have to do anything other than prove that the other parent is an ‘alienator’. Its not true, it serves very little purpose for the parent and it does nothing whatsoever for the child.

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  17. Bartholomew · June 7, 2012

    Karen, I’m very curious about what you say about PA not being attributable to one side alone. Are you perhaps suggesting that when one parent fears or directly experiences PA, they retaliate in a like-minded manner, as a sort of defense mechanism? Or are you perhaps saying that in not stepping in somehow to preempt PA (as Warschak advises you must do), the alienated parent is somehow complicit?

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    • karenwoodall · June 7, 2012

      Hi Bartholomew,

      Next week I will write about how children move along a spectrum from transition difficulties, to switching reactions to splitting reactions to alienation. That explains how, in some cases, there is an alienation reaction because of what both parents are doing. Alienation is not always caused by the actions of one conscious and deliberate alienating parent and the other innocent one. In some cases it is but it many others it isn’t. Parents who are in a Hybrid situation, where both parties have contributed to the reaction, can change their behaviour and change the dynamic and make a difference. PA is not always caused by a parent deliberately poisoning the mind of a child, it is caused by lack of communication, competition for loyalty, making the child a consort instead of a child in the dynamic, over empowering the child, all of which end up distorting the mind of the child and the dynamic in the family. It is not always though a parent who is consciously bad mouthing the other parent that causes the alienation reaction to occur. K

      Like

  18. Paul · June 7, 2012

    Karen, you make the case between full blown and hybrid PA cases as Richard Gardner did himself. Gardner describes cases where a father clearly contributes to his own downfall and he is clear in stating these are not PAS cases, whether mild, moderate or severe. The rescrambled version of PA we have today calls these hybrid cases and there is nothing inconsistent here with Gardner’s theories. They have stood the test of time and remain supported today by many researchers, including, of the ones you have mentioned above, people like Fidler and Bala who have moved the research on. Those latter openly acknowledge that in certain situations a change of residency is required to address severe PAS, as Gardner originally proposed. The type of child alienation you describe probably occurs in nearly all disputed cases of parental separation involving children. Gardner didn’t involve himself in most of these.

    Gardner’s description of severe (not hybrid) PAS cases always involves a malevolent parent who programmes the child against the other parent and without that malevolent parent there is no severe PAS case. That remains the case today. He did not believe in hammering alienating mothers in mild and moderate PAS cases either. He believed in supporting their position as prime custodial parents. In fact he stated that PAS was partly brought about in the first place through replacement of the tender years doctrine with its ‘child’s best interests’ substitute where mothers didn’t automatically obtain custody and it was easier for fathers to litigate the issues. He saw litigation as the great bugbear of post-separation families. He believed in strengthening the paternal relationship and addressing any attenuation of the father-child relationship through re-education of the mother and, presumably too, better contact for the father. He was also very strongly against the adversarial court system where he regarded many lawyers as acting malevolently too. He was a very early proponent of mediation as an alternative to litigation which he regarded as fundamentally unsuitable to resolve disputes over children. Overall, he was very enlightened in his views and far ahead of his time, recognising throughout that PAS was a developing field which would change over the course of time. He also predicted that PAS would eventually become recognised as a psychological disorder in children, which it effectively has today, if not officially – just yet.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · June 7, 2012

      Hi Paul,

      what you are calling severe (not hybrid) cases are what I would call cases of ‘pure’ alienation, in which one malevolent parent or a psychologically disordered parent cannot or will not change their behaviour. These are the cases where change of residence is most effective.

      hybrid cases are still cases of alienation, they need a different treatment route that’s all.

      Justified rejection cases are not alienation, they are the ones where a parent has done something to cause the rejection of the child.

      Mild, moderate or severe cases of alienation always have a process of withdrawal from the parent, it is therefore possible to detect where the process is and how to intervene to change the dynamic or court manage it if necessary.

      Richard Gardener is dead now and therefore can no longer contribute to the work that is ongoing. I understand that you find his work inspiring and that you feel that his formulations explain it fully for you. However, as a therapist, working with cases on an ongoing basis, I find Gardeners work to be unhelpful in many ways now and find the people who have reformulated his original ideas to be much more useful in helping to understand how to treat alienation. Those of us living and working with the issue must contribute to a living, breathing, framework for understanding the issue and take the treatment routes further and develop new ideas on how to approach the issue. We are dealing with cases now, which are set in a different place, a different time and a different social policy framework. If we only look to Gardener to explain it for us, his theories will not fit our time or place. Freud and Jung were magnificent thinkers, who shaped the lives of generations. Many many people have taken those original ideas and made them real for the late 20th century and early 21st century. We are alive,Gardener is not. One day we too will be dead and new people will continue the work of thinking and working with the issues that affect us.

      I respect Gardeners original work, I consider him to be a far sighted thinker, but I know that his formulations were of a time and place, we who are doing this work now must move the understanding on and develop the ideas and the treatment routes for the generations that we work with until it is time for us to hand on the baton too.

      In many ways we are simply having an academic discussion, I respect your belief in Gardener but I do not agree that his formulations are useful in our work now. When I do the work that I do with families, much of which bring successful outcomes for families, it is the reformulations of Gardener’s work that enable me to achieve those.

      Best wishes Karen

      Like

  19. Paul · June 7, 2012

    Professor Parkinson has made the helpful suggestion that Cafcass evolve into something approaching the nationwide Family Relationship Centres that were instituted recently in Australia. Not sure whether the government is prepared to fund these here but I do believe that either Cafcass does evolve into something useful to mankind or it gets shut down altogether. They have caused too much misery to hundreds of thousands, probably, of families, particularly those where fathers have lost all contact, as I did, following one of those wretched reports of theirs where we were advised to ‘step back’ from further direct contact, thus sanctioning the misdeeds of a programming parental alienator. In refusing to enforce their own orders the courts blithely accepted such abuses and both the President of the Family Division and the head of Cafcass owe a full apology to all those thousands of children and their parents affected over the course of many years. I still haven’t seen one of my children for coming up to thirteen years. I did nothing wrong and ‘contributed’ nothing to his condition other than fail to appeal an order where I was restricted to seeing my children every other weekend and resigned to twelve days of silence in between.

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  20. karenwoodall · June 7, 2012

    Absolutely agree Paul, CAFCASS too often say step back when it is the very last thing that should be done. And I also agree with your comments about the need for apology to the thousands of children. And I am not suggesting that your case is anything but a pure case of alienation which has been aided and abetted by the failures in our system. Other cases however may not be so straightforward which is why we need a differentiation system that enables us to tackle the issue. Though of course one can never prevent CAFCASS from undoing the work or in some cases simply preventing it from happening. K

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  21. Bartholomew · June 8, 2012

    My concern is how to prevent what you call “justified alienation.” What would I have to do to justify any kind of alienation. I feel that this all very blurry. Justified alienation can occur, for instance, as a result of so many misinterpretations, fed by the other parent, no?

    My concern is what to do when my son says to me that he wants to live with his mother, and stop shuffling back and forth, when he comes to me and says what his mother told him to say, i.e., that it is too confusing, when he tells me that the rules are more relaxed at mom’s house, that mom is more fun, that he does not like having his belongings split, etc.. That would mean that 4 years of suffering and jumping through all the circles of fire have been in vain. My first inclination would be to think he has been poisoned, that years of mom manipulating him into saying this has caused this, and I worry that the trauma of the past might cause me to go on the defensive. My first inclination would be to tell him that he needs to see both parents, that this is the healthiest way. Would that justify the alienation if I said something like that?

    Of course, I also know that not letting the bird fly is usually worse, and that no judge in the land would take me seriously anyway if I raised suspicions of parental alienation.

    What can one do, in addition to being the best they can, to prevent that scenario?

    Like

    • Kat · June 9, 2012

      Warshak’s book: divorce poison does go through the difference between parental alienation and justified alienation or rejection. The latter refers to a child rejecting a parent because he or she is neglectful or abusive in some way. Thus what you are describing does not fall in that category. Children may find hundreds of little practical reasons for not seing the other parent. They don’t want their things split, they miss out on something that they would have done at the other house etc. All of these reasons really are insignificant in the face of loosing contact with a loving parent and solutions could be found if there was support from the other parent for an ongoing relationship and good communication between the parents. To allow a child to loose contact with a loving parent because they do not want their things split or similar trivialities, is allowing a child to make decisions where they cannot comprehend the consequences.

      Like

    • karenwoodall · June 9, 2012

      Bartholomew,

      What you are seeing is a typical transition reaction in a child, peppered, possibly with a large dose of instruction from mother. Your child is able to talk to you however and therefore all is not lost.

      You are in the position of questioning your own actions and whether you should make your son live in two homes. Yes you should and no it is not alienating him to do so, neither is it giving him cause for rejecting you justifiably, you are not being cruel, you are not damaging him, you are being his father, something that he needs badly.

      Children can and do settle into two home living. You need to ensure that you do not over empower him in your home because he is being over empowered in the other home and that is the cause of his current complaining.

      You need to hold a firm boundary with him. When he complains its more fun at moms then you need to explain that life is not all about fun and ok you do it differently to mom but that’s moms and dads for you and he needs both in his life to make him safe and secure.

      In terms of his things, if you can make sure that there are things that he doesn’t have to take back and forth, Pajamas that stay at yours, toothbrush, games, books, etc, then he can cut down on what he has to carry back and forth. Make it a project with him that he sets up his home at yours in the way that suits him. Turn his complaints into problems that the two of you can solve together, whatever you do though do not fall into trying to please him the whole time, be brave, stand firm, keep being his dad and not his friend, if you can do that he will retreat back to being a child and whatever his mom is doing will not cause the transition problems to escalate.

      I will write more about transition problems soon, but for now, know that you are NOT alienating him or giving him cause to reject you. He will thank you for being his dad and being there wholeheartedly one day in his life.

      K

      Like

  22. Bartholomew · June 9, 2012

    Thanks Karen. These are all excellent points. The trouble begins, I think, when because of mom’s manipulative behavior and incessant efforts to instil a conflict of loyalty, a dad finds himself in the position of having to coax his child into understanding why it is important to have two homes, and then realizing that from the child’s point of view he is coming across as controlling (because that is what the mother will have told the child).

    I suppose that is what I thought ‘justified alienation’ meant.

    It just always seems like one is always fighting a losing battle when the other parent is intent on alienating the child.

    I can imagine that, from the mother’s perspective, what they are doing seems to be quite innocently in the best interests of the mother-plus-children relationship, and that there is nothing abusive about that.

    I am loathe to see the state more involved than it is, but maybe it is high time that parental alienation awareness replaces maths on the school curriculum.

    Like

    • hobosinfrance · June 9, 2012

      Hi Bartholomew

      My grandson showed classic signs of parental alienation, including self-harming, aimed at his mum, his dad didn’t hesitate, he took his lad straight to our GP. Our GP clarified the child’s symptoms as, “A result of ongoing abuse by the mother. The child remembers the past abuse and he is rejecting her because he is frightened that she is outside the house at the ‘end’ of the telephone wire. He is frightened that she will come into the house and abuse him again.”

      CAFCASS and, consequently, the England & Wales Family Courts, did not accept that report and it was ‘dismissed evidence’. But, the GP’s report was fully accepted by our local Procureur, ie senior Child Protection Judge, where the child lives in France, and that was effectively the bottom line.

      At that time, my son and I didn’t know about the justified alienation type, I have only learned about it from Karen, and I have passed what Karen has said to my son. So, you’re not the only one who didn’t understand the term, justified alienation.

      Where there is true parental alienation (syndrome?), I really can’t see that it is anything other than deliberately invoked – by whichever parent, although, in my experience (through work) it is predominantly mothers that create the problem for their children. That is, as far as I can see, child abuse. But, I could be wrong and will stand corrected.

      Childcare is taught in schools, so I think your suggestion regarding teaching young people in schools about parental alienation could be given a niche within those studies – but, as education for both boys and girls. However, that would be a long way off, much is the pity!

      Kindest regards

      Like

  23. brokenhearted mum · October 4, 2012

    Hi Karen
    I read your article and broke my heart.
    From reading the replys a lot are the mothers to blame, my situation is the father. After a nasty divorce, i continued to bring my three young children up with regular contact to dad. My x had taken me to court trying to get residence. My son was 8 and was very sad and told me i couldnt fix it, when asked he replied he wanted to live with his dad. I made the worst mistake of my life and let him go as i wanted him happy. I knew i would still see him omod week and the alternate weekends that my chilldren are with me. After only three weekends this was stopped with dad now coming to the school and collecting my son when he should of been with me.
    Im in the process of court to try and see my son as he won’t take gifts, telephone calls etc. My x and my son call me vulgar names to my other children. Cafcas have told me he never wants to see me again. There is so much more to tell….
    I am crushed and your article gives me understanding but sadly no hope..
    I have lost a year of his life and am struggling on where what how to go forward.

    Like

  24. Paul Phillips · January 25, 2013

    Iv been in court for two yrs now Iv sacked to solicters had ten hearings Cafcass came and went. They belived all that the respondent has said as the court is doing also. So I’m denied that contact I should be having with my children. And I’m cool now in court. But Iv put up with this since jan 2008. My crime being I love my children. Nyas coming Into the mix now. This is P A I know because I’m in it !
    All of what you say is totaly correct, we need to have trained people in all aspects of family law ie crapcass aswell.
    They have been the worst Iv ever delt with.
    me just a dad who loves his children.
    Shoot me for that !!!!!!!!!!!!!’

    Like

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