Parental Alienation in the Family Courtroom: A Legal Perspective

Session : Plenary 3: Current State of Parental Alienation Research and Practice

  • Time : 7:30 am PDT To 9:00 am PDT on
  • Venue : Parental Alienation in the Family Courtroom: A Legal Perspective

Full Abstract

Parental alienation is a highly counter-intuitive area. American family courts have finally recognized the phenomenon (at times using different terminology), acknowledged the serious harm that it causes, and have attempted to provide remedial measures. But is there a "silver bullet" that will slay this monster? Family law professionals—judges, lawyers, children’s representatives, guardians ad litem, custody evaluators—should carefully evaluate the dynamic before rushing in with “solutions.” Seemingly good measures that may have worked in other family law cases do not work in an alienation situation. For instance, as one domestic relations judge realized: Giving a “speech” from the bench in an attempt to “get through” to an alienating parent does not result in an epiphany or help the situation. Nor will sending off the kids to “therapy.” In fact, it would be difficult to find a more common yet egregious blunder that many professionals routinely commit than advocating for what amounts to traditional “reunification” therapy for parental alienation. Not only are such therapies known to be ineffective, they are known to be potentially harmful – they “validate” an alienated child’s distorted view of the world, encourage the child to express grievances, and give the child some “control” or choice while advising the rejected parent to “listen, empathize, validate, and apologize (or even to ‘find something to apologize for’).” Traditional therapy is contraindicated and typically makes things worse. Even when provided under court order, such therapies are of little benefit. In this presentation, the attendees will learn about how family courts around the country view PA, the process of Reunification in a PA case, and the relevant scientific literature and court decisions.