Posts tagged ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’

Investigating Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

About ten years ago I received a call from a well known attorney representing a father in a paternity case. The attorney asked me to conduct surveillance at Mc Donald’s during a custody exchange. The father was picking up his children for weekend visitation. He told me he wanted me to observe any interaction the parents had with the children and to make special note of the children’s body language and expressions.

I arrived at the Mc Donald’s early and found a good seat that would enable me to observe all the parties involved. Shortly after the scheduled time, the mother arrived with the children. She pulled in the parking lot, parked, got out, and retrieved the two boys ages seven and nine from the backseat. My first observation was made as the mother and boys began to approach the restaurant. The mother appeared to be using her hands and body to shield the boys as if they were approaching a dangerous situation. When they entered the Mc Donald’s the children were trying to see their father. They were obviously much shorter than their mother but couldn’t seem to get past her. The father was waving from across the restaurant. The older son saw him, smiled, and began to wave back. As soon as he started to wave, the mother grabbed him by the back of his coat, pulled him towards her, and got down on one knee. She shook her finger in his face as if she were scolding him. He lowered his chin to his chest and became flush. Both boys then proceeded to meekly approach their father being careful to stay behind their mother. When the mother was approximately twenty feet from the father she began to yell at him. Several patrons in the area appeared to be uncomfortable and one of the cashiers stopped taking an order to see what the commotion was all about. The entire restaurant seemed to stop for a moment. The mother told the father that she had to force the children to come with her because they were afraid to see him. The boys continued to keep their heads down and continued to do so until the mother exited the restaurant. The mother made several comments about the father not loving the children, being a deadbeat, and not caring about them. The father, to his credit, remained calm and stoic. The mother not getting the response she desired from the father then addressed the children. Every time she would refer to the father she would say in a contemptuous tone, “your father”. She would say the word “father” as if it was a curse word. When the mother finally left the restaurant the children seemed to take on new identities. It was obvious to everyone watching that the children were in fact happy to see their father but were frightened of their mother. They were visibly happy, excited, comfortable, and relaxed around their father.

I immediately returned to my client’s office and reported on my somewhat alarming observations. The attorney was satisfied with my report and asked me to wait as he contacted a forensic psychiatrist. He put the doctor on speakerphone and asked me to repeat what I had just told him. After I finished explaining the events of the day, the forensic psychiatrist said, “Well, that confirms our fears”. After he hung up the phone the attorney explained to me that I had just witnessed first hand Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. The attorney explained he did not want to tell me about PAS prior to the investigation because he wanted me to approach the situation without creating potential bias in my observations. At the time of the surveillance, I didn’t realize that what I was witnessing was PAS first hand. Today I use the videotape of this event to show investigators I train some of the signs of PAS.

I recently attended a symposium sponsored by the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood. One of the speakers at the symposium was a friend and colleague of mine Dr. Leon Intrater. Dr. Intrater discussed the issue of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Over the years I have worked on many cases where PAS was prevalent and been given the arduous task of proving PAS exists. While it is not the investigators role to make a psychiatric evaluation of any type, documenting the parent’s actions and interaction with the child can be valuable to a psychiatrist and the court.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was discovered by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner and has emerged as an expert in dealing with the issue.

Gardner defines PAS as:

“The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.”

While PAS is manifested in several ways some of the more commonly cited examples are; bad mouthing the other parent in front of the children, withholding visits, and determining activities for the children while visiting with the other parent.

As the above investigation demonstrates, documenting the parents interaction with the children can provide evidence of PAS and ultimately may be used by a psychiatrist in the development of his/her opinion.

When a parent calls a child at a prearranged or court ordered time and is told on a regular basis that the child is not home, unavailable, or ill, an investigator may be able to determine if this is true or not. If the time of the call is documented and the child can be videotaped or otherwise proven to be not ill or in fact, playing in the front yard, at a neighbor’s house, or at baseball practice, this information can prove to be valuable. Additionally, when parenting time is canceled because, “an emergency came up”, the investigator can be called upon to document the truth. This may support the premise put forth or contradict it completely. The investigation will reveal the child’s true activities.

In many cases, a parent may be going to great extents to exclude the other from knowledge of and involvement in the child’s activities such as school sports, extracurricular activities, school activities and field trips. An investigator can obtain this evidence through the school, other parties, or surveillance. If this information is withheld from the parent being targeted this may be evidence of PAS.

Surveillance may also uncover medical, dental, or other important appointments which the other parent should have been notified of but was not. In some cases the targeted parent will find out about doctor appointments after the fact and unfortunately the only reason it is finally disclosed is for monetary purposes.

Claims made by one parent to the court that the other parent has strangers spending the night or leaves the child alone may also be either contradicted or supported through the use of surveillance.

While individually these events may not seem significant, a pattern of this type of alienation may be of interest to a Psychiatrist or Judge.

Investigating PAS may not be easy but an effective investigation can make a serious difference in the lives of parents and their children and prevent irreparable damage to their vital relationship.

March 4, 2009 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

From Handshakes to Hugs

By Amy Belair

There is nothing more devastating for parents than their own children being used as weapons against them. The worst part is that many men never see it coming. Few expect the cute, sweet woman they fell for to be the devil in disguise – willing to do whatever seems necessary to punish – but it happens. Unfortunately, in this situation, the children often become the victims as much as their dads.

Take for example a real story of Dan and Rhonda, who were married when Rhonda became pregnant three months into their relationship. The marriage was doomed from the beginning, as Rhonda was jealous and resentful of just about everything in Dan’s life, including his son from a previous relationship. As the marriage disintegrated, the couple lived under the same roof, but separated from the marital bed. One day, Rhonda took off with the child, now five years old, not telling Dan where she was going or how she could be reached. Dan called everyone he knew, and searched until he finally located her and his child.

Rhonda began a classic pattern of what is known as “parental alienation” – when a custodial parent turns his or her children against the non-custodial parent. She reluctantly agreed to allow Dan to see his daughter, but on her terms only. For a while, Dan was allowed to visit the child at the mother’s house, but the mother insisted on being present during the visitation. Then, Rhonda changed her mind and would only permit Dan to see their daughter in a public place for an hour or so once a week. During this time Rhonda would sit at the same table with Dan and their daughter and glare. Phone calls were not allowed between father and daughter. Rhonda taught the child that her father was a bad man and was to be feared. The child was not permitted to hug or kiss her father during visits and instead only extended her hand for a handshake.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner first identified and labeled Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in the 1980’s. PAS is the programming or brainwashing of a child by one parent to denigrate the other parent. It is compounded by the child’s own contributions to support one parent’s campaign to alienate the other parent. The child may be rewarded by the alienating parent for a job well done, with the bestowal of toys, a coveted video game or an extra hour of television watching.

It is believed that PAS parents have become stuck in the first stage of child development, where survival skills are learned. Since these parents do not know how to please others outside of themselves, they must instead exercise complete control over others. The struggle for control is life and death for them. The concept of allowing their child liberal time with the “enemy” and trusting that the child will return happily and willingly to them afterwards is utterly foreign to them. This explains Rhonda’s insistence on a constant vigil over Dan and their child during his brief visitation

One of the more common – and heinous – manifestations of PAS is when one parent will falsely accuse the other parent of physically and or sexually abusing their child. Often, this tactic is used by one parent to gain leverage in a custody dispute. The use of false sexual abuse allegations to win custody suits has become almost a standard tactic in some cases. In recent years several controversial cases have brought the issue of false abuse allegations in custody disputes to the forefront.

One of the most high-profile and most frustrating custody decisions (at least for fathers’ rights advocates) involved a former Playboy Playmate Bridget Marks and millionaire casino mogul John Aylsworth. In 2005 the New York Appellate Court found that Marks had coached her twin 5-year-old daughters to make false sexual abuse allegations against their father, Aylworth, and still awarded her custody. There is no argument from the Appellate Court that the abuse allegations were false. In fact their ruling states: “There is ample support in the record–that the mother coached the girls to make false accusations that their father sexually abused them.”

While this outcome may seem outrageous and discouraging to parents facing false abuse allegations, it should be noted that the Appellate ruling reversed a lower court ruling that had granted the father sole custody of the twin girls because of the mother’s alienating behavior. So many courts do recognize PAS and punish parents who engage in this kind of behavior, but it is often an uphill battle.

The problem is, the concept of PAS is a relatively new one, and not all mental health professionals are able to identify it when it is occurring. Some judges miss the signs of PAS and, along with a number of social workers, frequently jump on the alienator’s bandwagon and believe the false allegations against the alienated parent. With a network of support, personal and professional, including a dedicated, competent lawyer, the alienated parent can prevail and the child and he can be reunited with liberal visitation, or even a change of custody to the formerly alienated parent.

But, depending on the extent of the alienation and the resulting hostility of the child against the alienated parent, PAS can be difficult to reverse. It is unlikely that the alienator will change, particularly if their pathology is extreme. The goal would then be to re-introduce the child to the alienated parent and gradually restore an affectionate relationship between them. This can be a frustratingly slow process, but it can be effective.

Yet many non-custodial parents have successfully maintained their parent-child relationships. In fact, after less than one year of successful litigation, Dan now has regular, frequent, unsupervised visits with his daughter. He has taken her on many weekend trips out of town, plus vacations, with his son, her half-brother. Dan and his daughter speak on the phone to each other every day before her bedtime. She expresses her love for her dad regularly, both verbally and with spontaneous hugs. He attends her basketball games and cheers the loudest at her achievements. His daughter is a sweet, spunky ten-year-old who shares her dad’s love of animals.

March 3, 2009 at 9:51 pm 1 comment

PBS Declares WAR on DADS

By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks



“I miss you daddy!”

“I miss you too, princess. Daddy loves his little girl.”

“I love you too, daddy”

“How’s my smart little kindergarten girl?”

“I want to see you, daddy, I want you to come over, couldn’t you come over soon? I want….”

The phone is wrenched away.

“This conversation is OVER!”

Dad hears the phone slammed down on the receiver. Almost.

“How DARE you talk to that man!”

The phone must have hit the receiver off center. The line is still open.

“How DARE you do that to me!”

The little girl begins to cry.

“I just wanted to talk to daddy.”

“How DARE you!”

“I miss daddy!”

“Damn you….”

A four year-old boy is jumping up and down with joy.

“Daddy! Daddy!”

Dad gets out of the car.

“Daddy’s here! Daddy’s here!”

The boy is behind a locked screen door. He tries to open it.

“Daddy’s here! Mommy, look, daddy’s here!”

Dad knows he shouldn’t open the door. He waits for his ex-wife to open the door. She doesn’t do it.

“This is my visitation time,” Dad says, waving a court document.

Mom still won’t open the door.

The boy jumps up and down, saying “daddy, daddy.” He yanks on the screen door handle but still can’t get it open.

Dad looks at his little boy. He pauses, takes a deep breath, and walks back to his car.

The little boy doesn’t understand. Why won’t daddy come? Why is daddy walking away from him?

The little boy disappears inside the house.

Dad calls the police. When the officers arrive he shows them his court documents. The officers go inside to investigate. They come out a few minutes later. 

“Your son says he doesn’t want to see you,” the officer says. “There’s nothing I can do. You’ll have to deal with it in the court. I can’t make him go with you if he doesn’t want to.”

Dad finally gets to see his kids three months later. The children spit on both him and their grandmother. Almost in unison they repeat “I don’t want to be here. I want to go home with mommy, I don’t want to be here. I want to go home with mommy, I don’t want to be here. I want to go home with mommy.”

After Jim L.’s wife divorced him and moved his daughters out of state, she sent the two girls fake or altered e-mails purporting to be Jim. Afterwards, Jim’s daughters refused to see him, explaining only “you know what you’ve done, you know what you said, you know what you wrote.”

Once when Jim flew to see his girls for his scheduled weekend visit, his ex-wife decided at the last minute to block the visit. Jim flew home on Sunday without having seen his girls. When he arrived at the airport back home he checked his messages and found a message from his ex-wife. On the recording his girls could be heard crying in the background. His ex-wife said:

“Jim, the girls are here at the restaurant waiting for you to come pick them up. You said you’d meet them here for breakfast and spend the day with them, and you didn’t show up. The girls are very upset. Jim, where are you?!?”
Bill, a divorced dad, is a retired fireman. When his kids were young he occasionally had to work unscheduled weekend shifts with little warning. If an unexpected schedule change meant he had to work the weekend of his visitation with his children, his ex-wife would have his kids pack for a weekend with dad anyway and sit on the curb outside their house to wait for him. Hours would pass waiting for dad to come, but when the kids would knock on the door and ask mom if dad was going to show up, all she’d say is “he’ll be here.” 

In the LaMusga case decided by the California Supreme Court last year, Gary LaMusga’s son’s kindergarten teacher testified about the tactics LaMusga’s ex-wife, Susan Navarro, used to try to turn his children against him. The kindergarten teacher testified that Navarro asked her to keep track of the time Gary spent volunteering in his little son’s kindergarten classroom so it could be deducted from his visitation time with his son.

According to the teacher, the LaMusga boy told her “my dad lies in court…if you tell the judge…he could talk to you” and said that his mom had told him this. The teacher testified:

“I finally sat down with him and told him that it was OK for him to love his daddy. I basically gave him permission to love his father. And he seemed brightened by that…”
The teacher continued:

“The next day that Gary had seen the kids he came to me the following morning and said,’what did you say to him?…He was so happy. He just greeted me with open arms…we had one of the best evenings that we have had in a long time.’ And I just shared with Gary at that point that I had given his son permission to love his father….I’m not sure that he was aware that he could do that.”

In a highly publicized Houston, Texas case, a 10 year old boy shot his father in the back after his father came to pick him up at his ex-wife’s house. The mother, Deborah Geisler, had made numerous allegations of physical and sexual abuse against Dr. Rick Lohstroh, an emergency room physician. All of them had been found false or unfounded by investigating authorities. Geisler’s own mother and brother testified against her in court, and before his death Lohstroh taped Geisler threatening to report spurious child abuse charges against him.

Despite this, and despite the fact that the mother had been jailed numerous times for domestic violence, she nevertheless enjoyed shared custody of their two sons. Geisler allegedly gave the boy large doses of an age-inappropriate drug, and the boy may well have been drugged up when he used his mother’s handgun to kill his father. Geisler, a registered nurse, made no attempt to render aid to Lohstroh as he sat bleeding to death in his SUV in their front yard.  The boy goes on trial for the murder in January.

All of these cases are examples of Parental Alienation Syndrome–the phenomenon of a parent (generally the mother/custodial parent) turning his or her children against the noncustodial parent after divorce or separation. PAS is the focus of the controversial new PBS documentary Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.

The filmmakers assert that PAS “has been used in countless cases by abusive fathers to gain custody of their children” by accusing the mothers of PAS. They claim PAS is “junk science,” and family law attorney Richard Ducote states that “All experts have disavowed” PAS. 

The documentary airs this week on Public Broadcasting Service stations in dozens of major cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Despite the film’s claims, research shows that parental alienation is a common facet of divorce or separation. For example, a longitudinal study conducted by Stanley S. Clawar and Brynne Valerie Rivlin and published by the American Bar Association in 2003 followed 700 “high conflict” divorce cases over a 12 year period. Clawar and Rivlin found that elements of PAS were present in the vast majority of the cases studied.

There are many factors which create PAS, including the “hell hath no fury” axiom as well as personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder. However, the family court system encourages these types of behaviors. Judges are very hesitant to give joint custody if there is conflict between the ex-spouses. For this reason, many mothers create conflict because they know that conflict will sabotage joint custody. If the judge must award sole custody, it will generally be the mother who wins. Most post-divorce conflict is created by the person who stands to gain from it.

The most extreme examples of PAS are false allegations of sexual abuse. Canadian Senator Anne Cools, one of the few elected officials in North America knowledgeable about family law, calls this tactic “the heart of darkness.” The accusations are often used—very effectively—to deprive fathers of a meaningful role in their children’s lives after divorce or separation. Reginald Brass, president of My Child Says Daddy, a parenting organization which works with young African-American fathers in Los Angeles, says:

“We have many young fathers who are fighting in the courts to see their children or to get joint custody over a mother’s hostility or objections. If the man has a daughter, we always warn him that at some point the mother will probably accuse him of sexually molesting his daughter. We see it every day.”

When a father who has daughters does succeed in getting a desirable custody arrangement over the objections of a recalcitrant mother, it is common practice among family law attorneys to advise the father that a charge of sexual abuse may be coming. According to a study conducted by Douglas J. Besharov and Lisa A. Laumann and published in Social Science and Modern Society, the vast majority of accusations of child sexual abuse made during custody battles are false, unfounded or unsubstantiated.

Cools, a prominent feminist who led Canada’s battered women’s shelter movement during the 1970s, explains:
“There’s a plethora of cases where the mother falsely accuses the father of sexually abusing the child.  The accusation is made in order to gain advantage in custody disputes.  Governments are enormously reluctant to look at it.  I’ve studied this extensively and I’ve placed on the Canadian Senate record 52 cases where there was a finding that the accusations were false, and there are countless more. Studies have shown that under these circumstances false accusations far outnumber truthful ones.

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing–for the fathers and for the children who’ve lost their fathers.  Some of those men will never recover and they have spent every penny left to them to try to extricate themselves. And I’ve seen elderly parents who’ve spent every dime of their retirement to try to help their sons get out of these horrible situations.”

In a strange reversal, in Breaking the Silence the filmmakers claim that the real problem is that mothers are being punished for “revealing” that their husbands have molested their daughters. The documentary centers around Karen, who lost custody of her three children to her husband after a court-appointed evaluator found that she had falsely accused him of sexually abusing them. The filmmakers claim that the family law system “forbids” mothers from protecting their children.

Mothers like Karen are increasingly vocal and visible. Yet despite the film’s claims, in the few cases where a mother has lost custody for making allegations, the courts usually had good reason for acting as they did.  The two most famous cases of mothers losing custody of their children after making an accusation of sexual abuse—those involving model Bridget Marks and sociologist Amy Neustein—are illustrative of the point.

Marks became a cause celebre and appeared on Dr. Phil, Larry King Live, PrimeTime Live, and The O’Reilly Factor after she briefly lost custody of her twin four year-old girls last year. While she has been treated as a hero and a victim by the mainstream media, every judge who heard her case—all five, both male and female–concluded that Marks had coached her girls to believe that they had been sexually molested by their father.

Neustein, who lost custody of her young daughter in a highly-publicized New York custody battle during the 1980s, is the co-author of the new book From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts and What Can Be Done About It, and is perhaps the leading intellectual of this movement. Yet Neustein’s now adult daughter, Sherry Orbach, publicly refuted her mother’s claims earlier this year. In her article “Silent No Longer: The Other Side of Abuse Allegations” (Jewish Press, 5/27/2005), Orbach says that as a child her mother made her rehearse false allegations “for hours.” She writes:

“She would begin by telling me a sordid–and false–story about my father, such as a detailed account about how he had molested me or about how he had thrown me violently against a wall. She then instructed me to repeat the story word for word until she was satisfied with my rendition…my mother spun lie upon lie about my father and me…my father never sexually abused me…reporters and alleged victims’ advocates who supported my mother chose to retell her lies without adequately checking the facts.

“I…owe my existence as a normal young adult to the family judges…who helped me reunite with my father in the face of considerable opposition in the media.”

Mothers who use false allegations of sexual abuse are playing a game they often win and rarely lose. Cools says that of the cases of false accusations of sexual abuse she studied, “there were absolutely no consequences at all for the women who knowingly made the false accusations.  Of the 52 cases in only one case–one—was the woman punished, and in that one she was only charged with mischief.”

In Breaking the Silence we are told that “All over America, battered mothers are losing custody of their children,” and that between 1/3 and 2/3rds of abused mothers lose custody. 

In reality, mothers rarely lose custody of their children to anyone, ever. For example, a Stanford study of 1,000 divorced couples selected at random found that divorcing mothers were awarded sole custody four times as often as divorcing fathers in contested custody cases. An Ohio study published in Family Advocate found that fathers seeking sole custody obtain it in less than 10% of cases, and a Utah study conducted over 23 years found similar results. According to researcher Robert Seidenberg, a study of all divorce-custody decrees in Arlington County, Virginia over an 18 month period failed to find even one father who was given sole or even joint custody of his children unless the mother agreed to it.

In the study “Child custody arrangements: a study of two New Jersey counties” published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Law, New Jersey mental health experts  researched hundreds of custody cases in two New Jersey counties, Bergen (one of the wealthiest) and Essex (one of the poorest).  Rich man or poor man, for these New Jersey fathers it didn’t matter–in either county they won custody in only one out of every 20 cases.

Breaking the Silence makes many sensationalized claims about fathers winning custody, but provides little evidence for its claims. Misguided women’s advocates often claim that fathers usually win custody when they pursue it, and that the reason few fathers have custody is because few of them want it. Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young examined the research upon which these claims are based and concluded that they belong in the “Phony Statistics Hall of Fame.”

For example, feminist psychologist Phyllis Chesler claimed in her book Mothers on Trial that fathers win 70% of custody battles. However, this widely cited factoid was based on a biased, pre-selected sample of 60 women who had been referred by feminist lawyers or women’s aid groups because they had custody issues.

Other claims are based on the 1989 Gender Bias Study of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which reported that when fathers seek custody, they win primary or joint physical custody 70 percent of the time. Yet this figure does not separate contested from uncontested custody bids, and showed that in bids for sole custody mothers were still far more successful than fathers. The study also notes that “women who lose custody often [have] mental, physical, or emotional handicaps”—in other words, when fathers win it’s usually only because the mother has obvious problems.

Family courts are sharply biased against fathers, to a degree that would not be acceptable to any other group in any other facet of society. One could fill volumes with outrageous court decisions wherein fathers and their love for their children are held to be of no value whatsoever.

One example is the noted California case De Brenes v Traub. In that case a divorced Northern California custodial mother has moved to new cities with her 13 year-old daughter twice since her divorce. In each instance, the girl’s father generously uprooted himself and moved to the new city to be with his daughter. Mom then remarried and sought to move a third time–to Costa Rica, her new husband’s native country.

The girl’s father, Eric Traub, contested the move, arguing that it would be harmful to his daughter because she does not want to go, and because the move would: remove her from the special school she attends because of her learning disability; force her to move to a country and an educational system where she does not speak the native language; and damage her bonds with her father by moving several thousand miles away. 

The father, who is judged by all sides to be very involved in his daughter’s life and in her schooling in particular, has clearly demonstrated that he will not be able to see his daughter very often after the move. He must stay behind in part due to the “child support” he must pay to the woman who is taking his daughter away.  Though stipulating a short delay, the trial court granted the mother’s request to move. The family law system was willing to throw away Eric Traub’s 13 years of fatherhood the moment the loving bond he and his daughter share became inconvenient for mom.

In Breaking the Silence the filmmakers emphasize the need to protect children from abuse, and say that children are “most often in danger from the father.” Yet according to studies from the US Department of Health and Human Services and others, the vast majority of child abuse, parental murder of children, child neglect, and child endangerment are committed by mothers, not fathers.

The filmmakers also ignore the large body of research, including data from the National Violence Against Women Survey in 1998, which shows that women also frequently abuse their husbands or male partners. While women’s violence against men is in general not as severe as vice versa, studies show that women often employ the element of surprise and weapons to balance the scales. Yet in the film “divorced dads” and “batterers” are practically synonymous. The film claims without any evidence that the vast majority of divorced dads who refuse to cede sole (or de facto sole) custody to their ex-wives are “abusive.”

Breaking the Silence is a direct assault on American fathers, and the minimal, hard won gains they have made in protecting their children’s right to have their fathers in their lives. Courts still reflexively side with mothers and remain reluctant to grant fathers joint custody. Many allow mothers to deny visitation, make false allegations, and drive fathers out of their children’s lives.  Most of the alienating mothers mentioned above, including Bridget Marks, Susan Navarro, and Jim L.’s ex-wife, today enjoy full custody of the children they psychologically abused. According to the Children’s Rights Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, more than five million American children each year have their access to their noncustodial parents interfered with or blocked by custodial parents.

As a society we pretend that broken families are all men’s fault, pay lip service to the importance of fathers, andlose our eyes while millions of children are separated from the fathers they love and need them. Because that’s what mom wants. Because it’s easier to blame everything on dad than it is to confront mom on her destructive behavior. Because trying to hold a divorcing mother accountable for her behavior is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Because there’s a high political cost to be paid for crossing mothers and none to be paid for crossing fathers.  Throwing objectivity, fairness and reason to the wind, PBS and Breaking the Silence don’t merely ignore or minimize this problem, but instead turn it on its head. 

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute.  His website is

Glenn Sacks’ columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at or via email at

March 3, 2009 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment