Posts tagged ‘Parental Alienation’

New Law Would Help Keep Dads in the Picture

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Representative Gerald Mitchell’s pro-child House Bill 2491 easily passed the House of Representatives in a landslide vote of 77 to 23. This legislation can help many fathers remain an active part in their children’s lives, as it would allow non-custodial spouses (who are generally fathers) the right to object to the other spouse’s removal of the children of more than 100 mils away within the state. Such a bill is important as many child relocations are motivated by hate and parental alienation, thereby leaving child causalities throughout the state.

Bill 2491 tells me that our legislators may realize the psychological benefits to “children of divorce” in having two parents instead of one. Our legal system, which allows parents to divorce the children from the “other” (non-custodial) parent. The future of our society depends on it, as the United States is now the world’s leader in fatherless families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers. That means we have 17.4 Illinois children growing up without full-time fathers or who are completely fatherless. The bottom line is fathers are vanishing from the social landscape and as demonstrated by the following facts outlined in my new book, “Fathers’ Rights”, the importance of pro-child legislation is necessary to protect our society.

+ Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and higher rate of chronic asthma and speech defects;
+ Seventy-two percent of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers;
+ Eight percent of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes;
+ Three of four teen suicides occur in single-parent homes;
+ The absence of a biological father increases by 900 percent a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. (Often these assaults are committed by stepfathers or the boyfriends of custodial mothers).

Too many children are effectively cut off from relationships with their fathers due to causes beyond their control and understanding. It is to be hoped that these causes are not beyond the control of our legislature.

Any measure that strengthens the father-child relationship or that enhances a child’s God-given right to two natural parents is a step in the right direction.

I applaud House Bill 2491 and all that it stands for.

Loop-based attorney Jeffery M. Leving, a specialist in asserting the legal rights of fathers, is also the author of “Fathers’ Rights” (Basic Books).

March 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

From Handshakes to Hugs

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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


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