Monday, June 7, 2010

New York Divorce/Family Law: Parental Alienation

Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Ross in Nassau County, New York, has sentenced a woman, in an on-going divorce matter to six weekends in jail for willfully violating a court order by repeatedly undermining her ex-husband's relationship with their two elementary school-age daughters. "The extensive record is replete with instances of...manipulation of defendant's parenting access, utter and unfettered vilification of the defendant to the children, false reporting of sexual misconduct...and her imposition upon the children to fear her tirades and punishment if they embrace the relationship they want to have with their father," the judge wrote.

Parental alienation syndrome occurs when one parent attempts to purposefully or unconsciously brainwash a child, in effect pitting the child against the other parent. In severe cases, the child will not want to see or talk to the alienated parent. Once the alienation reaches such a point, it is almost impossible to reverse, and permanent damage is done to the child, mentally and emotionally, and to the relationship between the child and the alienated parent.

Some Warning Signs of Parental Alienation: Here are some warning symptoms psychologists have observed in children suffering from parental alienation syndrome:

1) Speaking with the child in detail about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce.
2) One parent bad-mouthing the other to the child by blaming the other parent for financial problems, the break up of the family, or having a girlfriend or boyfriend.
3) Refusing to allow the child to transport possessions between residences.
4) Refusing to allow the other parent to visit with the child, or refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule, or scheduling the child in so many activities that the other parent is never given the chance to visit, even going so far as to violate Court orders of visitation.
5) Resisting or refusing to allow the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of extracurricular activities.
6) Lying to the child about extra-marital affairs of the other parent, or about the other parent not wishing to see the child, when in actuality they will not let the other parent see or call the child.
7) Asking the child to choose one parent over the other, either directly or by making the child feel guilty about seeing the other parent by reacting with hurt or sadness to a child having a good time with the other parent.
8) A parent or stepparent suggesting that the child call their new partner “Mom” or “Dad”.
9) The alienating parent encouraging any natural anger the child has toward the other parent.
10) When the child cannot give reasons for being angry towards a parent or gives reasons that are vague and without any details.
11) Using a child to spy or covertly gather information for the parent's own use, or as a messenger between the parents.
12) Listening in on the child's phone conversation with the other parent.

Parental alienation is not just damaging to the parent-child relationship, in many cases it can be very damaging to the child’s mental and emotional well-being. Parental alienationis being taken very seriously in Family Court, when deciding issues of custody and visitation.

If parental alienation is pleaded and proved I believe it should be considered as a form of child abuse, even as a crime, as it has long term detrimental affects to the child; however, circumstantial evidence of such abuse should not be allowed. Many individuals, even parents who are the actual abusers use the claim of parental alienation in Family Court to obtain custody and visitation when in fact the supposed alienator is in reality trying to protect their child from an abusive individual. Therefore, I believe that forensic evaluators, judges and attorneys for children should use the utmost care when it comes to such claims to determine if they are in fact true.

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @

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