Home > Professionals > Another Year of Parental Alienation? Dr. Gardner’s Observations: The Causal Agent & 25 Years of Blame

Another Year of Parental Alienation? Dr. Gardner’s Observations: The Causal Agent & 25 Years of Blame

Another Year of Parental Alienation? Dr. Gardner’s Observations: The Causal Agent & 25 Years of Blame

Twenty five years ago, Dr. Gardner introduced the term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Unfortunately, his contributions and his work have been tainted.  One anecdote is that his findings were only self-published.  Some groups dismiss that Dr. Gardner authored 130 peer-reviewed articles, 19 of his articles related specifically to PAS (Rand, 2011).  Critics assert  the phenomenon has been “debunked.” The critics mistakenly divert to references by advocacy groups, not peer-reviewed studies. They also commonly point out that the American Psychological Association (APA) lacks an “official statement.” A lack of an official statement does not indicate parental alienation ceases to exist.  Even so, the detractors overlook the fact that Dr. Gardner’s work is listed, under “pertinent literature” in the APA’s Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluators.  Making matters worse, his critics do not stop at misrepresenting his contributions to the scientific community; they go further, making PAS synonymous with false allegations of abuse (Rand, 2011). The existence of alienation is not equivalent to a denial of child abuse or intimate partner violence (Fidler & Bala, 2010).

Slanderous opinions about Dr. Gardner are not worth reading. Still,  many groups go out of their way, in the name of so-called women’s advocates, to vilify his work. It is disheartening that facts remain discarded. When facts are ignored, alienated parents and children suffer. There are many views offered, each wearing a unique theoretical lens. Different lens will inevitably provide disparaging observations—some become blinded; others see the light.  Blinded perspectives see parental alienation as a normal by-product of divorce.  Or, others propose that a child “outgrows” parental alienation. The reality is some parents have been alienated for five, ten, or more years. And, as many alienated parents know, many relationships become permanently severed.

 Given that parental alienation is not a new phenomenon, parents remain perplexed.  They wonder why complaints are dismissed.  They waste an inordinate amount of time speculating where they went wrong. Others spend an inordinate amount of money trying to force an ex-spouse to follow ignored court orders. There are many reasons for the delays, such as what to call the problem.  Nevertheless, the biggest obstacle, according to the literature, is that many do not accept Gardner’s position. Dr. Gardner (2001) posited that  the programming parent is primarily responsible for the creation of the disorder in the child, and if the programming did not take place, the disorder would not have arisen. Dr. Gardner found, through observation, that the causal agent is the alienating parent. Some find this view is “too simplistic.”  Consequently, some search for multiple factors wearing a systemic lens; they reason that one parent’s individual mean-spirited antics is not enough to cause an unholy alignment. It appears that a systemic perspective, erroneously blames target parents.

A common sense and less complicated view is offered by Dr. Warshak, in his article, Bringing Sense to Parental Alienation: A Look at the Disputes and Evidence (2003). PAS is described as when a child manifests an unreasonable campaign of denigration against, or rejection of one parent, due to the influence of the other parent, in conjunction with the child’s contributions. The campaign is not an occasional episode, but is instead persistent. Still, many dismiss that children are susceptible to suggestibility. Some believe that a child would not turn against a parent, unless the parent had done something to warrant the rejection. People who deny the existence of unjustified alienation believe that children reject a parent only if that parent has abused, neglected, or mistreated them, or demonstrated excessively poor parenting skills (Warshak, 2010). Denying unjustified alienation is punitive. “The position that irrational alienation does not exist essentially means that all rejected parents deserve what they get” (Warshak, 2003).

  Clearly no fair-minded person blames such hatred on the targets themselves (Warshak). Unfortunately, not everyone is fair-minded. Target parents are blamed, shamed, and depicted as high-conflict bickering parents.  Rejected parents endure multiple failed attempts  trying to work with an ex-spouse that is not reasonable. Warshak (2003) clarifies that some believe the contributions of the favored parent are over-emphasized while others take the position that multiple contributing factors are under-emphasized. This does not mean rejected parents are off the hook, but they are not primarily responsible.

According to Fidler and Bala (2010) rejected parents in an effort to cope may withdrawal or react passively. And, as most alienated parents have not been prepared to deal with the extreme behaviors manifested by alienated children, they may not  know how to respond. Clearly, understanding proper responses will aid rejected parents.  Though, as Dr. Gardner originally noted, if the programming by the alienating parent did not occur in the first place, the disorder would not have arisen (2001). One can infer that a rejected parent’s role, is not one of primary responsibility; it is not knowing how to respond. Without a doubt, proper responses may offset alienation, but it is beneficial to understand exactly what alienated parents have to deal with. Sadly, some rejected parents do not get the chance to counterbalance alienation because their ex-spouse refuses to adhere to the parenting plan.

Studies indicate that rejected parents may be working with an ex-spouse who is malicious and vindictive.  They may feel above the law, be deliberate in their actions, or have a mental illness (Fidler & Bala, 2010). Another example of what alienated parents are up against, is depicted by Jaffe, Ashbourne and Mamo, “Although it may seem heavy handed, some parents will only listen to input from the court.” The reality? Alienating parents do not listen to the court.  Jaffee et al. provided an accurate description when they highlighted, “A minority of parents who suffer from personality and mental disorders may ignore the court and spend their waking hours finding ways to exhaust the other parent emotionally and financially” (2010).  Baker & Darnall (2006) also found support for the alienating parent’s defiance.  In regards to parenting time, the most frequently cited response was that alienating parents did not adhere to court orders. In their study, when the rejected parent would go to pick the child up, neither the favored parent, nor the child would be home. Obviously, when parents do not get to see their children, offsetting alienating tactics are futile.   

As Dr. Gardner noted, “Denying reality is obviously a maladaptive way of dealing with a situation.” The reality? Many are  in denial.  Studies indicate that alienating parents are not going to change.  Alienating parents continue to defy court orders, participate in badmouthing, and intentionally turn an innocent child against the other parent. Consequently, it does not seem fair to blame rejected parents.  Dr. Kelly also offered a similar view to Dr. Gardner, “It is the embattled parent, often the one who opposes the divorce in the first place, who initiates and fuels the alignment (Kelly, 2000).  Jaffe et al.(2010) suggests addressing the conflict between the parents and that an understanding of the underlying cause is vital. To address the conflict, it seems logical that one parent is out right furious because the other will not follow court orders. To address the underlying cause requires the acknowledgment that one of the parents may not have desired the divorce. Or, another underlying cause is a truth of the human condition: some folks are simply mean.

Common sense tells us, if one does not initiate and fuel the alignment, rejected parents would not have to learn proper responses to unwarranted rejection and hatred. For the sake of our children, I pray another 25 years will not pass. Waiting another 25 years believing parental alienation is an abuse excuse, tactic, or cover up will result in unwarranted estrangement.  When the favored parent’s behavior contributes significantly to the children’s negative attitudes, leading authorities in the field label this emotional abuse. Our society’s standard of care regarding abused children is to prioritize protecting them from further abuse (Warshak, 2010).  Our society’s standard of care also, as the norm, does not blame victims.  Without a doubt, not all alienated parents will respond properly at all times. Yet, not all parents have the chance to respond. They try, only to find doors are slammed, letters are returned, or no one is at home.  Thankfully, 2010 provided a lot of helpful tools for rejected parents. It is vital we keep in mind that a less than perfect response to unwarranted rejection, does not make one a poor parent.

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Categories: Professionals
  1. Raelee
    January 5, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    Here .. Here.. !!
    I am told that ‘severe’ rejection by a child of a loving parent is completely abnormal.. that even severely abused (physically, sexually, cigerette butts stubbed out on them etc etc) still cling to their parents, want to see their parents, have an attachment there. I have no doubt it is a learned behaviour (if it’s ongoing).
    How to respond to an alienated angry child…? Woaw now that IS difficult. That was my whole saga, year after year of approaching her as one would normally to reprimand or bring into line bad behaviour, rudeness, swearing, physically assaulting etc.. not even realising for years that alienation was behind it, so every testing situation became a self blaming excercise ‘what did I do wrong’.. ‘how should I have approached this’.. ‘maybe I should have ..’ No matter what, I blamed myself (during and in the aftermath).
    These children are being taught to have the upper hand, take the upper hand, you deserve the upper hand (because your parent is bad).. so every time they get away with it, you too are instilling the ‘training’ provided by the perpetrator.
    I couldn’t stop ringing, making appointments, asking friends for advice, giving up! Although I knew what my ex was doing, I couldn’t ‘point to it’.. under the radar psychological abuse is not easily revealed. Even when my daughter was seeing a ‘child psychologist’ during the most intense times when she last lived with me (and then handed her over to live with her father by choice/no longer able to cope) that professional had no idea. It was like my words of concern, anxiety and stress went straight through her. despite sending her emails of PA articles I got no response other than the accusations passed onto her by my ex during a 1 hour mtg with her (that I arranged).. I was apparently abusive, mean, withheld things from her therefore she refused to see me… I HAD TO CHANGE was the child psych’s advice.. YES, if I want to fall in line with my ex’s intentions to rule my world and my relationship with my daughter!!!

    Isn’t it possible to just ‘ignore’ the detractors.. the evidence is here, the ‘enormous’ numbers of victims are here (and increasing). Lets just get on with the solutions… the courts and therapists can’t deny each case in front of them when it presents itself… nor the COUNTLESS victims, both parent and child suffering ongoing trauma.

    Alienating parents behaviour seems SO obvious to me.. no doubt there will be cases not so clear cut.. but I would assert that the majority are clear, because parents battling custody cases after divorce are (something like?) 5% of divorces.. they are acrimonial by the fact that they’re needing to go to court..
    So let’s expose it!

  2. January 6, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    It amazes me that people accept the idea a child can be taught there’s a Santa clause,Easter bunny,tooth fairy,boogie man,etc.But those same people can’t see how a young child can’t be influenced to believe mom or dad is bad.Can you imagine if PAS was aloud to be accepted in the courts?It would turn the whole world of family court justice upside down.It seems the current outlook on this situation is just fine.Lots of money to be made by all involved.Future generations will tell the story,by then it will be too late! Look up: Gracie’s diary. Thanks,and may God help us all.
    Gary

    • January 6, 2011 at 6:07 PM

      Hi Gary: Feel free to post the link. I try to collect all the resources and stories I can. When parental alieantion is dismissed, or still in the stages of “what do we do with this”, that leaves families to figure it out on their own. For some that means a lifetime of no help. All some of us can do is pray that more children are not damaged by a failed system and mean spirited ex-spouses. Of all the stories I come across, while each may have different nuances all in all, alienated parents report the same problems. Given the amount of complaints I am amazed that the issue is not taken more seriously. And sure the parents hurt, but I feel badly for all the children that live without one parent. Or at minimum, see both parents but treat one badly because they have been taught it is not okay to love both. Regards, Monika

  3. January 7, 2011 at 2:18 AM

    In December 2005 I sought legal advise regarding contact with my 3 children.
    In May 2006 I endured a 5 day trial. In July 2008 my Family Court matter was cited as an extreme case of Parental Alienation. The Judge stated that the, “damage done to the two oldest children by the evil whispered by their Father was, ‘irreparable’ and would impact on them for the rest of their days”. And that the, “Father’s conduct towards his children & their Mother has been nothing short of despicable,& it had been calculated to punish the Mother for leaving the relationship & has been carried out without the slightest regard for the proper interests of the children-particularly their right to be able to love both their parents”. It was also assessed that the, “Father’s involvement of the children in the rejection of their Mother amounts to extreme emotional abuse & it is likely to have a negative impact on their future character development and their ability to form realistic relationships in the future”.
    The Judge concluded, “it matters not what label may or may not be given to the Father’s behaviour under the DSM 1V. He is incapable of promoting a relationship between the children & their Mother”. The Judge, “hoped that in the fullness of time the children will seek out their Mother and that Justice will be done with the passing of the years”. And that the, “Mother’s ultimate remedy will lie when the children are moved to see her in latter life, free from the corrupting influence of their Father”. The Judge was more than satisfied that the Mother[me]has been a competent parent well able to care for all her children. Our yougest Daughter[10yo] was returned to my Sole Care & ordered to have no contact with her Father or siblings.[I had no contact with her what so ever for 18 months]She was returned to my Sole Care, due to extreme emotional abuse in the care of her Father. She was very ‘damaged’ & has been in therapy since. The two oldest children were left to live with their Father under the banner of ‘Children’s wishes’. This has been my experience of the Family Court System. The Family Court facilitated the process of Parental Alienation & failed in it’s duty of care to all three of my children. Parental Alienation is not a ‘sham’!!! Emotionally disturbed/immature parent’s can & do use the current flawed Family Court System to alienate children from a parent to punish them. As the Judge stated, “it’s human nature”! I wish the Family Court would take a stand in regards to PA. Thankyou kindly, Debby

    • January 7, 2011 at 5:28 AM

      Debby: Thank you for sharing. I am glad to read that one judge recognized “it’s human nature” meaning some people will continue to alienate. I am not sure why many ignore that one parent can be emotionally disturbed and immature. It is my opinion, that describing parental alienation as “high-conflict” is not an accurate description. Your situation is yet another example, “Father’s conduct towards his children & their Mother has been nothing short of despicable,& it had been calculated to punish the Mother for leaving the relationship & has been carried out without the slightest regard for the proper interests of the children-particularly their right to be able to love both their parents”. When I read this I was once again reminded of the study, mentioned above by Dr. Kelly, she noted, “It is the embattled parent, often the one who opposes the divorce in the first place, who initiates and fuels the alignment

      It is my opinion, but it appears my opinion is “on track” this is your situation– You were punished for leaving. Sadly, your children were used to “get even.” I know not every one agrees, but the literature indicates that the alienating parent causes, or highly contributes to alienation. If you did not have an alienating ex-spouse, you would not be an alienated mother! I also felt for you “The two oldest children were left to live with their Father under the banner of ‘Children’s wishes.” I am also amazed how we make children follow all other rules that are good for them, but when they claim that they do not to want to see a parent (when abuse is absent), but instead claim they do not want to see a parent because they have been brainwashed, it is dismissed.

      I know of a mother and her teenage daughter decided to live with her father. There are a lack of boundaries and their relationship is akin to friendship. The alienating parent enticed the teenage girl by no curfew etc. He also taught her disrespectful behavior and clearly no respect for authority. Today, her world is falling apart. She is angry, depressed, did not complete school and in trouble with the law. In this situation, the mother did not fight the case because given the girls age, her wishes would be reported to a judge to live with her father. And, what teenager would turn down a home lacking boundaries, especially an alieanted teen? I pray Debby that your other two children come back. And, I am glad you have your youngest child. I am by no means against joint custody or shared parenting, but I do not think an alienating parent should have joint custody if they can not stop denigrating and participating in emotional abuse. Regards, Monika

  4. Very Proud Mommy
    January 7, 2011 at 5:18 AM

    I am so glad that I decided to do my research and studying tonight. I am acting as Pro-Se in my custody battle with my ex-husband and trying to research, study, and prepare for my next court date. I am absolutely amazed with the findings that I have come across, putting this site to the top of my list. I am the target parent of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and I am realizing that my situation is sitting Level 3 being Severe/Obsessive. My divorce/custody case has been ongoing since my ex-husband left in February 2003 going back and forth to court. Prior to my last court date, 12/27/10, I have walked out of court devistated, defeated, heartbroken, and an absolute mess. I do not know what happened to me nor can I explain the way I feel, but when I walked out of court on 12/27/10 I was finally at peace in my heart, mind, and spirit. Even though court did not go the way I wanted it to and the anticipation of my next court date, I have decided to put my life’s story out there to help others. I want to get heavily involved with helping others that may be in the same situation that I am in to cope, rise above, give strength and hope, and let the “target parent” that giving up is not the way out. I want to use my pain and energy to become involved with blowing the whistle on PAS, making it manditory for the Judicial System to educate, having stricter laws/punishment against the “alienating parent”, holding the Judical System accountable for overlooking/ignoring the warning signs, and possibly going to Capital Hill. Prior to the review hearing on 12/27/10, we were in court on 9/24/10 where the Judge court ordered my ex-husband to allow me full phone communication (as they had blocked my families and my phone numbers), full virtual communication (as they had blocked my email, facebook, gaia, etc. on the internet), and he ordered that I have the full Thanksgiving and Christmas break for my visitation. He court ordered that I could call my son in the courtroom on a cell phone, which I did, as I had not spoken to him since 02/2010 and his sister 07/2009. The conversation was not too long but I could hear the fear/disconnect in my sons voice. I felt that either he thought he was talking to a ghost or that he was going to get into major trouble because he spoke to me. After the phone call ended the Judge took the bench again, looked at my ex-husband and said on court record “if you don’t let her see her kids you will go to jail”. After court was over he was still on the bench, my ex-husband and family left and he told me to sit down as I was crying and explained to me on court record “what has happened to you has not been fair”. I was absolutely dumbfounded by that comment; however I left out of town to have the kids for Thanksgiving, know that I would most likely be denied because I had called everynight (except for 1 night when we had a tornado) since 9/24/10 and the phone was never answered. I arrived at my ex-husbands home and again he hid the children and denied me my visitation stating “it sucks doesn’t it”. I got back into my car and we drove away. I informed the Judge of what happened on or around 11/28/10 and he ordered me emergency temporary custody by force if needed of my children. Leaving town with court order in hand on 12/13/10, I had not spoke to my son since court on 9/24/10, I recieve a very disturbing phone call from my 12 year old son. He was reading the custody order to me asking me why this was happening, what was going on, etc. I tried to explain to him that this was an adult issue and his dad needed to contact me. This went on for another 2 more phone calls making the last phone call break my heart because he was trying so hard to read the documents and he was so aggitated when he got off the phone, I was torn to pieces. I got my children after being at the court house for over 6 hours trying to get my order enforced. I picked my kids up at 7 and the drama that was caused was one for the books, I found that my ex-husband was on the road in his semi and had been gone since on or around 12/9/10, the step mother was laying on the ground cradling my 7 year old sobbing. Not even a full 24 hours after leaving their residence, there was more than 15 phone calls and 20 texts from the step mother. The last straw was when she told my son “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t drink”. I never denied my children phone access to my ex-husband and his family, I actually encouraged it because my son was constantly being grilled on the phone with questions and if the answers were not good enough than he would get yelled at or repremanded on the phone to where my son did not want to talk on the phone. We went to court on 12/27/10 and I explained everything to the Judge; the Judge in turn let my ex-husband see the kids from 12-2, expired my temporary custody order on 1/1/11 at noon, and again gave me phone and virtual communication to include the month of July for visitation. He wanted to conclude our case when I reminded him that he court ordered the kids to be at the courthouse and to please speak to my 12 year old son. He agreed, came back to the bench and explained that the reason my temporary could not go to permanent was because it was faxed. I also reminded the Judge that my ex-husband has refused to obey/abide by any court order and reminded him quoting him what he said on court record to my ex-husband on 9/24/10. I pleaded to the Judge to hold my ex-husband accountable for denying my Thanksgiving visitation because if he did not go by his word and put my ex-husband in jail, than it will prove to my ex-husband that he could do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, not obey/abide by the new court order becauase the Judge isn’t going to repremand him. While my ex-husband spent his time with the children, I filed an emergency motion/petition to modify custody. I am hoping that the Judge will finally protect my children and take them out of the hostile environment they are in. My children need more counseling than you can imagine, especially my daughter. This is a bit much but I just want to show that PAS does exist and we need to blow the whistle on it to include holding parents and officials accountable for allowing this to happen to children. I realized on 12/27/10 that I wanted to get involved, get my story out there and help other “target parents”. PAS can end so many different ways when you are the “target parent”. One…you will just deal with it, Two…you will just give up and sign over parental rights and lose your children, or Three…someone will end up hurt or even worse. I hope that someone reading this (realizing that this is a snap shot of events) realizes that PAS is real and not just an excuse to keep a custody case open for years on end to also include that the children are the ones that are suffering through this. Thank you in advance for reading my story and I hope that maybe, just maybe, I can use my story to help others and to let the “target parent” know that it is okay to feel defeated but don’t give up on your kids, no matter what they still need you in their lives.

  5. January 7, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    Dear Very Proud Mom: Thank you (1) I have decided to put my life’s story out there to help others. I want to get heavily involved with helping others that may be in the same situation that I am in to cope, rise above, give strength and hope, and let the “target parent” that giving up is not the way out. One way to start is through the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization. If you have not, also check out Dr. Warshak’s web-site. He has wonderful resources (www.warshak.com)

    (2) I want to use my pain and energy to become involved with blowing the whistle on PAS, making it manditory for the Judicial System to educate, having stricter laws/punishment against the “alienating parent”, holding the Judical System accountable for overlooking/ignoring the warning signs, and possibly going to Capital Hill. I am a social worker, and believe in advocating! Alienated Parents and hurting children need people like you willing to do the work. thank you!

    (3)“what has happened to you has not been fair”. No it has not! Nor to other alieanted parents. They do not deserve unwarranted hatred. It is not fair and our justice system should not tolerate emotional abuse.

    (4) I am glad you pointed out what all alienated parents complain of ” I pleaded to the Judge to hold my ex-husband accountable for denying my Thanksgiving visitation because if he did not go by his word and put my ex-husband in jail, than it will prove to my ex-husband that he could do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, not obey/abide by the new court order becauase the Judge isn’t going to repremand him.” As I can not offer advice, I will refer others to studies: Study after study indicates that alienating parents will not follow court orders. Alienating parents believe it is “just a piece of paper” and rules are “for the little people.” Two name two (Dr. Baker 2006; 2007) and there are many, many more. Sadly, this thinking is passed to the children. Then, we wonder why children are disrespectful towards the target parent. Answer: they have been taught.

    (5) . Thank you in advance for reading my story and I hope that maybe, just maybe, I can use my story to help others and to let the “target parent” know that it is okay to feel defeated but don’t give up on your kids, no matter what they still need you in their lives. I say Thank You! very inspirational. And, keep up the good work and good faith. Regards, Monika

    • Very Proud Mommy
      January 8, 2011 at 3:08 AM

      I am very excited about learning more. I utlized the websites provided and I greatly appreciate that information. I hope that we can blow the whistle on this PAS issue. I have made some contact as I was researching for a good while last night. I always have to remember my addition to the Golden Rule for myself, “Can’t live by the should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” but I married real young and the more research and studying I am doing on this PAS, I am astonished to think that I was manipulated by my ex-husband and his family and I am really scratching my head because I was under their control. I remember back right before I delivered my son, my ex-husband told me “I am your family now”. I want to thank you for your kind words and generosity. The funny thing is, I found another website in regards to the Judge that is over my case and I am not alone.

      • January 8, 2011 at 5:07 AM

        I also frequently read many were controlled and married young. Keep your head up! From reading your post, it sounds like you have the attitude that is required. Enduring parental alienation requires a tough skin, good support from friends and family, and some down time. It is good to research and understand how to offest and prepare but self-care is a must! You are right too–you are not alone! There are countless women and men that are survivors. In realtiy they are victims but I prefer survivors! “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Regards, Monika

  6. Olivia Bui
    January 8, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Very Proud Mommy :I am so glad that I decided to do my research and studying tonight. I am acting as Pro-Se in my custody battle with my ex-husband and trying to research, study, and prepare for my next court date. I am absolutely amazed with the findings that I have come across, putting this site to the top of my list. I am the target parent of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and I am realizing that my situation is sitting Level 3 being Severe/Obsessive. My divorce/custody case has been ongoing since my ex-husband left in February 2003 going back and forth to court. Prior to my last court date, 12/27/10, I have walked out of court devistated, defeated, heartbroken, and an absolute mess. I do not know what happened to me nor can I explain the way I feel, but when I walked out of court on 12/27/10 I was finally at peace in my heart, mind, and spirit. Even though court did not go the way I wanted it to and the anticipation of my next court date, I have decided to put my life’s story out there to help others. I want to get heavily involved with helping others that may be in the same situation that I am in to cope, rise above, give strength and hope, and let the “target parent” that giving up is not the way out. I want to use my pain and energy to become involved with blowing the whistle on PAS, making it manditory for the Judicial System to educate, having stricter laws/punishment against the “alienating parent”, holding the Judical System accountable for overlooking/ignoring the warning signs, and possibly going to Capital Hill. Prior to the review hearing on 12/27/10, we were in court on 9/24/10 where the Judge court ordered my ex-husband to allow me full phone communication (as they had blocked my families and my phone numbers), full virtual communication (as they had blocked my email, facebook, gaia, etc. on the internet), and he ordered that I have the full Thanksgiving and Christmas break for my visitation. He court ordered that I could call my son in the courtroom on a cell phone, which I did, as I had not spoken to him since 02/2010 and his sister 07/2009. The conversation was not too long but I could hear the fear/disconnect in my sons voice. I felt that either he thought he was talking to a ghost or that he was going to get into major trouble because he spoke to me. After the phone call ended the Judge took the bench again, looked at my ex-husband and said on court record “if you don’t let her see her kids you will go to jail”. After court was over he was still on the bench, my ex-husband and family left and he told me to sit down as I was crying and explained to me on court record “what has happened to you has not been fair”. I was absolutely dumbfounded by that comment; however I left out of town to have the kids for Thanksgiving, know that I would most likely be denied because I had called everynight (except for 1 night when we had a tornado) since 9/24/10 and the phone was never answered. I arrived at my ex-husbands home and again he hid the children and denied me my visitation stating “it sucks doesn’t it”. I got back into my car and we drove away. I informed the Judge of what happened on or around 11/28/10 and he ordered me emergency temporary custody by force if needed of my children. Leaving town with court order in hand on 12/13/10, I had not spoke to my son since court on 9/24/10, I recieve a very disturbing phone call from my 12 year old son. He was reading the custody order to me asking me why this was happening, what was going on, etc. I tried to explain to him that this was an adult issue and his dad needed to contact me. This went on for another 2 more phone calls making the last phone call break my heart because he was trying so hard to read the documents and he was so aggitated when he got off the phone, I was torn to pieces. I got my children after being at the court house for over 6 hours trying to get my order enforced. I picked my kids up at 7 and the drama that was caused was one for the books, I found that my ex-husband was on the road in his semi and had been gone since on or around 12/9/10, the step mother was laying on the ground cradling my 7 year old sobbing. Not even a full 24 hours after leaving their residence, there was more than 15 phone calls and 20 texts from the step mother. The last straw was when she told my son “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t drink”. I never denied my children phone access to my ex-husband and his family, I actually encouraged it because my son was constantly being grilled on the phone with questions and if the answers were not good enough than he would get yelled at or repremanded on the phone to where my son did not want to talk on the phone. We went to court on 12/27/10 and I explained everything to the Judge; the Judge in turn let my ex-husband see the kids from 12-2, expired my temporary custody order on 1/1/11 at noon, and again gave me phone and virtual communication to include the month of July for visitation. He wanted to conclude our case when I reminded him that he court ordered the kids to be at the courthouse and to please speak to my 12 year old son. He agreed, came back to the bench and explained that the reason my temporary could not go to permanent was because it was faxed. I also reminded the Judge that my ex-husband has refused to obey/abide by any court order and reminded him quoting him what he said on court record to my ex-husband on 9/24/10. I pleaded to the Judge to hold my ex-husband accountable for denying my Thanksgiving visitation because if he did not go by his word and put my ex-husband in jail, than it will prove to my ex-husband that he could do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, not obey/abide by the new court order becauase the Judge isn’t going to repremand him. While my ex-husband spent his time with the children, I filed an emergency motion/petition to modify custody. I am hoping that the Judge will finally protect my children and take them out of the hostile environment they are in. My children need more counseling than you can imagine, especially my daughter. This is a bit much but I just want to show that PAS does exist and we need to blow the whistle on it to include holding parents and officials accountable for allowing this to happen to children. I realized on 12/27/10 that I wanted to get involved, get my story out there and help other “target parents”. PAS can end so many different ways when you are the “target parent”. One…you will just deal with it, Two…you will just give up and sign over parental rights and lose your children, or Three…someone will end up hurt or even worse. I hope that someone reading this (realizing that this is a snap shot of events) realizes that PAS is real and not just an excuse to keep a custody case open for years on end to also include that the children are the ones that are suffering through this. Thank you in advance for reading my story and I hope that maybe, just maybe, I can use my story to help others and to let the “target parent” know that it is okay to feel defeated but don’t give up on your kids, no matter what they still need you in their lives.

  7. pas
    January 12, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    Pas = operant conditioning

  8. Alienated Grandma
    January 13, 2011 at 3:23 AM

    I am living as a PA grandma and have had to watch as my two grandchildren were alienated from their father by their mother and her family. The alienation has been ongoing and getting worse for over 10 years. It is heart wrenching when a grandparent hears their two samll grandchildren tell their father that he “is evil, weird and is going to hell”. It is wrong when a mother has brainwashed her own children to say, “Daddy, mommy says not to, but we still love you Daddy!”This out of the mouths of a three year old and a seven year old. It is now to the point where my son has not seen his daughter for over two years and we, the grandparents, have now become horrible people as well. I am so tired of biased people who know nothing telling others that this is not a real situation or mental disorder. What kind of parent would do this to their own child? Certainly not an emotionally healthy one. CHILDREN HAVE A RIGHT AND NEED THE LOVE OF BOTH PARENTS AND BOTH EXTENDED FAMILIES! These same people who try to deny Parental Alienation also said there was no such thing as ADD or ADHD. If you have not lived in this hell you have no right to judge the hell we live in. Some days I do not know how my son makes it through. Rejected parents are people too!

    • Very Proud Mommy
      January 13, 2011 at 4:26 AM

      I am so saddened by your story. I know that my parents and grandparents are in the same boat as you. I understand that your situation is horrible because you have 2 worries, your child and your grandchildren. I hope you and your son never give up. Hopefully in the long run you will be able to get to see them, anticipation is the absolute worse when you lose communication. Hold your heads up high and keep fighting for them.

    • Very Proud Mommy
      January 13, 2011 at 5:27 AM

      Dear Alienated Grandma: I am very saddened by your situation. You have double duty in stress and heartache watching your son being a “target parent” of PAS and worrying about your grandchildren. I hope that your son will find the strength to keep fighting for his children and never give up hope. Let the judgements and opinions of others go in one ear and out the other; unfortunately, it is easier said than done. Keep your heads up and understand that you are not alone. I want to thank you for posting your blog and opening my eyes to what my parents and grandparents must be going through. I hope your situation gets better.

  9. January 13, 2011 at 4:44 AM

    Dear Alienated Grandma: I am sorry to read about your suffering and your son’s irrational rejection. It is obvious the children are being brainwashed. I consider this emotional abuse. I have faith, that others will shift their biased, limited thinking and scrutinize parental alienation for the family problem that it is; it is abuse. A three and seven year old should not be stating that their father is, “evil, weird and going to hell.” I am guessing, but this statement is probably just one of the many derogatory remarks made to your grandchildren. Personally, I have to have faith. Stories such as yours are one of reasons I created this blog. I ran across too many thinking they are “the only ones.” Too many parents (and Grandparents too) believe they are alone. Trust me, you are not. This particular article was written to give credit to Dr. Gardner for introducing the term–he provided a name to the phenomenon.

    There are many support groups forming; you may find one helpful. I think you are right, unless one has walked in the shoes they remain oblivious. Some, in my opinion, could at the least offer a little empathy and try to understand. Sadly, the target (or rejected parent) as in your case, your son, is often depicted as not being able to “get along.” What I hope to get across, is that some people will not play fair; they refuse to follow court orders, and they will not stop badmouthing. This may very well be the intent of your ex-daughter-in-law (she may not stop). A onetime comment post-divorce is understandable, but long-term denigration distorts a child’s perceptions and leads to loss. A once loved parent, as you know, is now viewed as unlovable.

    You may want to review Dr. Warshak’s video Pluto. It would be ideal, if the mother would be receptive to viewing. However, I suspect that asking her kindly to stop badmouthing has not worked. She may not watch the video or read any parenting books. His book and blog offers suggestions for situations in which the relationship is severed. Other parents and grandparents have posted suggestions (viewed at http://www.warshak.com) for what has and has not worked in their case. While each situation brings about different nuances, all in all parental alienation is emotional abuse; it is “ignited” by one very immature, boundary lacking selfish parent and is perpetuated and maintained by a failed, overwhelmed system. Wishing you hope, healing and peace. I also believe pray never hurts. Regards, Monika

  10. Mary Holtorf
    March 12, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    I made many mistakes during my difficult marriage and divorce from a hostile man. It is a continuing process to comprehend what and why. I work every day to improve my parenting and myself. My children were high school/college age when I divorced and there were no custody battles.
    I am now in a committed relationship with a man who has been alienated from his children. From what I have learned it seems his ex-wife navigates all aspects of her life from a “hostile” perspective. I had learned alot during my divorce and have been studying the alienated parent syndrome with him to try to do whatever possible to help his children. At this point I am specifically looking for tools that will help us maintain a presence in his childrens lives that is most positive/least negative. We know any contact will be a negative. They will be abused and tortured by her. But we will never give up as we know it is an even bigger negative for them to not have their father in their lives, especially as they are being raised in what I refer to as a “nest of terrorists”. Hostile parenting is a multi generational issue in her family.
    It is against both of our natures to be combative. We both tend to and prefer to be cooperative. But we will not accept abuse.
    We have a “Code of Conduct” :
    1) I am a good parent. I will always be a good parent.I will do what it takes to be a truly good parent and stay a good parent.
    2) I will always be there for my child.
    3) I will let them know I love them and support them. Forever.
    4) I will take command and not become a part of the “problem”.
    5) I will never lose hope or faith. It will show in my words and actions.
    6) I will never forget that I am a good parent, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the health and well being of my children.

    What tools and tactics have worked for those of you out there who are forced into this battle? The court therapist opinion is that forced interaction(by the courts or by us) would “do more damage than good”. The manipulation and resulting anger and alienation have progressed to a level that has placed them beyond “reason”.

    We don’t accept that all we should do is stand in the background, if at all, and send money.

    We are constantly emailing and calling teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators, their doctors, and priest, religious teachers, coaches, instructors, anyone we can to gain knowledge of their activities. At this point we are considering legal action against one instructor who refuses to provide information on their activities. We have a court order providing access.

    We contact the kids on a regular basis by cell phone, but are not acknowledged. Cards, congratulations and presents are sent.

    We are in the process of putting up a website for them. They have extended family on their fathers side who would love to hear from them. A wonderful half brother and niece.

    We will be looking to participate in an organization to raise awareness of this issue with the current sitting judges in the family court system. We firmly believe the family court system is seriously flawed and needs to be reformed.

    I need to hear some success stories! What worked? We pity their mother as we believe she is beyond redemption. That is not our concern. We do everything we can in our lives to ensure we will be able to provide for these children. Direct attack on her is of no value. It would only elevate her power to abuse. We are looking for other tools that will help us educate and inform these kids that we are hear for them and love them. We hope that we can stay in their hearts and minds and when the moment of recognition comes to them they they will be able to reach out to us.
    Thanks, and good luck !
    Mary

  11. March 12, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Hi Mary: there are many organizations to get involved with. One is the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization. http://www.paawareness.org/ April 25th is Parental Alienation Awareness Day; you could plan an event. Your code of conduct is excellent–thank you for sharing! You may also wish to check out Dr. Richard Warshak. He has a web-site and blog. There are many success stories on his site and PAAO has some success stories too. Another resource is Keeping Families Connected. Lastly, you may want to visit Dr. Joshua Coleman’s page. Regards, Monika

  1. November 1, 2011 at 3:08 PM

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