Parental Alienation Cited in Goldman Decision by Dr. Richard A. Warshak
Posted with permission by Dr. Richard A. Warshak
Parental alienation is emotional abuse. Judge Guadagno is clear about this. Ruling last week in the Sean Goldman case, the judge calls the behavior of Sean’s stepfather and family “contemptible” for filling the child’s head with false information aimed at undermining his love for his dad.
Referring to the “continuous efforts at parental alienation” begun by the boy’s mother and continued by his stepfather and maternal grandparents, and their “attempt to implant false memories and erase Sean’s true memories of his father,” the judge wrote, “It is difficult to conceive of a more dramatic example of emotional abuse of a young child.”
What is self-evident to this judge is incomprehensible to a cadre of naysayers who deny the reality of this form of abuse unless the perpetrator is a violent man. These deniers fear that the term parental alienation is merely a tool for abusive men to deflect blame for their children’s rejection of them. As advocates for victims of domestic violence, they must acknowledge that some men exact revenge against former spouses by poisoning the children’s affections for their mother. When children become alienated from a mother who is a former victim of domestic violence, they call this domestic violence by proxy.
The Goldman case, though, highlights what is wrong with dismissing all cases of parental alienation except those that fit the pattern of violent man against woman. In this case, the perpetrators of the abuse are male and female. Neither has been accused of domestic violence. They have been accused of alienating a boy from his father — parental alienation. And, no court has found that David Goldman is an abuser.
Unless we deny the reality identified by three court-appointed Brazilian psychologists, the Brazilian court, and the New Jersey court, we must conclude that Sean Goldman has been harmed by parental alienation, not by domestic violence by proxy.
Can an abusive parent invoke the concept of parental alienation to blame and discredit a protective parent? Yes. Courts must exercise great care before accepting allegations of alienation as true, or they will mistakenly place children with physically and psychologically abusive parents. But this concern must not keep courts from protecting children against the cruelty of being manipulated to disown a good and loving parent.