September 22, 2023

Epic Law

The Law Folks

Parental Alienation – A Real Threat in Child Custody Disputes!

There is a very real threat that is associated with a child custody battle that has turned ugly. Fortunately, this is not always associated with a custody dispute, but when it is, things can turn bad very quickly. I am referring to parental alienation and it is actually considered to be a psychological syndrome, often referred to as PAS. It occurs when a vengeful parent directly induces negative thoughts in a child about the other parent. Psychologically, this is considered to be brainwashing, which is in fact a form of emotional abuse. It can occur several different ways, but it almost always has the same outcome. The child begins to vilify the other parent and blames them for the many problems that arise from a divorce and child custody dispute.

PAS can occur when the PAS-inducing parent passes their thoughts and actions onto the child to the point that the child begins to view the other parent as the enemy. It is sometimes hard to distinguish whether the child is just mimicking the words of the PAS-inducing parent or if he or she truly believes what they are saying. If the child is only picking up on words that they don’t truly understand, and are just repeating what mom or dad has said, then there is a chance that PAS is not the case. But if the child says or does things on their own, like refuses to talk to the other parent or gets upset/angry at them for no reason then PAS may be a real possibility.

There are actually three stages of PAS. During the first stage or mild form, things are not so obvious. Contact between the child and the other parent has not necessarily changed but subtle changes in the child’s actions are noticed. For instance, the child may be become distressed during a transition from the PAS-inducing parent to the other parent. In this stage the PAS-inducing parent does several indirect things that they may or may not know is having an influence on the child. For instance, they don’t show much concern about whether or not the child has contact with the other parent, they place little value on the child’s indirect contact (ie phone calls) between direct contact (ie visitations), and/or they aren’t aware of the distress a child may feel when they don’t get indirect or direct contact with the other parent. Basically put the PAS-inducing parent places little importance on the child’s contact with the other parent, and eventually the child begins to pick up on these feelings as well.

In the second stage, or moderate form, of PAS the child is being directly programmed against the other parent. A good indication of this stage is when the child is visibly upset and anxious during the time of transition from the PAS-inducing parent to the other parent. These feelings tend to pass rather quickly once the child is away from the PAS-inducing parent and is able to relax. Another example is when the child views the other parent’s relatives as being relatively unimportant to them. In this the stage the PAS-inducing parent is more actively placing a strain on the child’s relationship with the other parent. This can include refusing to communicate with the other parent, allowing the child (no matter what age) to decide whether or not they want to make contact with the other parent, and/or making deliberate negative statements about the other parent in the presence of the child. The strain caused by the PAS-inducing parent causes the child to form separate worlds with each parent.

In the the third stage, or severe form, of PAS the damage to the relationship between the child and the other parent has already been done. In fact, the PAS-inducing parent no longer has to actively disrupt the relationship, as the child has already formed a highly negative image of the other parent and he or she often acts on their own. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of the problem the PAS-inducing parent often reinforces the feelings that the child has about the other parent and will go to great lengths to see that the child has no relationship with the other parent. Unfortunately, they will often claim that they are only conveying the wishes of the child, which in its own right strengthens the relationship between the PAS-inducing parent and the child. In this stage, the child’s feelings towards the other parent are no longer in question. They display a great hatred towards the other parent and will go to great lengths to avoid all contact with them. This includes overly dramatic actions that will include threatening to run away, making false allegations of abuse, or even threatening suicide. The child will always take the view of the PAS-inducing parent, even if it is completely irrational and/or untrue. The child also has a hard time differentiating what actually happens with the other parent and what the PAS-inducing parent tells them what happened. The child shows absolutely no guilt or remorse about their hatred towards the other parent, and often extends his or her feelings towards the other parent’s relatives. The child can be perfectly normal until asked about the other parent at which point her or she will vehemently display their hatred towards the other parent. Unfortunately, by this point the bond between the child and PAS-inducing parent is strengthened simply because they share the same views about the other parent.

It is a very stressful, sad situation when a child displays so much hatred towards a parent just because of the views instilled on them by the vengeful PAS-inducing parent. This is a type of hatred that cannot be learned, it has to be taught , much in the same way as racism is.

I have a fear myself that this very scenario is happening between my wife and her daughter. I have watched as their relationship has been strained simply because of the actions of her ex-husband. Even though I have a small role in the situation, I am compelled to help my wife sustain the relationship that she has with her daughter. Mainly because it kills me to see her crying some nights because of the things that her 5-year old daughter says to her, or even worse when she is “too busy” to talk to her. Things that can only be taught to her by her father. I have taken up my own mission to learn everything that I can about this type of situation, and everything else that we have been going through during this custody battle. I have relied heavily on what is probably the best resource on child custody issues anywhere on the internet []. It’s a library that covers every type of topic on child custody imaginable. Not having any children myself, it has helped to understand what my wife is going through and made it easier for me to help her, and to explain what I am seeing and hearing to her lawyer so that he can put a stop to it before things get to the point of no return.