Parental alienation is a factor affecting many custody cases today, but many are abusing these claims. There is much controversy surrounding parental alienation syndrome and how it can influence the outcome of a case.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Parental alienation syndrome was initially defined in the 1980s by Dr. Richard Gardner. However, there is debate regarding whether this is a valid syndrome or if it can even be properly identified and diagnosed.
Parental alienation entails one parent attempting to drive their children away from the other parent, which is often done by interfering with communications between the alienated parent and the child. A parent might also coach his or her child to reject the other.
Determining the Validity of Parental Alienation Claims
While parental alienation does occur in many cases, some claims may be falsely made by one parent to counter abuse claims by the other. There is little data available regarding parental alienation and how it’s used in court, but research has shown that parental alienation frequently comes up following abuse allegations, significantly influencing judges’ decisions.
A recent three-year study has looked at thousands of cases involving parental responsibility, alienation, and abuse. The study looked at 238 cases and found that fathers accused of abuse, and who in turn accused mothers of alienation, won 72 percent of the time. They also won 69% of cases involving child abuse allegations, and 81% of cases involving child sexual abuse allegations.
Making Abuse Accusations a Priority
According to Joan Meier, the author of the aforementioned study and founder of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, abuse should be properly assessed before focusing on alienation. Oftentimes alienation winds up being the focus in cases when it may be used to deny abuse.
While claims of parental alienation are sometimes used to work around abuse accusations, some experts claim that the controversy regarding whether it is an actual syndrome is a distraction that interferes with the proper identification of alienation. Many argue that alienation is a type of emotional abuse, and that it should be treated with as much seriousness as other abuse accusations. However, the American Psychological Association and the DSM diagnosis guide for mental disorders do not recognize the syndrome.
When parental alienation is threatening the relationship between a parent and a child, or a parent has been wrongfully accused of parental alienation, a child custody lawyer may be able to help.