How To Fight Parental Alienation
If you’ve been systematically pushed out of your child’s life by a former partner who repeatedly criticizes and deprecates you in front of your child, then you are all too familiar with parental alienation.
When trying to combat parental alienation, heed the advice of family law attorney Brian Ludmer, who has been a featured speaker at the Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome.
Ludmer has developed a legal, psychosocial and practical strategy for managing a parental alienation case. He consults as well in the area of child custody assessments for parents involved in cases with parental alienation syndrome.
Parental alienation occurs when one parent essentially “programs” a child to dislike and even hate the other parent, and according to psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner who first coined the phrase “parental alienation syndrome,” 90% of alienation cases were cases where the mother alienated the father.
Ludmer talked with MensRights.com about how to legally respond to parental alienation, what behaviors to avoid as the targeted parent, and how to deal with false allegations. If you are a victim of parental alienation, consult with the divorce lawyers for men at Cordell and Cordell Family Law.
Men’s Rights: In terms of legal responses, what can you do to combat an alienating parent?
Brian Ludmer: Well, the key thing is you need to strictly, frequently, and early on assert your right to the access you are supposed to have with your child.
Most of the problems result from people being too timid or delaying the problem thinking there is some therapeutic answer.
There is an undue emphasis on hoping that the aligned parent will somehow achieve some epiphany and change their behavior or that things will just work their way out. You need to tackle it early on and frequently.
It’s short-term pain for long-term gain in terms of cost. It’s much less costly to tackle it early on than after a dynamic develops.
Some of the other tools from a legal perspective would be to ask for a parental coordinator to be appointed. That would be someone who’s focused not so much on the children’s behavior and getting through to the children, as they are on the parent’s behavior, which is at the heart of this dynamic.
In addition, you can ask for a therapeutic intervention, but it needs to be a multi-client, fully open process. And by that I mean the therapist involves – and usually we like to see at least a psychologist if not psychiatrist – all the parties.
The difficulty with having a therapist just for the child is that they don’t actually have a mandate of demanding and fostering reconciliation, and they have some issues in terms of privacy and not sharing everything. So, it is the multi-client type of therapy that sometimes works.
Men’s Rights: Typically, in parental alienation cases there are lots of false allegations made and delay tactics in hopes of keeping the alienating parent even further away from their child. So, how do you deal with delay tactics being used or false allegations being made by the other side?
Brian Ludmer: Yes, this is certainly an unfortunate circumstance in many of these cases, and actually increasingly frequent.
You can’t really stop false allegations from being made, and quite often the fact they’re being made can be used to your advantage. But you want them dismissed quickly because while a child protective service is investigating, you’re typically frozen out of the child’s life.
There’s a process of intervention with them to make sure that they see the big picture and they know that it is happening within the context of a high-conflict divorce so that their investigative protocol is much more forensic and they’re looking for indicators of manipulation.
Then after it’s done, you want to get the clinical notes of the investigator and, quite often there are some very telling comments, such as when ‘I interviewed the children, their language appeared scripted and adult-like.’
Then you can turn a false allegation into an amazing tool to fight back against the aligned parent. So you always want to suggest to the investigator that they look for those signs, and make sure to also get the clinical notes from them.
Men’s Rights: In these types of cases, what must be avoided?
Brian Ludmer: You already mentioned delay. Delay is the number one mistake that gets made and delay is the number one tactic of the aligned parent and their attorneys.
The system itself is quite ponderous and there’s a series of tools attorneys do to try and move the case along as fast as possible towards the eve of trial. Most alienators will fold rather than actually go on the stand at a trial.
For the same reason, if you can get some questioning or examination for discovery where you question the aligned parent under oath during the case, you can get some amazing admissions that then inform the custody assessment and the judge.
So, the idea is to expose them — not allow them to hide behind false affidavits and lawyer’s letters — and that typically will force their hand.
Men’s Rights: We have many resources available to alienated parents on MensRights.com and also at our affiliated website DadsDivorce.com, but are there other resources out there available for those parents being targeted?
Brian Ludmer: Certainly. I frequently visit your sites, as well as the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, and other national organizations that have an amazing collection of materials.
In addition, there are some great, cheap, soft-cover books written by some of the leading experts where you get all their insight for $20 instead of paying them hundreds and hundreds of dollars an hour.
There are also support groups for estranged parents where everybody exchanges notes, names of experts, and that kind of things.
The targeted parent is the “general” of this war that they’ve unfortunately been dragged into, and they need to be an informed consumer of mental health services, legal services, and in terms of managing their own financial budget for this.
I just want you to know that men are not the only victims of parent alienation. My ex has turned my daughter against me. He has told her since she was 9 years old (she is now 16) not to trust me and that I do not care about her. This is the most heart wrenching situation. I feel so helpless in trying to help my daughter. She wants nothing to do with me. Dad is her hero.
Thank You for sharing – stay strong and hang in there – don’t ever give up on your children. Continue to express your love to them and stay involved even if it means from a distance. That is what keeps me sane – while living a nightmare. My story is exactly like yours in which the father to my 17 year old daughter has alienated her from me because of his fabricated story that I am mentally unstable, I am the “bad” parent, and I am of danger to her. I am now in a contentious battle to win back my respect and dignity of the loving mother I am and always have been. He uses professionals to his advantage since Parental Alienation Syndrome (which is clearly what my child is luving) – PAS, is not a clinical diagnosis, to which he manipulate them as well. I agreed to see a therapist for reunification therapy and instead of reunify in me with my daughter, she split us even more with her input to “have no visitation indefinitely”; what!! Ya, I was mortified, knowing she took no clear evidence of proof I had given her to deem the reason why my 17 year old was admitted to the Children’s Psychiatric Hospital for deep depression and suicidal ideation; one of the 16 symptoms to PAS syndrome.
I’m so sorry Ana, I’ve been going through this for 14 years now. My 17-year-old daughters now living full time with her dad and his new wife, so now there’s two of them doing the parental alienation. I had a health crisis three years ago and they are using it now saying that I have mental illness. I had an issue as to where my gut was not producing serotonin – no wonder I went thru a depressive time. They are using this lack of knowledge to fully take advantage of the whole situation. They have my daughter telling me that I’m crazy – and my child support is mommy’s shopping money. I just want the ones that do this to our children to reap what they sow. It is a shame when parents see the children as a trophy instead of caring for their child and doing what’s best for them.
My heart goes out to you. I pray that when our children grow up they will see through all of this.
What about the other ten percent? Us Mothers and grandmothers who have been alienated by no fault of our own. Do you also represent us? Alienation is a crime against us all, having negative affects on multiple future generations yet to be born. Children of parental alienation suffer from low self esteem, after all how can you love yourself when they are taught to hate one parent, and given so many false reasons to do so, and that is half of who you are. These children also feel abandoned by the alienated parent and taught they do not love or care for them. In there mind they have been convinced by the alienated parent that only they care and love them. These children grow up to be under achievers, have learning disabilities, and gravitate in adulthood to relationships that are unhealthy, mirroring what they have lived. The cycle repeats itself! One other thing that needs to be recognized is that these children are almost always subjected to physical and sexual abuse by the alienating parent who is almost always a narcissist. These children will go to extremes to protect the alienating parent. This is one of the reasons the domestic violence centers and researchers compare PAS to cult mentality. These people have an advantage in court because they are such proficient liars and are very good at manipulating the system to their advantage. Lawyer representation should not be offered on a gender basis. It should be representing your clients interest in court to the best of your ability. Not the win. I feel that anytime abuse on any level, PAS is also abuse, the children, preferable all parties, be evaluated by domestic violence counsellors at the domestic violence center. As adults we live our lives but No One has the right to involve children in a divorce. They have more to loose than anyone. In families where PAS is a concern it should be dealt with by professionals in that field before anything else. Therapists should also be GALS as they are much more qualified than attorneys, this is what they went to school for. Please I beg all to put the welfare of children above all and for lawyers to represent us all fairly and honestly.
God Bless All
My name is William David Lopez, my situation is; After going to court to get custody of my daughter. The courts refused to grant custody. During visitation at Child Protective services, CPS, I was denied my visitation do to , that I had place my child in danger.
I had finished feeding my daughter and after burping her. She fell asleep in my arms. The social worker told me that we were 5 minutes late and that she had too go. I asked her too give me a few more minutes because the baby was sleeping and I did not want her to wake up. As I was starting to place my daughter into the car carrier. The social worker had called an assistant. I gently placed my daughter back in the carrier. then left.
How is that placing my daughter in danger?
I was denied my visitation rights.
In your opinion, was I rightfully or justifiably denied my visits?