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.