Italy Leading International Fight Against Parental Alienation, Abuse of Child Support
After a divorce, the parent-child relationship may have changed. The parent may not have the opportunity to see them as often as the parent may like, and as a result of the physical distance, emotional distance can develop. When that emotional distance exists at the same time as a co-parent alienating the children from you, it can be devastating for parent and damaging for the child.
Parental alienation, the traumatic threat to public health that only services the needs of the alienating parent, is a devastating result of high-conflict divorce and child custody cases that put the children in the crossfire of the volatility. It has been recognized by Edward Kruk, an associate professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, and the National Parents Organization. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual includes all of the symptoms of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) under the broader category of “child psychological abuse.”
In addition to the impactful abuse in cases of parental alienation, child support sometimes can be an abused entity when the money is no longer going toward the betterment of the child or the paying parent is being asked to pay outside of their financial capabilities.
Additionally, the child support system is based on outdated stereotypes regarding the roles of men and women in the lives of their children that simultaneously pervade and influence family courts. No longer are men required to be breadwinners, and no longer should women be granted primary custody of a child based solely on their gender.
While the United States has taken small steps to improve how family courts treat parental alienation and issues surrounding child support, many countries outside of the United States have been slow to recognize their need for improvement.
However, Italy is taking steps to change how their country deals with these types of subjects.
Italian lawmakers introduced legislation that would abolish child support and change the custodial rights of parents who engage in parental alienation, according to the Washington Post. It encourages co-parenting and giving both parents equal parenting time with their children, ideally negating the need for child support.
America deals with parental alienation
While there is no federal regulations in family courts concerning parental alienation in the United States, state family courts in places like Ohio do recognize aspects of the problem and require all parties to participate in counseling, while strictly ordering against co-parents speaking ill of the other around the child.
Additionally, family courts can sometimes require reintegration therapy for children and the alienated parent. It is a way to improve parent-child contact through the aid of a mental health professional. In order to accomplish this, the mental health professional builds a trusting therapeutic relationship with the child and from there, acts in the best interests of the child.
Therapists look to erode the negative image of the alienated parent by providing incongruent information, refraining from actions that put the child in the middle of the conflict, considering ways to pacify the hurt and the anguish of the alienating parent, looking for ways to dismantle the coalition and convert enemies to allies, and never giving up contact, according to Elizabeth M. Ellis, of The American Journal of Family Therapy.
This technique has been studied at the University of Toronto, and results have found that the process is designed to help improve family relationships as a whole. The participants identified and clinically used assessment criteria necessary for determining if parental alienation situation was suitable for reintegration therapy.
Alienated parents also have been studied, in order to further understand the plight of the alienated parent. Research from Colorado State University examined the experiences of parents who are targeted in alienation cases, specifically their feelings of loss and grief through the loss of emotional and/or physical connection with their children.
Results found that of the 45 alienated (mostly male) parents, 33.3 percent were categorized as having no physical contact with their alienated children, and 82.2 percent reported experiencing some extent of challenge or loss in their emotional relationship with their alienated child.
America deals with child support problems
When it comes to child support and how it is spent, many look to celebrities for providing the clarity necessary to understand the concerns regarding money being spent on the parent and not the child.
Many also are being sent into poverty, because their obligation in child support is too high. Given that one in four children are due child support and that only 62 percent of money owed in child support is actually paid, the odds that every case in the United States includes a paying parent who refuses to pay is statistically improbable.
From a legal standpoint, modification of the child support obligation would come into play with the aid of a family law attorney. However, the stigma surround modification can repel paying parents who love their children and wish that they could support their children to the fullest extent, but simply cannot afford to do so.
Parents should be able to support their children with amounts that they can afford, not amounts that prevent both financial stability for themselves and financial support for their children. A parent cannot support a child if they cannot support themselves.
While there likely will be no similar legislative efforts in the United States as drastic as there are in Italy, family court reform continues its fight in places like Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Kansas, Illinois, Alabama, Vermont, and Massachusetts, that encourage the parent-child relationship on both sides, promotes shared parenting, discourages parental alienation, and prevents child support and alimony from sending an ex-spouse and co-parent into poverty.