Interesting Case for Custody Evaluator Lawsuit / Immunity Rebuttal

Davis v Medical Evaluation Specialists  

(I’m only going to copy over the relevant parts – see the bold / underlined parts of what I have copied)
Appellant pleaded that local plaintiffs attorneys had detected a bias against claimants by doctors affiliated with MES. For example, appellant’s pleadings alleged that when MES physicians were involved, the reports allegedly all read the same, and the result was allegedly almost always a 0% impairment rating. Appellant thus alleged that MES and its physicians were not participating in good faith in evaluating workers’ compensation claims.(FN2) Appellant contends that MES was subverting the TWCA by recruiting physicians who would ignore the American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines and knowingly assign false and fraudulent impairment ratingsthat would attract insurance company business.  

The TWCC then designated another doctor to evaluate appellant (A Second Opinion). The new designated doctor examined appellant and assigned an impairment rating of 21% under the AMA guides.  (second opinion was in disagreement with the bias doctor)  

(The bias doctors) moved for summary judgment, claiming absolute derived judicial immunity and qualified “good faith” immunity.   ( The trial court granted immunity) 

In point of error one, appellant contends it was error for the trial court to grant the summary judgment motions of MES, Dr. DeFrancesco, and Dr. Dozier based upon either absolute derived judicial immunity or qualified “good faith” immunity.    These appellees rely heavily on Delcourt v. Silverman (which Sherry relies heavily on)

(The second opinion) affidavit created a fact issue as to whether Dr. DeFrancesco and Dr. Dozier acted in bad faith when they assessed appellant
These appellees rely on Putthoff v. Ancrum, 934 S.W.2d 164, 166-67 (Tex. App.–Fort Worth 1996, writ denied), in which the plaintiffs complained that a negligent autopsy prevented them from proving their daughter was murdered. The pathologists claimed qualified judicial immunity, and their motion for summary judgment was denied.  

In City of Lancaster v. Chambers, 883 S.W.2d 650, 656 (Tex. 1994), the supreme court adopted a good faith test consisting of “objective legal reasonableness.” This standard applies in all qualified or official immunity cases. Murillo v. Garza, 881 S.W.2d 199, 202 (Tex. App.–San Antonio 1994, no writ). The element of good faith is satisfied when it is shown that a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar circumstances would have taken the same actions. City of Houston v. Newsom, 858 S.W.2d 14, 18 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1993, no writ). To controvert summary judgment proof on good faith, the plaintiff must do more than show a reasonably prudent person would not have taken the same action; “the plaintiff must show that ‘no reasonable person in the defendant’s position could have thought the facts were such that they justified defendant’s acts.‘” City of Lancaster, 883 S.W.2d at 657 (emphasis added).  (No reasonable person like the list of a dozen experts that have come in behind Sherry with second opinion reports??)
plaintiffs did not lose because the defendants’ affidavits were unassailable. They lost because their own controverting affidavit was inadequate. All it stated was that the defendant doctors were negligent; it wholly failed to say that they acted in bad faith. See id. at 173.  

“We must also bear in mind that it is not appellees’ burden to disprove good faith, but merely to raise a fact issue.” Murillo v. Garza, 904 S.W.2d 688, 692 (Tex. App.–San Antonio 1995, writ denied).  

The appellees claim that (the second opinion) affidavit was conclusory and unsupported by any medical or other objective data. We (the appellate court) disagree.  We sustain the first point of error.

Delcourt, 919 S.W.2d at 787. This argument must fail because we have found above that the physicians in question are not immune if they acted in bad faith, and a fact issue was raised on this question. Unlike the court-appointed psychiatrist and the attorney ad litem defendants in Delcourt, and unlike the corrupt judge in the Delcourt hypothetical, appellees are not entitled to common-law absolute derived judicial immunity. They are immune by statute only for their acts “in good faith.” For acts in bad faith, they have no immunity. Tex. Lab. Code Ann. §§ 413.054(a), 402.010(b). These appellees’ contention that they derive immunity from Dr. Dozier and Dr. DeFranceso fails for the same reason.  
We sustain the second point of error.

We reverse the judgment and remand the cause.  

Arguments for Custody Evaluator Immunity in Lawsuit

Sherry cites Jones vs Sherry case in support for her immunity  cases.justia.com/texas/third-court-of-appeals/2019-03-18-00279-cv.pdf?ts=1561724417  Quotes from that appeal:
“When a person is entitled to derived judicial immunity, he or she receives the same absolute immunity from liability for acts performed within the scope of his or her jurisdiction as that of a judge. Dallas County v. Halsey, 87 S.W.3d 552, 554 (Tex. 2002) (concluding that court reporter was not entitled to derived judicial immunity)” 
“Applying the functional approach and considering Dr. Sherry’s relationship to the judicial process in the underlying divorce proceedings, we conclude that Dr. Sherry is entitled to derived judicial immunity for any acts performed within the scope of her delegated authority ” 

Most importantly Sherry violated the Texas Family Code (§107.108) to abide by all standards of care and all ethical standards guidelines ;
AFCC Rules –  Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation
www.afccnet.org/Portals/0/ModelStdsChildCustodyEvalSept2006.pdf5.1 ESTABLISHING THE SCOPE OF THE EVALUATION 
The scope of the evaluation shall be delineated in a Court order or in a signed stipulation by the parties and their counsel.

At no point does the Jones appeal discuss the fact that Sherry did not perform within the scope of her delegated authority, and does not mention that Sherry did not follow the laws and codes as stated in Sherry’s own signed stipulation by the parties.   Sherry citing the Jones appeal is irrelevant because the cases are brought about on totally different claims.   Sherry’s scope of the evaluation was delineated in the signed agreement between the parties that stated

  1. Alissa Sherry and her corporation would, and were required to abide by the ethical standards of Psychologists, The Texas Psychologists Licensing Act, and the rules of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.  
  2. Forensic assessments conducted through Legal Consensus PLLC are conducted with the highest regard for the ethical standards for licensed psychologists and the ethical standards for forensic psychologists
  3. Alissa Sherry and her corporation would be as legally, professionally, and financially independent of the parties as possible.  In this way the examiner maintains his/her personal integrity
  4. Alissa Sherry and her corporation would provide an independent, neutral, objective examination

Sherry specifically did not complete her contract within the above scope of the evaluation by violating the following laws and codes:

The Relevant and Controlling Statutes and Board Rules

  • The determination of whether or not Legal Consensus fulfilled or breached its contractual obligations requires the Court to consider the applicable contract terms, the relevant statutes, Board rules, and the American Psychological Association (“APA”) Ethical Principals and Code of Conduct applicable to the Legal Consensus Fee Agreement:

  • Tex. Fam. Code:
    • §107.0512. SOCIAL STUDY EVALUATOR: CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND BIAS.
      • (a) A social study evaluator who has a conflict of interest with any party in a disputed suit or who may be biased on the basis of previous knowledge, other than knowledge obtained in a court-ordered evaluation, shall: (1) decline to conduct a social study for the suit; or (2) disclose any issue or concern to the court before accepting the appointment or assignment.
      • b) A social study evaluator who has previously conducted a social study for a suit may conduct all subsequent evaluations in the suit unless the court finds that the evaluator is biased.
    • §107.0513. GENERAL PROVISIONS APPLICABLE TO CONDUCT OF SOCIAL STUDY AND PREPARATION OF REPORT.
      • (a) Unless otherwise directed by a court or prescribed by a provision of this title, a social study evaluator’s actions in conducting a social study shall be in conformance with the professional standard of care applicable to the evaluator’s licensure and any administrative rules, ethical standards, or guidelines adopted by the state agency that licenses the evaluator.
      • (c) A social study evaluator shall follow evidence-based practice methods and make use of current best evidence in making assessments and recommendations.
      • (e) To the extent possible, a social study evaluator shall verify each statement of fact pertinent to a social study and shall note the sources of verification and information in the report.
    • §107.0514. ELEMENTS OF SOCIAL STUDY.
      • (a) The basic elements of a social study under this subchapter consist of:
        • (2) an interview, conducted in a developmentally appropriate manner, of each child at issue in the suit who is at least four years of age;
        • (7) assessment of the relationship between each child at issue in the suit and each party seeking possession of or access to the child.
      • (b) The additional elements of a social study under this subchapter consist of:
        • (1) balanced interviews and observation of each child at issue in the suit so that a child who is interviewed or observed while in the care of one party to the suit is also interviewed or observed while in the care of each other party to the suit;
        • (2) an interview of each individual residing in a residence subject to the social study;
        • (3) evaluation of the home environment of each party seeking conservatorship of a child at issue in the suit or possession of or access to the child, regardless of whether the home environment is in dispute.
      • (c) A social study evaluator may not offer an opinion regarding conservatorship of a child at issue in a suit or possession of or access to the child unless each basic element of a social study under Subsection (a) has been completed.
    • §107.107 provides that: “before accepting appointment as a child custody evaluator, the person must disclose to the court, the parties’ attorneys, any conflict of interest, any relationship or confidence or trust the person believes the person has with an attorney in the suit, and or any other information relating the persons relationship with an attorney in the suit that could affect the ability of the person to act impartially in conducting the child custody evaluation. After appointment, the person shall immediately disclose to the court any conflict of interest.”
    • §107.108
      • §107.108(a) provides that: A child custody evaluator’s actions must be in conformance with the professional standard of care applicable to the evaluator’s license and any ethical standards or guidelines of the licensing authority that licenses the evaluator.
      • §107.108(c) provides that: A child custody evaluator shall follow evidence-based practice methods, and make use of current best evidence in making assessments and recommendations.
      • §107.108(d) provides that: A child custody evaluator shall disclose to each attorney of record any communication regarding a substantive issue between the evaluator and an attorney of record representing one of the parties. 
      • §107.108(e) provides that: A child custody evaluator shall verify each statement of fact pertinent to a child custody evaluation and shall note the sources of verification and information in the report.
      • §107.108(f) provides that: A child custody evaluator shall state the basis of the evaluator’s conclusions, in the extent to which the information obtained limits the reliability and validity of the opinion and the conclusions and recommendations of the evaluator.
    • §107.109(d) provides that: The additional elements of a child custody evaluations consist of balanced interviews and observations of each child.
    • §107.112 (c) provides that: Except for records obtained from the department in accordance with Section 107.111, a private child custody evaluator shall, after completion of an evaluation and the preparation and filing of a child custody evaluation report under Section 107.113, make available in a reasonable time the evaluator’s records relating to the evaluation on the written request of an attorney for a party, a party who does not have an attorney, and any person appointed under this chapter in the suit in which the evaluator conducted the evaluation, unless a court has issued an order restricting disclosure of the records.
    • §107.115 provides that: The court shall award the person a reasonable fee for the preparation of the evaluation that shall be imposed in the form of a money judgment.
  • Texas Board Psychology Rules (Tex. Admin. Code Title 22 part 21 §461.1 et seq) 
    • 463.8- Licensed Psychological Assistant
      • must practice under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and may not practice independently, unless meet certification standards
  • 465.9 Competency

(a) Licensees maintain current knowledge of scientific and professional information that ensures competency in every area in which they provide services.

(b) Licensees provide services in an unfamiliar area or involving new techniques only after first undertaking appropriate study and training, including supervision, and/or consultation from a professional competent to provide such services.

(c) In emerging areas in which generally recognized standards for preparatory training do not exist, licensees take reasonable steps to ensure the competence of their work and to protect patients,clients, research participants, and other affected individuals from the potential for harm.

(d) Licensees are responsible for ensuring that all individuals practicing under their supervision are competent to perform those services.

(e) Licensees who delegate performance of certain services such as test scoring are responsible for ensuring that the entity to whom the delegation is made is competent to perform those services.

(f) Licensees who lack the competency to provide particular psychological services to a specific individual must withdraw and refer the individual to a competent appropriate service provider.

(g) Licensees refrain from initiating or continuing to undertake an activity when they know or should know that there is a substantial likelihood that personal problems or conflicts will prevent them from performing their work-related activities or producing a psychological report in a competent and timely manner. When licensees become aware of such conflicts, they must immediately take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance in order to determine whether they should limit, suspend, or terminate the engagement in accordance with Board rule §465.21 of this title (relating to Termination of Services)

  • 465.10 provides that: Basis for Scientific and Professional Judgments:
    • Licensees rely on scientifically and professionally derived knowledge when making professional judgments.”

  • 465.11- Informed Consent.

(a) Except in an inpatient setting where a general consent has been signed, licensees must obtain and document in writing informed consent concerning all services they intend to provide to the patient, client or other recipient(s) of the psychological services prior to initiating the services, using language that is reasonably understandable to the recipients unless consent is precluded by applicable federal or state law.

(b) Licensees provide appropriate information as needed during the course of the services about changes in the nature of the services to the patient client or other recipient(s) of the services using language that is reasonably understandable to the recipient to ensure informed consent.

(c) Licensees provide appropriate information as needed, during the course of the services to the patient client and other recipient(s) and afterward if requested, to explain the results and conclusions reached concerning the services using language that is reasonably understandable to the recipient(s).

(d) When a licensee agrees to provide services to a person, group or organization at the request of a third party, the licensee clarifies to all of the parties the nature of the relationship between the licensee and each party at the outset of the service and at any time during the services that the circumstances change.

(f) At any time that a licensee knows or should know that he or she may be called on to perform potentially conflicting roles, the licensee explains the conflict to all affected parties and adjusts or withdraws from all professional services in accordance with Board rules and applicable state and federal law. Further, licensees who encounter personal problems or conflicts as described in Board rule 465.9(i) of this title that will prevent them from performing their work-related activities in a competent and timely manner must inform their clients of the personal problem or conflict and discuss appropriate termination and/or referral to insure that the services are completed in a timely manner.

  • 465.13
  • 465.13(a) In General:
    • 465.13(a)(1) provides that: Licensees refrain from providing services when they know or should know that their personal problems or a lack of objectivity have the potential to impair their competency or harm a patient, client, colleague, student, supervisee, research participant, or other person with whom they have a professional relationship.
    • 465.13(a)(3) provides that: Licensees do not exploit persons over whom they have supervisory evaluative, or other authority such as students, supervisees, employees, research participants, and clients or patients.
    • 465.13(a)(4) provides that: Licensees refrain from entering into any professional relationship that conflicts with their ability to comply with all Board rules applicable to other existing professional relationships.
    • 465.13(a)(5) provides that: Licensees withdraw from any professional relationship that conflicts, or comes into conflict with, their ability to comply with Board rules relating to other existing professional relationships.
  • 465.13(b) Dual Relationships:
    • 465.13(b)(1) provides that: A licensee must refrain from entering into a dual relationship with a client, patient, supervisee, student, group, organization, or any other party if such a relationship presents a risk that the dual relationship could impair the licensee’s objectivity, prevent the licensee from providing competent psychological services, or exploit or otherwise cause harm to the other party.
    • 465.13(b)(2) provides that: A licensee must refrain from a professional relationship where pre-existing personal, financial, professional, or other relationships have the potential to impair the licensee’s objectivity or have any other potential to harm or exploit the other party.
    • 465.13(b)(5): provides that A licensee considering a professional relationship that would result in a dual or multiple relationship shall take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance, to determine whether there is a risk that the dual relationship could impair the licensee’s objectivity or cause harm to the other party. If any potential for impairment or harm exists, the licensee shall not provide services regardless of the wishes of the other party.
    • 465.13(b)(6) provides that: A licensee in a potentially harmful dual or multiple relationship must cease to provide psychological services to the other party, regardless of the wishes of that party.
  • 465.15- Fees and Financial Arrangements
    • (a) (3) Licensees shall not withhold records solely because payment has not been received unless specifically permitted by law.
    • (b) Ethical and Legal Requirements.
    • (2) Licensees do not misrepresent their fees.
    • (3) Licensees do not overcharge or otherwise exploit recipients of services or payers with respect to fees.
  • 465.16
    • 465.16(b)(1) provides that: “Licensees verify… that every evaluation… recommendation… evaluation statement… is based on information and techniques sufficient to provide appropriate substantiation for its findings.”
    • 465.16(b)(3) provides that: “Licensees who… utilize psychological assessment techniques… do so in a manner and for purposes for which are professional or scientific-based.”
    • 465.16(c)(1) provides that: “Licensees include all information that provides the basis for their findings in any report in which they make findings or diagnoses about an individual.”
    • 465.16(c)(2) provides that: “Licensees identify limits to the certainty with which diagnoses, judgments, or predictions can be made about individuals.”
    • 465.16(c)(3) provides that: “Licensees identify various test factors and characteristics of the person being assessed that might affect their professional judgment… when interpreting assessment results, including automated interpretations.”
    • 465.16(c)(5) provides that: “Licensees provide opinions of the psychological characteristics of individuals adequate to support their statements or conclusions…”
  • 465.17
    • 465.17(e)(4)(A) Disclosure of Conflict and Bias provides that: “Licensees shall comply with all disclosure requirements set forth in Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §107.107.”
    • 465.17(e)(5)(A) Elements of Child Custody Evaluation provides that: “Licensees shall comply with Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 107.108, 107.109, and 107.1101 when conducting child custody evaluations.”
  • 465.18
    • 465.18(a)(3) provides that: All forensic opinions, reports, assessments, and recommendations rendered by a licensee must be based on information and techniques sufficient to provide appropriate substantiation for each finding.
    • 465.18(b)(1) Limitation on Services- A licensee who is asked to provide an opinion concerning an area or matter about which the licensee does not have the appropriate knowledge and competency to render a professional opinion shall decline to render that opinion.
    • 465.18(c)(4) provides that Describing the Nature of Services. A licensee must document in writing that subject(s) of forensic evaluations or their parents or legal representative have been informed of the following:… (4) The identity of the party who will pay the psychologist’s fees and if any portion of the fees is to be paid by the subject, the estimated amount of the fees…
    • 465.18(c)(7) The approximate length of time required to produce any reports or written results
    • 465.18(e)(6)(A) provides: (A) Licensees shall comply with the requirements of Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §107.112  regarding:
  • (i) the disclosure of communications between evaluation participants;
  • (ii) the creation and retention of records relevant to the evaluation; and
  • (iii) access to evaluation records
  • 501.351- General Authority to Delegate

A- A psychologist licensed under this chapter may delegate to a provisionally licensed psychologist, a newly licensed psychologist who is not eligible for managed care panels, a person who holds a temporary license issued under Section 501.263…

B- Delegating psychologist remains responsible. Individual administering the test must inform each patient that the person is being supervised by a licensed psychologist.

C- The board may determine whether the test/service may be properly and safely delegated.

Psychologist Can’t Be One Sided Expert

CHILD CUSTODY – EVIDENCE – PSYCHOLOGICAL EXAM

Kelly v. Kelly
No. 46748
(Idaho Supreme Court, September 10, 2019)
The magistrate court abused its discretion by permitting husband to retain psychologist to perform a parenting time evaluation as his expert, in divorce proceeding when child custody was a contested issue; parenting time evaluators can be selected only by stipulation of the parties or by appointment of the court, in either case, the chosen expert must be neutral, and not beholden to either side, and psychologist was ultimately paid over $105,000 to conduct the parenting time evaluation on behalf of husband. Further, the magistrate court abused its discretion when it ordered wife to undergo a psychological evaluation and counseling, as recommended by psychologist, husband’s expert, during child custody portion of divorce trial; a judge had no authority to order medical or psychological treatment in a child custody case unless there was direct testimony that such treatment would be in the best interest of the child, and there was no language indicating a psychological evaluation was in the best interests of child

Can My Experience with Child Custody Experts Help Others?

Can My Experience with Child Custody Experts Help Others?

Have you faced family conflict in Georgia that resulted in child custody litigation?

If you have, then the chance is pretty high you have something to say about your experience and may even want your experience to be useful in improving the process for others.

If you believe the process is overused and/or can be improved for the sake of increasing safety, peace of mind and availability of nurturing parents for children, your answers are especially important.

Regardless of where you are in the process, what the outcome has been, or even if it is not your experience but that of a family member or friend, your input is valuable in shaping the future of conflict resolution.

Please complete the form below and use the Contact Us form if you have any questions. Thank you!

Read More –>

Can My Experience with Child Custody Experts Help Others? - My Advocate Center

Can My Experience with Child Custody Experts Help Others? – My Advocate Center

Have you faced family conflict in Georgia that resulted in child custody litigation?

If you have, then the chance is pretty high you have something to say about your experience and may even want your experience to be useful in improving the process for others.

If you believe the process is overused and/or can be improved for the sake of increasing safety, peace of mind and availability of nurturing parents for children, your answers are especially important.

Regardless of where you are in the process, what the outcome has been, or even if it is not your experience but that of a family member or friend, your input is valuable in shaping the future of conflict resolution.

Please complete the form below and use the Contact Us form if you have any questions. Thank you!

Read More –>

Does Alienation of Children from Safe Parents Really Cause Harm? - My Advocate Center

Does Alienation of Children from Safe Parents Really Cause Harm? – My Advocate Center

This is a lot to read, but critical for professionals to get this that it is no small thing to enable this form of abuse to ruin the lives of children when you are in a position to make life better for them.

 

AAML_Alienation of Children and Parents_2015 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Do you know how to recognize harmful behavior in children who have been turned against a parent?

Excerpts found below are borrowed from the above document and may include occasional notes by My Advocate Center as this review is part of a larger study geared toward reducing childhood trauma and improving safety for parents and children.

Page 14:

Good grades in school, excellent performance in sports and performing arts, and polite, compliant behavior in settings apart from the rejected parent comprise only some aspects of healthy psychological functioning. Children who suspend critical thinking and judge parents as either all good or all bad are prone to transfer such cognitive practices to peer relationships, resulting in the rupture of friendships at the first sign of conflict.

Alienated children’s relationships with their favored parents may appear ideal because of the absence of conflict and frustration. In some cases, though, children pay for such harmony by neglecting their own needs.22 Often these children feel responsible for their favored parent’s emotional well-being. They comfort distressed parents, serve as confidantes, and assure parents of their allegiance. Alienated children often sacrifice age-appropriate independent functioning in order to gratify favored parents’ needs to keep the children close at hand and dependent.

Page 15:

The children believe that they have their favored parents’ approval to suspend the usual rules of morality when dealing with the targets of their enmity.

Apart from what may be covert or subtle corruption of character and respect for authority, alienated children suffer overt irrational anxiety or hatred of a parent and declare their wish to completely erase good parents from their lives.

Such irrational feelings represent significant psychological disturbances, regardless of how well these children function in other domains.24 At the very least, unreasonably rejecting a parent is as serious a problem as are other irrational aversions and anxieties, such as avoidance of school, peers, or open spaces. Their obsessive hatred of rejected parents is at least as worrisome as fixed negative stereotypes and irrational prejudice toward members of religious or ethnic minorities.

Severely alienated children suffer significant impairments in their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development.25 They maintain a highly distorted view of a parent. They are unable to give and receive love from a good parent.

What would be a normal response, if the parents were not separated?

If these children were living in an intact family, professionals would not doubt the wisdom of addressing rather than ignoring the problems.

It is not necessary to cite the long-term consequences of parental alienation to justify the importance of addressing the problem. The family’s dysfunction in the present is sufficient justification for intervention.26 In addition to alleviating the child’s obvious impairments, interventions are needed to improve the functioning of both parents. Some mental health professionals and lawyers too readily counsel rejected parents to accept the situation and wait passively for the child’s return. Those who make recommendations and decisions for these families should understand that the family is suffering and should be aware of the immense tragedy for a child to lose a parent and for a parent to lose a child.

It is easier to appreciate what is at stake when parental alienation is seen through the eyes of a parent who is the victim. One mother puts it this way:

It is like your child has died, but you can’t go through the normal grieving process. Instead you are stuck in this Twilight Zone-like nightmare with no end in sight. You know your child is being abused, and this is child abuse pure and simple, but no one will help you save their hijacked souls and you are forced to stand and watch, with your hands tied behind your back. She describes what mental health professionals term ambiguous loss or complicated loss, more difficult to resolve than grief over the death of a child because it defies closure.27 She also identifies the pain of standing by helplessly while her child’s character is corrupted.

Page 17:

In addition to the emotional impact on families, parental alienation is implicated in violence, suicides, and homicides. An example is a father who alienated his children and then conspired with them to kill their mother. Explicitly recognizing the power of the father’s influence, the district attorney charged the man with having “coerced, persuaded and enticed his children to commit this atrocious crime upon their mother.”28

Researchers have limited data on what happens over time.

Researchers can extrapolate long-term outcomes, though, from several well-developed lines of investigation. These include: the impact of exposure to poorly-managed parental conflict, the consequences of intrusive parenting, and the risks to future development associated with parental absence and unresolved conflicts with parents.30

The literature on parenting most relevant to understanding the consequences of parental alienating behavior are studies on parental psychological control, also called intrusive parenting. This is defined as parenting behavior that “constrains, invalidates, and manipulates children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression.”33 Examples of psychological control include: “If I have hurt her feelings, she stops talking to me until I please her again.” “Is less friendly to me if I don’t see things his way.” The concept of intrusive parenting was not created with alienated children in mind. But “manipulating children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression” is precisely how authorities on the psychology of alienated children describe the negative influence of the favored parent.34

This type of manipulative parenting is linked to subsequent higher levels of depression and antisocial behavior.35 Higher risk for depression is also one of the known longterm hazards of parental absence during childhood.36

Some of the dynamics of this elevated risk may not apply to situations where parental absence is caused by the child’s rejection, but most of the identified reasons for the negative impact of parental absence are relevant to the risks faced by an estranged child growing up apart from a parent and without that parent’s psychological contributions to development.

The greater the discrepancy between the amount of nurturing and involvement children received from each parent—and for severely alienated children it is the most extreme—the lower their subsequent self-esteem, life satisfaction, and quality and satisfaction with friendships, and the greater distress, romantic relationship problems, and troubled ruminations about parents these children experience when they are young adults.37

In addition, children who hold a parent in contempt risk feeling contempt for the aspects of their own personalities that reflect identifications with the rejected parents. The resulting diminished self-esteem may contribute to depression. Children cannot escape the knowledge that each parent is part of them. It is difficult to harbor great contempt for a parent without, at some level, feeling terribly impaired.

In subsequent years many of these children regret missing out on the relationship with the rejected parent. As they mature, many feel ashamed and guilty for having caused so much pain to a loving parent.

Why is it important to take action to prevent such abuse and harm?

Overcoming severe alienation usually involves extensive litigation, multiple failed attempts to modify the behaviors of the alienating parent and child, and sometimes an intensive intervention, all of which take a lot of money and time. The longer the process takes, the more the losses accumulate. The longer the absence of contact between parent and child, the more lost opportunities mount for the creation of family memories. School performances, music and dance recitals, scouting trips, science fair projects, sports events, proms, and graduation ceremonies all create memories marred in future years by the parent missing from the photographs.

Can educational programs help?

The programs teach about the impact of parental conflict on children and the importance of avoiding bad-mouthing and alienating behavior. They offer no guidance, though, on how to respond when the other parent engages in alienating behavior that places the children at risk for joining in a campaign of denigration and rejection. The programs exhort parents to refrain from behaviors that encourage alienation, but they make no suggestions to proactively protect children from succumbing to a parent’s alienating behavior or to stem the tide of alienation before it becomes severe. In short, parents receive no advice on how to respond effectively to the challenges posed by their children’s rejection and provocative, contemptuous behavior. As a result, alienated parents typically make mistakes that compound the problem.43

Therapy?

Page 25:

Counseling is not only ineffective in many cases of moderate and severe alienation. Often it makes things worse. Counselors who lack adequate understanding and competence in dealing with parental alienation may be too quick to accept at face value the favored parent and child’s representations of events.53 This can result in misdiagnosis and misguided treatment.

Detailed and Unambiguous Court Orders are Strongly Recommended

Parenting coordinators and therapists who work with high conflict cases emphasize the importance of the court issuing detailed and clear orders. A parent who is intent on obstructing the child’s contact with the other parent will exploit every loophole and ambiguity in the orders to accomplish this goal. For instance, the parent may claim that the child is coming down with a cold and can’t make the shift between homes. Or the parent will sabotage court-ordered treatment because the orders failed to specify which parent is responsible for getting the child to the therapist. Attorneys who represent rejected parents should anticipate every conceivable excuse to keep children from their clients and then ensure that the orders protect against these contingencies. If this is done at the stage of the initial temporary orders, it could help prevent alienation from taking root and becoming more severe. Attempts to corrupt a child’s view of a parent most effectively crowd out the child’s positive feelings and memories when the child has no reminders of the parent’s love and no time to enjoy that parent.55 The child becomes more dependent on the favored parent and more likely to see the absent parent through the distorting lens of the parent doing the bad-mouthing.

When their parents separate, children have no norms about what to expect. If they have regular contact with both parents from the outset, this becomes the status quo and the norm. If they lose contact with a parent, they come to regard this as normal. The longer children are apart from a parent, the stronger the negative attitudes, the more resistant to change, and the more difficult it is to reunite children with their rejected parent. The longer the children’s will dominates the behavior of adults, the more difficult it will be for the children to appreciate and accept that decisions about contact are not theirs to make.

Can courts do more to safeguard relationships between targeted parents and children?

One provision of many court orders, designed to safeguard children’s welfare, may have undesirable consequences. Parents are admonished to not speak negatively about each other to the children, not involve the children in parental conflicts, and not discuss the litigation with the children. The problem is that alienating parents, either intentionally or inadvertently, regularly violate this provision.

This places parents who are targets of badmouthing and smear campaigns in a bind. If they do not speak to their children and correct misinformation that persuades the children to see them in a bad light, they give their children no help to cope with the bad-mouthing, and may stand idly by as their relationship with their children gradually deteriorates.56 But if they do speak to their children, they risk being seen as criticizing the other parent, involving their children in the parents’ conflicts, or inappropriately exposing the children to litigation matters.

Lawyers and judges should recognize some limitations of court orders that attempt to regulate parent-child communications about the divorce. For example, parents should shield children from most adult-adult issues and not undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child—that is the true intent of such court orders. But a parent who is the target of bad-mouthing may need to defend his or her parent-child relationship by sensitively providing information to counter accusations the child hears from the other parent.

Even the most unambiguous and detailed orders will not help if they are not enforced. A parent who obstructs the children’s contact with the other parent may benefit from the status quo. In In re Miller and Todd, a New Hampshire court awarded custody to a mother who successfully interfered with the father child relationship.57 The court found that the mother alienated the children from their father, but reasoned that the children had spent the majority of their lives with her and that is where they felt most comfortable. This is typical for such cases. The absence of contact establishes a status quo that the court honors in order to spare the children drastic changes.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the award.58 It recognized that the father was denied contact with his children for more than two years, and that awarding custody to the mother because of the lack of father-child contacts rewards the mother for violating court orders.

The decision quoted the Vermont Supreme Court: Although obviously well intended, the court’s decision effectively condoned a parent’s willful alienation of a child from the other parent. Its ruling sends the unacceptable message that others might, with impunity, engage in similar misconduct.

Left undisturbed, the court’s decision would nullify the principle that the best interests of the child are furthered through a healthy and loving relationship with both parents.59 This reasoning gives voice to the most frequent complaint parents make regarding their custody litigation:

Repeated violations of orders go unpunished, with some parents making a mockery of the court’s authority.

Experts agree. Dr. Joan Kelly notes, “[A] significant number of these parents have come to believe . . . that noncompliance with court orders, whether for facilitating contact between the child and rejected parent or attending divorce education classes or therapy, brings no negative consequences.”60

Are some professionals encouraging misconduct and willfully causing psychological harm to children and safe parents?

In some cases a child runs away from the rejected parent’s home into the welcoming arms of a parent intent on driving a wedge between the child and the other parent. Law enforcement authorities can be effective in such situations by retrieving the children, giving them stern lectures, and returning them to the parent from whom they ran away. The police are more likely to do so if the court orders anticipate such an event and direct law enforcement personnel to enforce the parenting plan.

Unfortunately often the police dismiss such incidents as family matters that need to be settled in court and not by police intervention. A parent is less likely to harbor a runaway child if he or she expects swift sanction from the court for violating orders. Instead what often occurs is that the children remain out of touch with their rejected parent as the litigation slogs through a quicksand of legal maneuvering and failed psychotherapeutic attempts to remedy the problem.

Drawbacks of leaving children with the parent using alienating tactics:

Leaving the children with their favored (abusive parent who is manipulating the children and exploiting the court process) parent may be less stressful for some children in the short run, and may be a default option if the court determines that the rejected parent lacks the capacity to assume full-time care of the children. In terms of alleviating alienation, though, this option has significant drawbacks.

It is not recommended when the favored parent has a history of sabotaging treatment (e.g., repeatedly failing to bring children to appointments, or repeatedly terminating treatment until locating a therapist who supports the favored parent’s position in the litigation).

It is not recommended when the favored parent exposes the children to an emotionally toxic environment, such as intimidating the children into rejecting the other parent. The literature on domestic violence describes the manner in which efforts to turn children against a parent sometimes represent a continuation and extension of behaviors by the other parent intended to harass, control, and punish a former spouse or partner.66

Are many court professionals currently getting it wrong?

According to a consensus of studies, treatment of severely alienated children while they remain apart from the rejected parent and with the favored parent is more likely to fail than to succeed and it may make matters worse by further entrenching the child’s distorted perceptions of the rejected parent.67 This is true for all models of treatment of irrationally alienated children proposed in the literature. Extending unsuccessful treatment while the child remains with the favored parent carries the hazards of delaying, and in some cases preventing, the eventual delivery of effective help.

Custody evaluators and guardians ad litem often prefer this option because they believe it is less intrusive and requires less of an adjustment on the children’s part than removing the children from the primary care of the favored parent.

Typically, court orders for treatment under this option are open-ended with vague and non-specific treatment goals (e.g., to reunify the parent and child, or to improve the parent-child relationship).

This is the reality for most parents being pushed out of their children’s lives. Is this intentional?

If treatment fails (which is more likely than not with severely alienated children who have no contact with the rejected parent outside of therapy sessions), the rejected parent wants to return to court as soon as possible (assuming finances allow), while the favored parent delays the process as long as possible. When the case is back before the court, the judge is likely to order an updated evaluation by the original evaluator. The timing of the re-evaluation is subject to the evaluator’s schedule and is usually prolonged by the favored parent’s obstructive and delay tactics.

The longer the delay, the older the children, the more accustomed they become to living estranged from a parent, and the less likely the court will be to overturn the status quo.

Note: in going through this body of work, it seems that there is great incentive for an abusive parent to violate court orders and engage in mental cruelty by manipulating and coercing children as it is so easy to get away with causing harm this way.

To what degree will abusive parents manipulate and collude to avoid intervention?

Collusion to Discourage Interventions and Placement with the Rejected Parent:

When the favored parent worries that an evaluator, guardian ad litem, or the court are likely to hold the favored parent in large measure responsible for the children’s alienation, and may place the children primarily with the rejected parent, often the favored parent encourages the children to pretend that they have overcome their alienation. Cooperative and superficial polite behavior replaces the former avoidance and disrespect. After months and sometimes years of no contact and scornful rejection, the children begin to comply willingly with orders for contact.

In an attempt to obscure the fact that the children had ever been alienated, the favored parent and children rewrite history. In one case, after the court heard evidence about a child’s animosity toward his mother’s extended family, one boy falsely claimed that he had been having weekly phone contact with his maternal uncle. Through texts and emails requesting to meet, greeting cards signed with love, and surreptitious voice recordings, the children fulfill their assignment to create a record that the favored parent subsequently uses to argue in favor of maintaining the status quo. Toward the end of a trial, a teen contacted her mother after months of avoidance to ask to meet for dinner.

The mother was aware that the offer was a ruse. If she refused the invitation the father would claim that the mother was not doing her part toward reconciliation. If she accepted the invitation, the judge would hear that the mother-daughter relationship was on the mend and no additional intervention or custody modification was needed. After hearing the details of the children’s communications during the contact, I advised the mother to be aware that her daughter likely was recording the entire interaction. The mother replied, “Come to think of it, she left her cell phone in the center of the dining room table during the entire meal.”

It exposes the power that the favored parent has wielded all along to remedy the problem and underscores that parent’s role in fomenting, strengthening, and supporting the children’s suffering.

At the same time, it reveals a previously unseen malleability in the behavior of the favored parent and children when sufficiently motivated by the court’s authority.

The sham, intended to convince the court to take a hands-off approach, instead helps the evaluator and the court appreciate that the successful resolution of alienation requires the court’s firm expectations, oversight, and enforcement. When the children believe that, as far as the court is concerned, failure is not an option, they are more likely to engage meaningfully in efforts to repair the damaged relationship.

The fear of getting the favored parent in trouble with the court provides children with a face-saving excuse to “follow the rules” and return to a normal relationship with the other parent. The children then feel relieved to shed the burden of having to disrespect one parent for fear of disappointing the other.

Can the court or professionals expect the abusive parent to do right by the children and other parent after winning?

The parent with whom the children are aligned has carried on a lengthy campaign to support the status quo of no contact between the children and their other parent. It is unlikely that the aligned parent will be inclined to relinquish the campaign in the immediate aftermath of the court’s decision.

Tips for Lawyers Representing a Parent Who is Alienating the Children – page 67.

1. If your clients are aware that they are undermining their children’s relationships with their other parent, impress upon them the damage this is likely to cause the children in the near-term and in the future.

4. Ensure that your clients understand the possible legal consequences for interference with custodial contact and for violating court orders.

The Targeted Family Usually Does Not Recover, but Faith Remains

Despite weathering cruel treatment and untempered hatred that would drive most people away, many rejected parents maintain a steadfast commitment to their children’s welfare and invest considerable resources trying to restore positive relationships. Very often the tragedy extends to an entire half of the children’s family who remain astounded and deeply hurt at the formerly loving children’s complete estrangement.

Challenge to the Legal Community and to Healthcare Professionals

The outcome of cases with severely alienated children spells the difference between elated parents who recapture their identities as parents versus bereft parents who mourn the loss of their children and whose children grow up with parents who may be perpetrators of emotional abuse, who force them to make a child’s version of Sophie’s Choice, and fail to honor their right to love and be loved by two parents.

If they don’t find their way back to their rejected parents when these children grow up and have their own children, the next generation is deprived of a legacy.

Helping these families is challenging and a heavy responsibility.

It is not often that legal and mental health professionals get the chance to alter the course of generations.

Read More –>

Training Materials for Professionals on Harm Caused by Alienation of Children - My Advocate Center

Training Materials for Professionals on Harm Caused by Alienation of Children – My Advocate Center

This is a lot to read, but critical for professionals to get this that it is no small thing to enable this form of abuse to ruin the lives of children when you are in a position to make life better for them.

 

AAML_Alienation of Children and Parents_2015 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Do you know how to recognize harmful behavior in children who have been turned against a parent?

Excerpts found below are borrowed from the above document and may include occasional notes by My Advocate Center as this review is part of a larger study geared toward reducing childhood trauma and improving safety for parents and children.

Page 14:

Good grades in school, excellent performance in sports and performing arts, and polite, compliant behavior in settings apart from the rejected parent comprise only some aspects of healthy psychological functioning. Children who suspend critical thinking and judge parents as either all good or all bad are prone to transfer such cognitive practices to peer relationships, resulting in the rupture of friendships at the first sign of conflict.

Alienated children’s relationships with their favored parents may appear ideal because of the absence of conflict and frustration. In some cases, though, children pay for such harmony by neglecting their own needs.22 Often these children feel responsible for their favored parent’s emotional well-being. They comfort distressed parents, serve as confidantes, and assure parents of their allegiance. Alienated children often sacrifice age-appropriate independent functioning in order to gratify favored parents’ needs to keep the children close at hand and dependent.

Page 15:

The children believe that they have their favored parents’ approval to suspend the usual rules of morality when dealing with the targets of their enmity.

Apart from what may be covert or subtle corruption of character and respect for authority, alienated children suffer overt irrational anxiety or hatred of a parent and declare their wish to completely erase good parents from their lives.

Such irrational feelings represent significant psychological disturbances, regardless of how well these children function in other domains.24 At the very least, unreasonably rejecting a parent is as serious a problem as are other irrational aversions and anxieties, such as avoidance of school, peers, or open spaces. Their obsessive hatred of rejected parents is at least as worrisome as fixed negative stereotypes and irrational prejudice toward members of religious or ethnic minorities.

Severely alienated children suffer significant impairments in their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development.25 They maintain a highly distorted view of a parent. They are unable to give and receive love from a good parent.

What would be a normal response, if the parents were not separated?

If these children were living in an intact family, professionals would not doubt the wisdom of addressing rather than ignoring the problems.

It is not necessary to cite the long-term consequences of parental alienation to justify the importance of addressing the problem. The family’s dysfunction in the present is sufficient justification for intervention.26 In addition to alleviating the child’s obvious impairments, interventions are needed to improve the functioning of both parents. Some mental health professionals and lawyers too readily counsel rejected parents to accept the situation and wait passively for the child’s return. Those who make recommendations and decisions for these families should understand that the family is suffering and should be aware of the immense tragedy for a child to lose a parent and for a parent to lose a child.

It is easier to appreciate what is at stake when parental alienation is seen through the eyes of a parent who is the victim. One mother puts it this way:

It is like your child has died, but you can’t go through the normal grieving process. Instead you are stuck in this Twilight Zone-like nightmare with no end in sight. You know your child is being abused, and this is child abuse pure and simple, but no one will help you save their hijacked souls and you are forced to stand and watch, with your hands tied behind your back. She describes what mental health professionals term ambiguous loss or complicated loss, more difficult to resolve than grief over the death of a child because it defies closure.27 She also identifies the pain of standing by helplessly while her child’s character is corrupted.

Page 17:

In addition to the emotional impact on families, parental alienation is implicated in violence, suicides, and homicides. An example is a father who alienated his children and then conspired with them to kill their mother. Explicitly recognizing the power of the father’s influence, the district attorney charged the man with having “coerced, persuaded and enticed his children to commit this atrocious crime upon their mother.”28

Researchers have limited data on what happens over time.

Researchers can extrapolate long-term outcomes, though, from several well-developed lines of investigation. These include: the impact of exposure to poorly-managed parental conflict, the consequences of intrusive parenting, and the risks to future development associated with parental absence and unresolved conflicts with parents.30

The literature on parenting most relevant to understanding the consequences of parental alienating behavior are studies on parental psychological control, also called intrusive parenting. This is defined as parenting behavior that “constrains, invalidates, and manipulates children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression.”33 Examples of psychological control include: “If I have hurt her feelings, she stops talking to me until I please her again.” “Is less friendly to me if I don’t see things his way.” The concept of intrusive parenting was not created with alienated children in mind. But “manipulating children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression” is precisely how authorities on the psychology of alienated children describe the negative influence of the favored parent.34

This type of manipulative parenting is linked to subsequent higher levels of depression and antisocial behavior.35 Higher risk for depression is also one of the known longterm hazards of parental absence during childhood.36

Some of the dynamics of this elevated risk may not apply to situations where parental absence is caused by the child’s rejection, but most of the identified reasons for the negative impact of parental absence are relevant to the risks faced by an estranged child growing up apart from a parent and without that parent’s psychological contributions to development.

The greater the discrepancy between the amount of nurturing and involvement children received from each parent—and for severely alienated children it is the most extreme—the lower their subsequent self-esteem, life satisfaction, and quality and satisfaction with friendships, and the greater distress, romantic relationship problems, and troubled ruminations about parents these children experience when they are young adults.37

In addition, children who hold a parent in contempt risk feeling contempt for the aspects of their own personalities that reflect identifications with the rejected parents. The resulting diminished self-esteem may contribute to depression. Children cannot escape the knowledge that each parent is part of them. It is difficult to harbor great contempt for a parent without, at some level, feeling terribly impaired.

In subsequent years many of these children regret missing out on the relationship with the rejected parent. As they mature, many feel ashamed and guilty for having caused so much pain to a loving parent.

Why is it important to take action to prevent such abuse and harm?

Overcoming severe alienation usually involves extensive litigation, multiple failed attempts to modify the behaviors of the alienating parent and child, and sometimes an intensive intervention, all of which take a lot of money and time. The longer the process takes, the more the losses accumulate. The longer the absence of contact between parent and child, the more lost opportunities mount for the creation of family memories. School performances, music and dance recitals, scouting trips, science fair projects, sports events, proms, and graduation ceremonies all create memories marred in future years by the parent missing from the photographs.

Can educational programs help?

The programs teach about the impact of parental conflict on children and the importance of avoiding bad-mouthing and alienating behavior. They offer no guidance, though, on how to respond when the other parent engages in alienating behavior that places the children at risk for joining in a campaign of denigration and rejection. The programs exhort parents to refrain from behaviors that encourage alienation, but they make no suggestions to proactively protect children from succumbing to a parent’s alienating behavior or to stem the tide of alienation before it becomes severe. In short, parents receive no advice on how to respond effectively to the challenges posed by their children’s rejection and provocative, contemptuous behavior. As a result, alienated parents typically make mistakes that compound the problem.43

Therapy?

Page 25:

Counseling is not only ineffective in many cases of moderate and severe alienation. Often it makes things worse. Counselors who lack adequate understanding and competence in dealing with parental alienation may be too quick to accept at face value the favored parent and child’s representations of events.53 This can result in misdiagnosis and misguided treatment.

Detailed and Unambiguous Court Orders are Strongly Recommended

Parenting coordinators and therapists who work with high conflict cases emphasize the importance of the court issuing detailed and clear orders. A parent who is intent on obstructing the child’s contact with the other parent will exploit every loophole and ambiguity in the orders to accomplish this goal. For instance, the parent may claim that the child is coming down with a cold and can’t make the shift between homes. Or the parent will sabotage court-ordered treatment because the orders failed to specify which parent is responsible for getting the child to the therapist. Attorneys who represent rejected parents should anticipate every conceivable excuse to keep children from their clients and then ensure that the orders protect against these contingencies. If this is done at the stage of the initial temporary orders, it could help prevent alienation from taking root and becoming more severe. Attempts to corrupt a child’s view of a parent most effectively crowd out the child’s positive feelings and memories when the child has no reminders of the parent’s love and no time to enjoy that parent.55 The child becomes more dependent on the favored parent and more likely to see the absent parent through the distorting lens of the parent doing the bad-mouthing.

When their parents separate, children have no norms about what to expect. If they have regular contact with both parents from the outset, this becomes the status quo and the norm. If they lose contact with a parent, they come to regard this as normal. The longer children are apart from a parent, the stronger the negative attitudes, the more resistant to change, and the more difficult it is to reunite children with their rejected parent. The longer the children’s will dominates the behavior of adults, the more difficult it will be for the children to appreciate and accept that decisions about contact are not theirs to make.

Can courts do more to safeguard relationships between targeted parents and children?

One provision of many court orders, designed to safeguard children’s welfare, may have undesirable consequences. Parents are admonished to not speak negatively about each other to the children, not involve the children in parental conflicts, and not discuss the litigation with the children. The problem is that alienating parents, either intentionally or inadvertently, regularly violate this provision.

This places parents who are targets of badmouthing and smear campaigns in a bind. If they do not speak to their children and correct misinformation that persuades the children to see them in a bad light, they give their children no help to cope with the bad-mouthing, and may stand idly by as their relationship with their children gradually deteriorates.56 But if they do speak to their children, they risk being seen as criticizing the other parent, involving their children in the parents’ conflicts, or inappropriately exposing the children to litigation matters.

Lawyers and judges should recognize some limitations of court orders that attempt to regulate parent-child communications about the divorce. For example, parents should shield children from most adult-adult issues and not undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child—that is the true intent of such court orders. But a parent who is the target of bad-mouthing may need to defend his or her parent-child relationship by sensitively providing information to counter accusations the child hears from the other parent.

Even the most unambiguous and detailed orders will not help if they are not enforced. A parent who obstructs the children’s contact with the other parent may benefit from the status quo. In In re Miller and Todd, a New Hampshire court awarded custody to a mother who successfully interfered with the father child relationship.57 The court found that the mother alienated the children from their father, but reasoned that the children had spent the majority of their lives with her and that is where they felt most comfortable. This is typical for such cases. The absence of contact establishes a status quo that the court honors in order to spare the children drastic changes.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the award.58 It recognized that the father was denied contact with his children for more than two years, and that awarding custody to the mother because of the lack of father-child contacts rewards the mother for violating court orders.

The decision quoted the Vermont Supreme Court: Although obviously well intended, the court’s decision effectively condoned a parent’s willful alienation of a child from the other parent. Its ruling sends the unacceptable message that others might, with impunity, engage in similar misconduct.

Left undisturbed, the court’s decision would nullify the principle that the best interests of the child are furthered through a healthy and loving relationship with both parents.59 This reasoning gives voice to the most frequent complaint parents make regarding their custody litigation:

Repeated violations of orders go unpunished, with some parents making a mockery of the court’s authority.

Experts agree. Dr. Joan Kelly notes, “[A] significant number of these parents have come to believe . . . that noncompliance with court orders, whether for facilitating contact between the child and rejected parent or attending divorce education classes or therapy, brings no negative consequences.”60

Are some professionals encouraging misconduct and willfully causing psychological harm to children and safe parents?

In some cases a child runs away from the rejected parent’s home into the welcoming arms of a parent intent on driving a wedge between the child and the other parent. Law enforcement authorities can be effective in such situations by retrieving the children, giving them stern lectures, and returning them to the parent from whom they ran away. The police are more likely to do so if the court orders anticipate such an event and direct law enforcement personnel to enforce the parenting plan.

Unfortunately often the police dismiss such incidents as family matters that need to be settled in court and not by police intervention. A parent is less likely to harbor a runaway child if he or she expects swift sanction from the court for violating orders. Instead what often occurs is that the children remain out of touch with their rejected parent as the litigation slogs through a quicksand of legal maneuvering and failed psychotherapeutic attempts to remedy the problem.

Drawbacks of leaving children with the parent using alienating tactics:

Leaving the children with their favored (abusive parent who is manipulating the children and exploiting the court process) parent may be less stressful for some children in the short run, and may be a default option if the court determines that the rejected parent lacks the capacity to assume full-time care of the children. In terms of alleviating alienation, though, this option has significant drawbacks.

It is not recommended when the favored parent has a history of sabotaging treatment (e.g., repeatedly failing to bring children to appointments, or repeatedly terminating treatment until locating a therapist who supports the favored parent’s position in the litigation).

It is not recommended when the favored parent exposes the children to an emotionally toxic environment, such as intimidating the children into rejecting the other parent. The literature on domestic violence describes the manner in which efforts to turn children against a parent sometimes represent a continuation and extension of behaviors by the other parent intended to harass, control, and punish a former spouse or partner.66

Are many court professionals currently getting it wrong?

According to a consensus of studies, treatment of severely alienated children while they remain apart from the rejected parent and with the favored parent is more likely to fail than to succeed and it may make matters worse by further entrenching the child’s distorted perceptions of the rejected parent.67 This is true for all models of treatment of irrationally alienated children proposed in the literature. Extending unsuccessful treatment while the child remains with the favored parent carries the hazards of delaying, and in some cases preventing, the eventual delivery of effective help.

Custody evaluators and guardians ad litem often prefer this option because they believe it is less intrusive and requires less of an adjustment on the children’s part than removing the children from the primary care of the favored parent.

Typically, court orders for treatment under this option are open-ended with vague and non-specific treatment goals (e.g., to reunify the parent and child, or to improve the parent-child relationship).

This is the reality for most parents being pushed out of their children’s lives. Is this intentional?

If treatment fails (which is more likely than not with severely alienated children who have no contact with the rejected parent outside of therapy sessions), the rejected parent wants to return to court as soon as possible (assuming finances allow), while the favored parent delays the process as long as possible. When the case is back before the court, the judge is likely to order an updated evaluation by the original evaluator. The timing of the re-evaluation is subject to the evaluator’s schedule and is usually prolonged by the favored parent’s obstructive and delay tactics.

The longer the delay, the older the children, the more accustomed they become to living estranged from a parent, and the less likely the court will be to overturn the status quo.

Note: in going through this body of work, it seems that there is great incentive for an abusive parent to violate court orders and engage in mental cruelty by manipulating and coercing children as it is so easy to get away with causing harm this way.

To what degree will abusive parents manipulate and collude to avoid intervention?

Collusion to Discourage Interventions and Placement with the Rejected Parent:

When the favored parent worries that an evaluator, guardian ad litem, or the court are likely to hold the favored parent in large measure responsible for the children’s alienation, and may place the children primarily with the rejected parent, often the favored parent encourages the children to pretend that they have overcome their alienation. Cooperative and superficial polite behavior replaces the former avoidance and disrespect. After months and sometimes years of no contact and scornful rejection, the children begin to comply willingly with orders for contact.

In an attempt to obscure the fact that the children had ever been alienated, the favored parent and children rewrite history. In one case, after the court heard evidence about a child’s animosity toward his mother’s extended family, one boy falsely claimed that he had been having weekly phone contact with his maternal uncle. Through texts and emails requesting to meet, greeting cards signed with love, and surreptitious voice recordings, the children fulfill their assignment to create a record that the favored parent subsequently uses to argue in favor of maintaining the status quo. Toward the end of a trial, a teen contacted her mother after months of avoidance to ask to meet for dinner.

The mother was aware that the offer was a ruse. If she refused the invitation the father would claim that the mother was not doing her part toward reconciliation. If she accepted the invitation, the judge would hear that the mother-daughter relationship was on the mend and no additional intervention or custody modification was needed. After hearing the details of the children’s communications during the contact, I advised the mother to be aware that her daughter likely was recording the entire interaction. The mother replied, “Come to think of it, she left her cell phone in the center of the dining room table during the entire meal.”

It exposes the power that the favored parent has wielded all along to remedy the problem and underscores that parent’s role in fomenting, strengthening, and supporting the children’s suffering.

At the same time, it reveals a previously unseen malleability in the behavior of the favored parent and children when sufficiently motivated by the court’s authority.

The sham, intended to convince the court to take a hands-off approach, instead helps the evaluator and the court appreciate that the successful resolution of alienation requires the court’s firm expectations, oversight, and enforcement. When the children believe that, as far as the court is concerned, failure is not an option, they are more likely to engage meaningfully in efforts to repair the damaged relationship.

The fear of getting the favored parent in trouble with the court provides children with a face-saving excuse to “follow the rules” and return to a normal relationship with the other parent. The children then feel relieved to shed the burden of having to disrespect one parent for fear of disappointing the other.

Can the court or professionals expect the abusive parent to do right by the children and other parent after winning?

The parent with whom the children are aligned has carried on a lengthy campaign to support the status quo of no contact between the children and their other parent. It is unlikely that the aligned parent will be inclined to relinquish the campaign in the immediate aftermath of the court’s decision.

Tips for Lawyers Representing a Parent Who is Alienating the Children – page 67.

1. If your clients are aware that they are undermining their children’s relationships with their other parent, impress upon them the damage this is likely to cause the children in the near-term and in the future.

4. Ensure that your clients understand the possible legal consequences for interference with custodial contact and for violating court orders.

The Targeted Family Usually Does Not Recover, but Faith Remains

Despite weathering cruel treatment and untempered hatred that would drive most people away, many rejected parents maintain a steadfast commitment to their children’s welfare and invest considerable resources trying to restore positive relationships. Very often the tragedy extends to an entire half of the children’s family who remain astounded and deeply hurt at the formerly loving children’s complete estrangement.

Challenge to the Legal Community and to Healthcare Professionals

The outcome of cases with severely alienated children spells the difference between elated parents who recapture their identities as parents versus bereft parents who mourn the loss of their children and whose children grow up with parents who may be perpetrators of emotional abuse, who force them to make a child’s version of Sophie’s Choice, and fail to honor their right to love and be loved by two parents.

If they don’t find their way back to their rejected parents when these children grow up and have their own children, the next generation is deprived of a legacy.

Helping these families is challenging and a heavy responsibility.

It is not often that legal and mental health professionals get the chance to alter the course of generations.

Read More –>

Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse - My Advocate Center

Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse – My Advocate Center

It’s possible to wear someone down to the point of making them think and act in ways they otherwise would not. This is one form of psychological abuse explained by Psychology Today in this article that reveals what happens to children who are mistreated within the context of family conflict.

My goal since beginning research on this problem, and then reporting on the ways children are used and harmed through the mismanagement of family conflict, has always been about reducing childhood trauma and disrupting cycles of dysfunction.

The dysfunction I’m referring to manifests as addiction, mental illness caused by family violence, sexual abuse and neglect of children, abandonment, financial failure and home loss, suicide and divorce as primary examples. Children experiencing these forms of dysfunction are more vulnerable to exploitation, more inclined to rage and desperation. Boys seem to be more severely impacted by divorcing parents than girls, according to this article featured on Mic.com which explains the commonality between young men involved in shooting rampages. [See Ready, Aim, Fire at Pain and Anguish]

Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse - My Advocate Center 1A prominent dysfunction is also seen in how bonds between loving, safe parents and their children are broken down and destroyed. Georgia law speaks to misconduct in the form of poisoning the mind of a child against a parent, showing that this is abuse and that it harms both the child and the targeted parent.

The term often used in courts and by psychologists is parental alienation. Alienation of affection is specifically prohibited in court orders governing custody and care of children of divorced parents. If one parent acts to cause distance and break the loving bond between the child and the other parent, he or she can be held in contempt. Why this form of misconduct is not being confronted and corrected in our courts is a separate matter.

The term as an allegation of wrongdoing, however, has been improperly applied often in Georgia court cases involving actual child abuse and/or domestic violence, to blame the victimized or protective parent trying to keep the child safe and the abused parent’s rights intact.

The right to nurture and care for one’s own child is a protected right in our courts, but that right is stripped away by wrongfully condemning the targeted or abused parent for “alienating” the child from the perpetrator of abuse. As a result of this misapplication of the term alienation, it has had a polarizing effect on parents who have suffered from its use and amongst professionals involved in family conflict.

Another useful article on this subject featured in Pyschology Today can be found here.

Notoriously and across the globe, parental alienation syndrome (“PAS”) has been used by questionable custody experts to fault protective parents by claiming the safe parent has engaged in a sickness, a disorder, to cause an abused child or child who has witnessed or experienced family violence to want distance from the abusive parent. The conduct of such professionals goes against the needs of the child and is in direct conflict with laws specific to child safety and protection.

What the expert is saying to the child is that he or she should accept the abuse as normal. It is common for experts appointed or hired in custody cases to normalize abusive conduct, including psychological abuse, neglect, violence and even sexual abuse. Actually, this tactic is most commonly used in cases involving true sexual abuse of children to discredit the abused child and the parent fighting to protect the child. Of course, the expert, whether a psychologist or attorney acting as a guardian ad litem, is being paid to manage or filter information going to and from the child, to the court and other authorities, but always in a way that serves to guard the abuser and restrict the safer or more nurturing and emotionally healthy parent.

The expert is saying to the safe, protective parent that you should avoid asking for protection or else face condemnation and separation from your child. This tactic is based in fraud and often involves acts of false reporting and perjury by the experts influencing courts and other authorities against the safe parent and in favor of the abuser. Claiming that a parent who seeks help for a child who is having medical or psychological treatment withheld by an abusive parent, for example, is alienating the child from the other (abusive) parent is a false allegation.

This is extremely common in such cases involving child custody where there is evidence of actual abuse and the perpetrator expects the custody experts to suppress evidence of abuse. The false allegation serves to put the safe parent on the defensive, forcing him or her to spend more money defending against the false allegation. The focus of the expert’s investigation, instead of being on the perpetrator of abuse and on protecting the child, becomes a series of substantial steps to condemn an innocent parent. This is why U.S. legislators included language in a Congressional concurrent resolution discourages the use of “parental alienation syndrome,” as it is misused or used for wrongful purposes.

For the purposes of this article and throughout the rest of my reports, the terms alienation, alienating behavior and parental alienation are referring to the abusive conduct by either a party to family conflict or a professional engaged in targeting the safe parent and exploiting, for profit, the children involved. Any form of alienating behavior is an intentional act to cause harm and should be identified and corrected as such; children should be protected from this form of abuse.

The proposed legislation is solid, but there are other tactics involving psychological abuse and professional misconduct yet to be addressed. There are a host of false allegations and abusive methods that come in to play in litigation, but what they all have in common is that they cause trauma and increase risk of other injuries to both children and loving parents.

Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse - My Advocate Center 2

There is an entire body of work on this form of psychological abuse shown above in the poisoning of a child’s mind and in the manipulation of their normal behavior to break the bond between parents and children. Psychology Today featured the work of Dr. Craig Childress to explain the harm done and to demonstrate what can be done to address and correct the damaging misconduct. Excerpts of this spotlight on the issues follow:

Trauma to Safe Parents and Children

  • Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound form of psychological trauma experienced by targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. This is perhaps the principal source of anxiety for the alienated parents, who witness the abuse of their children, and are prevented from protecting them.
  • This psychological trauma of alienated parents differs from what groups like combat veterans face when they develop PTSD, yet the experience of targeted parents is a form of trauma as debilitating as any other. Although not all parents who are victims of parental alienation experience trauma, as the same event that plunges one parent into trauma may not do so with another, those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives most certainly do.
  • Losing the bond with your child is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. The childhood trauma experience leads to the development of the aggression behind parental alienation. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships. The trauma reenactment narrative represents a false drama created by the pathology of the alienating parent, in which the targeted parent is being assigned the trauma reenactment role as the “abusive parent;” the child is being induced into accepting the trauma reenactment role as the supposedly “victimized child;” and the alienating parent adopts the role of the “protective parent.” None of this false drama, however, is true.
  • The parenting of the targeted parent is entirely in normal range, and the child is in no danger and does not need any protection from that parent.

The Nature of the Problem

  • A major impediment for victimized parents is that the problem is largely systemic in nature, as support services for alienated parents are virtually non-existent, and support services for their children are also in short supply.
  • When parents of alienated children attempt to bring their concerns to child welfare authorities, as parental alienation is a form of child abuse and thus a child protection matter, these agencies often disregard the problem, and when they do become involved, rarely share their findings in family court child custody hearings, despite the fact that this information will serve the best interests of the child.
  • In parental alienation situations the targeted parent is put on the defensive, and must continually try to prove to therapists and others that he or she is not “abusive” of the child. The targeted parent is often blamed for the child’s rejection, even though he or she did nothing wrong: “You must have done something wrong if your child doesn’t want to be with you.”
  • It is often deemed irrelevant that the parenting practices of the targeted parent are entirely within normal range. The alienating parent, often skilled in the use of adversarial combat (and thus rewarded within the current adversarial system), thus has the upper hand. In this upside-down world, your child is being taken from you, and no one seems to care or understand.
  • The emotional trauma inflicted on the targeted parent is severe, and the grief of the targeted parent is deep.

Keep in mind that the intent of the parent using alienating tactics against the targeted parent is to do harm. Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse - My Advocate Center 3The effect if the abusive behavior if successful is erasing the targeted parent from the lives of their children either completely or to a significant degree.

There is no current solution to prevent this abuse or to help targeted parents and children overcome it.

  • The trauma experience captivates the psychology of the targeted parent, as the world of the targeted parent revolves entirely around the trauma experience and the false drama.
  • Repeated court dates, lawyers, therapists, custody evaluations, that all occur in the context of continuing parent-child conflict, consume the targeted parent. Yet it is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation. They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them.
  • They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.
  • As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. Instead, they must have their feet firmly planted on the ground, steady in your own emotional and psychological health, and then extend your hand to retrieve your child. But even then, given the nature of parental alienation and its profoundly damaging effects on a child, a child may not grasp the parent’s hand.

Can a Parent Engaged in Alienating Behavior Become Self-Aware and Change Course?

  • According to the work of Dr. Craig Childress, parental alienation is first and foremost an attachment-based trauma.
  • Attachment-based parental alienation is essentially a role reversal of a normal, healthy parent-child relationship.
  • Instead of serving as a “regulatory other,” which involves providing stability and meeting the child’s emotional and psychological needs, alienating parents use their children to meet their own needs, violating boundaries and seriously compromising and damaging the child’s healthy development.

If a parent is indifferent to the harm he or she is causing a child, that parent isn’t going to seek treatment and work to change behavior, let alone help heal the injury caused to children and the targeted parent. The alienating parent will refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing and, if confronted, will escalate the abusive behavior. Left to his or her own devices, the abusive parent will continue causing harm.

This pattern of continuing abuse despite laws and court orders is similar to that seen in the conduct of the perpetrator of domestic violence of a physical nature. The severity of the harm being done can be better understood by reading the statements made by Congress in House Resolution 72.

Intervention from authorities, responders, healthcare providers and other stakeholders in child protection is needed.

Learn more about tools provided to courts around the United States about coercion, bullying and deception of children, about how easy it is for the abusive parent to present as the better parent because of being skilled at lying and manipulating, and about approaches courts can take to remedy these forms of abuse.

Download and read the Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases.

Access insights about bullying and suicide rates.

Let’s talk if you are interested in learning more about solutions.

I appreciate your time here and commitment to improving protections for our children.

Deb Beacham

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