Courts (Where have courageous and just judges gone?)
Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
Southern England Psychological Services
Judges vary in their capacity to be hard (strong) and/or compassionate
(softer). The latter type tend to often administer lighter sentences
for the same or similar offences compared with harsher (longer)
sentences by less compassionate judges. Hence advocates will often
ask who they are facing when defending or prosecuting. All this
indicates that the administration of justice can be highly subjective.
Barristers as well as alleged offenders are clearly aware of this
difference between the judges they may face.
Judges are influenced by many elements before them in the court
including evidence, witnesses, the appearance of the alleged offender,
and the manner in which matters are communicated in connection with
the alleged offender. Justice may therefore be dependent on many
different criteria. It is accepted that the legal system is imperfect,
but on the whole “as good as it can be.” Life is after
all also imperfect as well as frequently unfair. The courts of law
are merely a reflection of this.
Many judges are also aware of how they will be regarded by society,
and the mass media in the verdicts they produce. It is this area
that concerns me most as a practicing forensic psychologist who
often works within the family court system. I, as all who are concerned
with seeking justice for those facing the traditional system feel
there is room for improvement. I feel there is a need for robust
and also compassionate sentencing and verdicts depending on the
situation. This difference of dealing with cases can never be obviated.
Family courts differ from criminal courts in that decisions are
required about those who have not committed criminal acts in most
cases. They instead deal with serious controversies between former
close partners in a relationship who are now in a state of acrimony
if not “war” which often affects children. Children
are in the middle of their parent’s powerful acrimony towards
one another. My role and experience with this type of situation
has been as an expert witness appointed either by one side in the
conflict or by the court as a single joint expert to try to sort
matters out and advise the court on what can be recommended, in
order to proceed in a way that is fair to all parties. Unfortunately
children become involved when parents are in conflict and the situation
is usually that alienation has been practiced against the non custodial
parent which tends to be the father. Fathers and sometimes mothers
(who are not the custodial parent) seek regular harmonious contact
with their children. This can cause difficulties and the non custodial
parent seeks redress through the courts. However, this does not
always happen in a fair and just way.
Opposition to contact often occurs as a result of a desire for
revenge by the custodial parent for having been rejected, or displaced.
Hence the conflict between the former partners is ongoing after
the relationship has ended. My own position, which I consider to
be independent, encourages both parents to play a part in the lives
of their children whenever possible. There are exceptions to this
when either mother or father are a danger to children. It is essential
that children be protected from physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
That is a priority.
Unfortunately false allegations are often made against one parent
or another primarily to deny them access to a child. The most vicious
and unjust allegation is the allegation of sexual abuse when it
has not in fact ever occurred. This is primarily directed by mothers
towards fathers although I have had such false allegations also
made against mothers.
Once such serious allegations have been refuted, the embittered
alienator will seek other unjustified ways to discredit the fitness
of one parent in order to deny them contact or provide them with
limited contact. The next step is to alienate the children against
an innocent, loving parent who is unable to reverse the programming
of brainwashing being systematically conducted openly or subtly.
This influences children adversely. It occurs despite the fact that
these children have often experienced love and care from the now
In time the children believe what they have been told about the
alienated parent and behave in a rejecting manner. This is of course
satisfying to the alienator who will tend to deny that they have
done anything to bring the situation about. The result is that such
children identify totally with the alienator. When courts and judges
are involved, they are faced with the consequences of alienation.
Now the children claim that they want no further contact or rare
contact with the absent parent.
Judges and minions of the court process are influenced by the “child’s
decision” to no longer be engaged with the sidelined parent.
What judges are hearing actually is the voice of the alienator who
has won over the mind of the child. That is often the end of the
matter for some judges. Others agree to a process of mediation in
an attempt to get the child round to having some contact with the
absent parent, usually the father. If this is ineffective, which
it often is, then judges claim that on the whole that they can do
nothing more but to follow the views of the child. The views of
a child are unlikely to have changed due to the fact that the process
of alienation is ongoing and continues even during the mediation
process against the non custodial parent.
It is unfortunate that judges frequently do not take this fact
into consideration. Judges tend to make some “status quo decision”
of no contact or supervised contact for the absent parent who deserves
better than this. This is normally a humiliation to the caring and
loving parent, who previously to the vicious alienating process,
had a warm and loving relationship with the child.
Most of the victims are fathers, and of course the child and children
involved. It is therefore not surprising that some militant type
organisation such as “Justice for Fathers” has developed.
They have, in often unorthodox ways, attempted to influence the
legal and political system which limits their involvement with their
own children. Other fathers opt out sooner or later in seeking any
further contact via the courts that have essentially made unjust
decisions. The traditional system it would seem has accommodated
the perpetrator of alienation and been punitive against the victim
of the process of alienation. One must ask one self is that the
justice we should expect from the judicial system?
What the Judiciary should do when alienation leads to implacable
It is often been said by many that that it is easier to criticise
than to find just and fair solutions in cases of parental conflicts
affecting children. It is this very thing I should like to do now.
It must be accepted that most alienators are mothers. From time
to time I have also encountered fathers who are the programmers
against mothers. This, however, is comparatively rare. There is
a long tradition of judges being more sympathetic toward mothers
than fathers in parental alienation type conflicts. This is often
denied by judges who claim their main concern is only the child.
Mothers, on the whole gain custody of a child. Most do not alienate
children against the father. This is for the benefit of all concerned;
most especially the child. The child thereby recognises and in time
accepts that mummy and daddy no longer live together or love one
another, but, both parents love and care and are devoted to the
child they have created. In these situations both parents support
the other parent in the eyes of the child. This unfortunately does
not occur in the case of the process of alienation.
In the case where alienation is practiced, it is usually the mother
who carries out this highly damaging activity. It does not matter
who alienates. Whoever carries out this activity is wrong, and it
should be determined that they are wrong by the court! Judges should
not be influenced by the sex of the parent who alienates the child
against the other parent. They should not be influenced by the parent
who has custody since it is most always given to the mother. They
should not be only influenced by what a child says, but why a child
says what it does.
It should be understood that he or she that programmes the child
against the other parent is abusing the child emotionally and is
abusing their position by the fact that they have custody and are
taking advantage of this to brain wash the child. Hence when the
child states that he or she does not want anything to do with a
parent with whom they previously enjoyed a warm and loving relationship,
the court must realise from where the rejection of one parent originates.
It is usually the mother that carries out the process of alienation.
The mother then claims that it is the child who has made the decision
to seek little or no contact with his/her father. This, unfortunately,
is more often or not believed by the court. Such errors of judgement
need to be rectified and rectified as soon as possible.
The court must act against the parent who is in the wrong. This,
in most cases, is the mother. She must be made aware that a child
is not only hers to mould as she sees fit against the father. She
must be made aware that the child does not have regular contact
with the father then she will certainly lose custody of the child
because she’s responsible for the child making such a decision.
The child will then be placed with the father or a member of the
father’s family. Such a threat often suffices for some mothers
at least, to see sense some then will encourage the child to have
a relationship with the father. The others who fail to accept the
decision should feel the full force of the law by losing custody
of the child.
Judges are loath to act in this way. Perhaps they do not see the
injustice they are perpetuating? Perhaps they are concerned with
how society or the media would view such a decision? Perhaps they
consider, wrongly, that it is in the best interest of the child
to have the security of being with the mother and the side lining
of the father is therefore acceptable? Taking the easy way out is
not justice it is not fair and it is not good for the child!
Alienating parents should not be allowed to be in opposition to
seek justice. This should be done whatever the sex of the alienator.
Father and mothers both deserve justice and fair play and most of
all, the child deserves this. The answer also doesn’t rest
in the prolonged legal actions that usually follow. Once it has
been established by a qualified psychologist that there has been
alienation by one parent against the other, a report by that professional,
who has investigated the matter thoroughly should lead to action
and it should be the action indicated by the findings of the psychologist.
This would reduce some of the current activities of fathers in the
effort to seek justice.*
The judiciary would also in time be viewed as showing the courage
of their convictions. There will be no further need for articles
such as the present one asking the question: “Where have courageous,
just judges gone?”
* The author of this article has already written an article “The
signs of parental alienation” Lowenstein 2005 and a number
of other articles. A list of these have been included at the end.