I have had many years and numerous encounters in Courts of Law
facing what can only be described as many hostile adversaries when
I raise the subject of parental alienation as being a reason why
a child does not wish contact with a parent. I have represented
both fathers and mothers who seek real and equal contact with their
children and the opportunity of playing a loving and caring role
in their lives. Sometimes I have succeeded in this. More often than
not I have failed. I have attempted to analyse the reasons for success
and failure. It depends to a large degree on the Judge of the case
and whether there is any possibility of moving forward as a result
of the Judge decreeing very firm punitive actions against any parent
who fails to encourage a child to have contact with a non resident
parent. Fortunately, at least half of the time I have been appointed
as a single joint expert witness. This of course is helpful if one
is independent and seeks to represent both parties in a dispute,
and with the effort of seeking to resolve such a dispute for the
benefit of children as well as both parents.
My own position has always been that I will continue to be even
handed. Both parents have the right to help to care and rear a child
they have mutually created. This is my basic principle. The obvious
exception is that there is to be irrefutable proof that none of
the parents have, or are likely, to abuse a child, physically, sexually
or emotionally. This approach or principle I consider to be both
independent and even handed.
One might say that such a position or such a principle would be
deemed, just and fair before a Court of Law. As may be seen by what
follows, this certainly is not always the case when viewed by a
Judge. This is especially likely to occur when a child/children
refuse to have contact or anything to do with one of the parents.
It would appear that Judges are ill-disposed to question in any
depth why a child should refuse contact with a parent with whom
that child had in the past a good or warm relationship. My dialogue
with a number of Judges can be summarised and illustrated by what
The conversation is between a Clinical Psychologist (myself) and
at least half a dozen eminent Judges with whom I have had such conversations.
The narrative for confidential reason, has had to be fictionalised
and combined with the number of Judges with whom I have discussed
matters. The content of this dialogue does present a different viewpoint
of the psychologist (P) and the Judge (J).
P – I am pleased that you have allowed me the time and
opportunity to discuss this case with you in private.
J – I will of course have to keep a record of this conversation
as this case is ongoing. I suppose that you realise that the child
does not want contact with ……………
P – That is what the child says, but in my assessment
of the child and the family in greater depth I find that there
has been considerable influencing by the custodial parent.
J – That may be the case or not, but there is no doubt
in my mind, that this child is adamant about not wishing contact,
or very limited contact, with the absent parent.
P – Does it not matter what the basic reasons are for
such an implacable hostility to one parent? It should be remembered
that before the break-up of the relationship between the parents,
and their acrimonious separation, the child loved and enjoyed
interacting with both parents.
J – So the parent claims. You claim to have evidence of
this and I have read it and it could well be true. It is however,
what the child feels here and now that matters to me. There must
be very good reasons why the child rejects his/her parent. Perhaps
the parent and the child were not as close as the absent parent
indicates, or the evidence you have presented indicates.
P – There is however, good evidence via pictures and videos
of the child being affectionate and close to the parent that is
now being rejected. That was before the acrimonious divorce or
J – I spoke to the child about that. The child states
categorically that he/she was pretending to be happy with that
P – Pretending! Why should a child pretend to be happy
with a parent? One could easily now say that the child is pretending
to be unhappy with the parent and therefore rejects that parent
because of influences of alienation processes.
J – It is not my habit to play with words Dr. I simply
accept the fact that the child wants no contact or very limited
contact with this parent. There is no way of changing that fact,
whatever the reasons are for this.
P – I believe there are ways of changing the child’s
attitude. I think you and I differ in so far as I look for deeper
reasons why a child feels estranged from a former close parent.
Very often, it is due to the alienation the child has experienced
while under the total control and influence of the custodial parent.
I have provided evidence of this in my report.
J- That may be so, but even if you could prove this has occurred,
how does it alter the facts: the child is unhappy with the remaining
absent parent and wishes nothing or little to do with the now
P – Don’t you think that there are both long to short-term
negative effects in thus sidelining a parent?
J – Sometimes a child, over time, may change his/her mind
and might want contact, but isn’t that up to the child?
P – Can you really leave such important decisions to a
child, who is vulnerable having been brainwashed against the absent
J – As you are aware, the views of Sturge and Glaser,
people in your own field, consider the child’s decision
on parental contact needs to be final.
P – There are a number of psychiatrists and psychologists
who disagree with the views of Sturge and Glaser and are opposed
to these opinions and the groundswell is growing. There are reasons
for this and there are alternative ways being suggested for dealing
with parental alienation or parental alienation syndrome.
J – As a Judge, I myself am being judged, not only by
the judiciary who agree to certain precedents to being judged
but also by society at large. I know your views. These are on
the whole in the minority, that the child who has been proven
to have been programmed against an absent parent should be removed
from that parent and handed to the alienated parent.
P- That, I agree is an extreme solution and one that I do not
altogether favour. What I actually advocate is that the child
be removed from the poisonous environment where the process of
programming and brainwashing continues unabated. The child should
be removed to a neutral environment where he/she can receive treatment
and where gradually increased access can occur between the child
and the alienated parent as well as the alienator. Access should
initially be under the supervision for both parents.
J- Do you really believe that the child removed from the one
parent with whom there is a relationship is better for the child?
P- Yes I do believe that. A custodial parent who programmes
a child against another parent is conferring on that child pathological
long-term harm. This harm done is perpetuated in the child’s
life as well as perpetuated in the next generation. There is considerable
evidence of this. We must consider such long-term harm to the
J – I have read the few pieces of research that point to
the possibility of long-term harm being done to the child via
the process of alienation, but I am faced with dealing with the
here and now.
P – The evidence is growing that being reared by two loving,
caring parents is still best for the mental health of the child
in the short and the long-term. Don’t you think we should
be aware of the long-term pathological consequences as well as
J – To tell you the truth I am more concerned with the
here and now. I do not believe that tearing a child away from
a custodial parent, whether that parent is an alienator or not,
is both feasible and of value to the child. It appears to me a
heartless thing for a Judge to impose and I for one cannot do
P – This is because you are viewing the matter not in
depth or in the long-term. You and I view the matter from a different
perspective. You see things from the short-term while I see it
from the long-term. You see the temporary harm done to a child
who, having been brainwashed, is removed to a non indoctrinating
environment, where the child can experience gradual contact with
the sidelined natural parent. The child can gradually experience
a healthier emotional environment having been removed from the
“folie a deux” influences. If possible, the alienating
parent should also receive some form of treatment although this
is a difficult task to achieve successfully.
J – Do you really believe that such a move is good for
P – Yes, I do when compared with them remaining totally
under the pathological influence, often a psychotic influence,
of an embittered alienator. I liken it to the cutting out of a
cancer: painful in the short-term, but life-saving in the long-term.
J – I am, as you know, not a surgeon but a Judge. The
custodial parent should co-operate with allowing contact of the
child with the absent parent. Whatever happens behind the scenes,
the child is at present the basis on which I make my decisions
and so do many of my other colleagues in the judiciary.
P – Yes, it appears we cannot agree, but at least we have
been able to consider our different positions, and others can
read about it. Judges are often fathers of children and sometimes
their relationship also ends acrimoniously, or they know someone
close to them where this has occurred. It will take but one or
a few Judges to consider the harm done in the long-term (see bibliography)
to the child and the injustice to the alienated parent, before
the laws will register this and the many injustices inadvertently
currently committed by the judiciary will come to an end.
J – Until that time, I cannot see any Judges forcing a
child to have contact with a parent that the child claims to fear
or abhor, whatever the reasons may be for this.
It may be noted that there has been no final resolution to how
the judiciary and the current psychologist, and a number of others,
can see eye to eye in the matter of parental alienation or parental
alienation syndrome. The opportunity however has been given to see
how each views the situation. This may well in due course lead to
research being carried out providing evidence of the short as well
as long-term effects of excluding one or other of the parents from
the child’s life due to the insidious way children are programmed
following an acrimonious separation or divorce against a former
loving partner and parent. Further research into this situation
may well in due course provide sufficient evidence for the judiciary
to alter its current adopted view of judging by the reality, as
they see it, of a child’s wishes. It is vital for psychologists,
psychiatrists and the judiciary to work more closely together, and
perhaps even in harmony, in making decisions which will provide
children with the love, care and guidance of both parents contributing
to their future. Failing to provide access for either a father or
mother to children because they claim they do not wish contact could
be viewed in a similar vein as the child who refuses to eat what
is healthy and instead preferring sweets or convenience foods such
as burgers! Children who have been swayed towards one parent can
equally be unswayed and be eventually capable of adjusting to both
parents who have so much to contribute to his/her future happiness
Baker, A. J. L. (2005a). The long-term effects of parental alienation
on adult children: A qualitative research study. American Journal
of Family Therapy, 33(4), 289-302.
Baker, A. J. L. (2005b). The cult of parenthood: A qualitative
study of parental alienation, Cultural Studies Review, 4(1), np
Fox, D. (2001). Children of divorce: Is there a personality component?
Journal of Divorce & Marriage, 35(3-4), 107-124.
Gardner, R. A. (2004). The relationship between the parental alienation
syndrome (PAS) and the false memory, American Journal of Family
Therapy, 32(2), 79-99.
Laughrea, K. (2002). Alienated family relationship scale: Validation
with young adults. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 17(1),