The Vicious Alienator's Game Plan
Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
Southern England Psychological Services
Abstract & Summary
This article describes the motives and demeanour of the vicious and determined alienator in preventing, by whatever means, good contact and a good relationship with the absent, non custodial parent. Two illustrations are provided. One dealing with the father and the other with the mother as the alienator. A two-step approach is presented in how to deal with the implacable hostile and non-cooperative alienator. The importance of the expert witness working together with the court is required, as well as the court acting decisively to limit the "game plan" of the alienator is emphasised.
The Vicious Alienator's Game Plan
Whether the alienator is the mother or the father, most determined alienators threaten the judicial system under whose aegis they seek revenge against the absent parent. They are totally dedicated towards shutting out or eclipsing the non custodial parent from contact with the children. The reason for this is due to the pathological and viciousness they feel towards a parent who at one time had a close and loving relationship with the child/children.
Such action by the alienator is most cruel and unjust. Everett (2006) describes this well: "..as a destructive family pathology because it attributes a quality of evil without cause or foundation to a parent who once nurtured and protected the same child that has now turned against her or him."
It is vital that courts be aware of what the "game plan" is of the alienator, and why they carry out the actions they do. Such alienators are also extremely crafty and are aware of what courts are likely to do. Only in extremely rare cases do courts act both justly and decisively when, after a prolonged undermining alienation and failure to respect the court ordered contact, the court will change the custody of the children. This change of custody will only occur after a prolonged and sustained period of going against court ordered contact arrangements.
Sometimes, even when this occurs, judges are reluctant to change the custody of children because of the "short term" concerns of this decision and the impact this may have on the children. The Judiciary is rarely concerned about the long term results on children who have been emotionally abused by a vindictive custodial parent. Two illustrations will follow, one involving a father, the other a mother. The author is aware that there is concern in many women's organizations that the diagnosis of parental alienation tends to favour the father and often vilifies the mother. This is because there is a ratio of approximately 3:1 with mothers more often being the alienator than fathers. Both alienators whether fathers of mothers consciously employ similar tactics. They are:
1. To vilify the absent parent subtly or openly thus influencing the child/children to feel and think similarly to themselves.
2. Claiming to be doing everything to get the child to have contact with the absent parent while doing all they can to undermine that objective.
3. Claiming the child does not want contact with the absent parent and claiming to be "helpless" to change the child's attitudes and behaviour in regard to the child's adamant rejection of the absent parent.
Fathers can be just as vicious and controlling as mothers in brainwashing children against their mother. The reverse also being the case. Following the two illustrations of alienation, there will be provided a two-step court action approach which the author feels is essential in order to overcome the devious "game plan" of the alienator, be it the father or the mother. The current consultant psychologist has been involved in more than 85 cases of what can only be termed parental alienation, arising from the implacable hostility of custodial parents. Now follows an example of a father and mother being an alienator.
Illustration 1 - the father as an alienator
Mr Y had been given custody of a son aged 16 and a daughter aged 14 mainly due to the fact that the mother had suffered from depression. Mr Y was a highly controlling individual who did all he could to influence the children against a caring and loving mother. The divorce had been highly acrimonious. The mother Mrs N accepted that she suffered from depression but this was some time ago and was now under control due to the medication she was receiving.
After leaving hospital, she tried unsuccessfully to communicate with her children and to have contact with Mr Y, but he had totally brainwashed the children against the mother stating she was a "crazy, unpredictable and violent woman". Father also made it clear to the children that should they wish to have contact with their mother they would no longer have a home with him, they must choose one or the other. The children therefore never responded to telephone calls, emails and letters from the mother who pleaded to have the chance to be with them. The father had inculcated a fear of insecurity, if the children wished to have contact with their mother.
Illustration 2 – the mother as an alienator
Mrs M produced any excuse or reason why two children, aged 10 and 12 could not be with their father. In the past they had a close relationship with their father. The separation and divorce was acrimonious, especially when the mother found a partner whom she wished to take on the paternal role despite the fact that her former husband was popular with the children.
Contact arrangements were made and broken. Mother claimed that the children had other things to do like going to parties or sporting events. Mrs M claimed that she told the children and informed them they could go with their father any time they wished to do so but she always suggested enjoyable activities on contact day. Mrs M also spoke in disparaging ways about her former husband but even more about his partner. Mrs M herself had a new partner whom she encouraged to take a close interest in her children even to the point of telling the children they could call her new partner "dad". The children were asked by the mediator, "Does your mother encourage you to see your father?" They replied: "Mother says we can see dad if we want to". It was clear to the mediator that mother never actively and sincerely encouraged the children to be with the father. The mother said that she did not feel she could force the children to be with their father, if they did not want to do so.
Father felt that his contact every two weeks had to "compete" with the outings and popular activities which mother deviously organised. The mediator felt that Mrs M was also speaking badly about the father whenever contact with the children was discussed.
A two-step approach to dealing with implacable hostility leading to parental alienation
After dealing with a large number of cases (85+) involving the implacable hostility of custodial parents to the now absent parent who had no residential rights over the children, it is important to mention the reasons for such events. Such hostile parents will continue to seek total control over children and will fail to co-operate with the non custodial parent and will rely on the court to back their nefarious activities. Unfortunately, a large number of alienated children rarely ever see their father or their mother under conditions of a happy and encouraged positive contact.
The psychologist and expert witness seeks to break down the implacable hostility between the custodial parent and the non custodial parent. It must be stated categorically that the behaviour of the alienator is often unalterable. The alienator will continue to practice what can only be termed as "emotional abuse", this being harmful to the children and prevents good contact of the children with a loving and caring parent.
This is tragic for the absent parent who, however, cannot be blamed for eventually giving up the struggle for contact eventually due to lack of progress, funds and the feeling that the courts are not dealing fairly with the matter. It is an even more tragic situation for the children who have lost a loving and caring parent, possibly forever, through no fault of their own, or through no fault of the now absent parent. Repercussions of suffering the loss of a good parent have been well researched. It results in pathological symptoms such as behaviour problems, lack of educational achievement, physical symptoms such as bedwetting, sleep disturbances and antisocial behaviour. Such children when they grow up also lack empathy and may develop psychopathic behaviour practicing such alienation with their own children in due course.
The two steps involved that are necessary are:
A period of mediation and if necessary deciding on a change of custody if the mediator feels that the situation is "deadlocked" due to the lack of co-operation of the alienator. This results in a lack of real encouragement by the alienator. What is necessary is that the alienator if he/she wishes not to lose custody of the children must actually, firmly and convincingly, encourage a child to enjoy good contact with the absent parent and this contact should be regular and for extended periods.
Failure for this to occur, after due warning by the court should definitely lead to a change in custody or domicile and the children being placed with the alienated parent or his/her family or removed into care. There should be no contact for some time, stipulated by the court, between the children and the alienator. This would provide opportunity for the alienated parent to rebuild a relationship with the children that has almost been destroyed by the alienator. Judicial decisions must be made eventually and decisively, primarily to safeguard the brainwashed child as well as to provide justice to the innocent and loving absent parent be it the father or the mother.
One obviously needs to be certain that whoever has, or gains custody of the child is not an abuser (sexually, physically, emotionally, or likely to neglect the child). The right of custody belongs to the parent who puts first what is in the best interest of the child. This means that the person who has custody makes absolutely certain that the other parent has full rights and responsibility in the involvement with the child. Using children for the purpose of seeking revenge on the other parent must be disallowed. A good parent is also a co-operative parent who shares, and wishes to share, parental responsibility with the other parent. This is the way to show true caring and love for children. The court must be aware of this and to be aware of the destructive and vicious game plan of the alienator who will continue to alienate the children against the absent parent if the court does not act promptly and decisively.
Everett, C. A. (2006) Family therapy for parental alienation syndrome: understanding the interlocking pathologies. In, R. A. Gardner, S. R. Sauber, D. Lorandos (Eds.) The International Handbook of Parental Alienation Syndrome, (Conceptual, Clinical and Legal Considerations). US, Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas