Abstract & Summary
What follows concerns a father who had had no contact with his son for some
considerable time. Mother was totally opposed to the boy having contact of
any kind with his father. The boy’s responses concerning contact with the father was identical to that of
the mother. The boy refused to answer telephone calls, letters or event to
accept presents from the father.
Father co-operated well and the psychologist
found no good reason why father should not have contact with his son.
Mother’s new partner was given the function of being the
child’s new and only “dad”, while the natural father was
to be called by his first name. The psychologist felt that the boy should
have good contact and to establish a relationship with his father.
Mother’s failure to cooperate in this the psychologist considered to
be an abuse of custodial power. It warranted one or more of the following
after warning the mother: 1) change of residence of the boy; or 2) removal
of the boy to a neutral place where the father could develop a relationship
with his son.
What Can be Done With an Uncooperative Alienator?
Introduction and case summary
Many cases of
families in turmoil following divorce and separation are complex and
rarely straight forward. The case which is presented in what follows is one
of those which leads to difficult decisions having to be made by an expert
witness for the Judiciary who always make the final decisions. In this case
a decision needed to be made whether a natural father should have access
and be allowed to develop a good relationship with his child despite the
fact that he had not had any contact for some considerable time with that
child. The father in the past had a drug problem but had overcome this.
Mother was totally opposed to such contact and failed
to cooperate with the Judiciary seeking for her and the child to be
assessed by an expert witness. The objective was to interview and
psychologically assess the mother in order to determine why she was so
vehemently opposed to the natural father having any contact with his son.
The son, a boy of 10 was also to be interviewed and psychologically tested
in order to assess why he so vehemently refused to see his father even
under supervised conditions. Mother claimed the boy refused even to read
father’s letters or return his telephone calls, or accept presents
sent to him on his birthdays and at Christmas.
This was the situation when the Judge asked the expert
witness to investigate the matter and report back to the Court why the
mother and the boy felt as they did and whether the father was in fact an
appropriate individual to have contact with his son. The father readily
cooperated in seeing the psychologist and being assessed through interview
and psychological tests. Several attempts were made at various venues to
accommodate the mother and the child to attend for assessment. The mother refrained from attending
interview and assessment, despite the fact that she had eventually selected
the date and the time for this assessment..
A Case Illustration
Parental alienation, of which I have seen hundreds of
cases are renowned for being difficult to resolve. The current mother in
the case to be related, was reluctant to be psychologically assessed,
despite an order from the Court for this to occur and a report to be
written for the Court to assist their decision making about the future of
the child and contact with the father.
Mrs X had left her previous partner, who was the
natural father to the child in question, after what she deemed was an
unhappy relationship In which she sought to dominate and which Mr X, her
former husband did not allow. Mr X suffered from an illness
neuro-fibromyalagia which did not respond to orthodox treatment, and the
use of normal pain killers. Mr X therefore turned to the use of marijuana.
This appeared to more effective in curtailing some of his symptoms.
Mrs X used the excuse that her partner had a drug
problem and she claimed that she was worried how this might affect their
son if he had contact with his natural father. The real reason for leaving
her partner was that she had met another man whom she was grooming to take
over the paternal role. She went so far as to change the boy’s last
name without permission of the natural father. She changed the name to the
new partner. The natural father, realizing this, deemed it was time to take
action. He found it impossible to have any communication with Mrs X or the
All phone calls and letters to the son were intercepted
by the mother. Only later did it become clear when the son was interviewed
that the boy had been told by his mother that father had no interest in
having communications with or cared about his son. This of course was
totally untrue. The boy believed his mother who had inculcated this idea in
the child’s head. There was therefore no contact with the father for
some considerable time. The mother’s new partner also failed to see
the injustice which was being perpetrated and accepted his role as
“dad” in the child’s’ life while sidelining the
natural father who was called by his first name.
When father went to Court the Judge appointed an expert
witness (the current psychologist) to see what could be done to unravel the
controversy between the former partners and ascertain whether father might
have some good contact with his son. First there was the need to assess
both parents as to their position and most importantly to assess the
natural father’s personality and whether he was suitable in playing a
positive role in his son’s life.
The father, as it turned out, had a personality which
was stable and although he suffered from a physical illness and had been on
drugs in the past, this was no longer the case, with the exception of
marijuana for medicinal purposes to help with his symptoms from
fibromyalgia. He did not appear to have any disturbing psychological or
behavioural problems. The psychologist found he was unlikely to be harmful
in any way or an abuser of his son as indicated by the mother. The
psychologist’s report was presented to the Court minus the assessment
of the child and the mother as the mother unfortunately refused or failed
to attend an appointment for assessment. The mother continued to claim that
father was a drug addict, although he was no longer taking any other drug
but marijuana and this for medicinal purposes. The father underwent hair
follicle tests to determine this.
The mother did not come for an assessment, despite
having been given numerous dates and venues. This meant that the Judge
would need to decide the next step to take. Mother had clearly failed to
adhere to the Court Order to attend for assessment. She herself had
eventually determined a date when she would come, as well as the time and
the venue, but did not attend on that occasion either. She did not even
send any reason or excuse for not attending.
The expert witness considered this a reflection of the
mother’s attitude and personality to undermine the legal process,
hoping that by denying attending for assessment she could still have total
control over the child and sideline the potential role of the father to have
contact with his son. It was the view of the expert witness that the mother
had neither respect for the Judiciary or the expert who had been appointed
by the Court. The expert witness felt the mother had no right to prevent
the boy from having good contact with the father or to change the
boy’s name without permission of the natural father to that of her
What might be done in this case
1. Mother should
be warned by the court to cooperate. The court should state what the likely
consequences could be if she failed to do so.
2. If the child
failed to have good contact with the father appropriate decisions should to
be made by the Court. These decisions can include one or more of the
mother for her lack of cooperation;
the child from the mother to a neutral setting such as a children’s
home with father having direct contact with his son. There should be no
contact between the child and the mother until contact with the father has
been strongly reestablished;
child and placing the child with the father or one of his relatives,
grandparents, sisters etc.;
therapy for the boy to facilitate good contact with his father.