The author in this section seeks to view parental alienation and the
difficult decisions which have to be taken from the point of view of the
Judiciary. Making the most appropriate decisions is in part based on the
conclusions reached by the expert witness, but additionally other matters
need to be taken into consideration. These other matters are outside the
purview and expertise of the expert witness. Five areas are covered:
1) expert witnesses and their limitations;
2) the confessions of an expert witness;
3) good versus poor parents;
4) Parents in conflict;
5) contrasting the Judiciary and the expert
One Expert Witness Attempting to Explain Families in Turmoil Leading to
What follows will consist of five areas frequently encountered by expert
witnesses and the Family Courts. The areas to be covered are: 1) expert
witnesses and their limitations; 2) the confessions of an expert witness;
3) good versus poor parents; 4) parents in conflict; 5) contrasting the
Judiciary and the expert witness.
1. Expert witnesses and their limitations
Most, if not all, Judges originate from the legal
profession and are former Solicitors or Barristers. They know the laws and
how to find answers concerned with the law. I do not know of any
psychologist, or psychiatrist, or social worker who has become a Judge.
Most members of the legal profession, and most especially Judges, are
unlikely to view matters as do those of the medical profession. Judges
guard their profession and integrity carefully, and when in doubt consider
laws, rules of law, and precedent cases. These are for guidance in future
cases they may encounter. Judges are therefore unlikely to see matters from
the perspective of a psychologist or psychiatrist.
It is therefore not strange, but sensible, that Judges
seek guidance from other professions to help them reach decisions at least
partly based on psychological or psychiatric evidence. Judges are however,
at liberty to accept or ignore evidence presented by psychological expert
witnesses or any other experts. Judges have their own opinions. These are
based on their knowledge of the laws and their interpretation of evidence
from other professions.
Experts need to keep this in mind making certain that
the conclusions they reach on a case do not stray into the area of Judicial
decisions. Expert witnesses are involved to give advice based on their
areas of expertise, knowledge and training. If their conclusions reached
are not convincing, or are based on biases or lack of careful inspection,
such conclusions will not influence the Judicial decisions.
2. Confessions of one expert witness
I walk with trepidation into future cases of families
in turmoil. I might receive fairly complicated cases. I have studied,
researched and written about various aspects of families in turmoil and
have had my many actual cases referred to me by Solicitors, Barristers,
parents and even the Judiciary. I have been involved in cases where tough
actions have been indicated. This has led to the Judiciary having to take
tough decisions also. Some of those decisions are, and some are not, what I
would have decided based on my own evidence.
I am known by some of the Judiciary as taking an extreme, and even hard, views on the subject of
parental alienation. For this reason I need to question my conscience as
well as the wisdom with which I wrestle every so often, based on my
experience, qualifications and research. While I am asked to assess the
motivation and behaviour of clients, I am also asked following this to draw
conclusions. These seem like decisions, but they are not. It is for the
Judiciary to make the final decisions. These may be based on my own
conclusions, or my conclusions reached can be ignored by the Judiciary.
Some Judges welcome my approach and in the way I
investigate families in turmoil, by relying on reports, statements,
interviews, and the use of psychological tests as well as my own
intuitions. The Judiciary by now is fully aware that it is in the best
interest of children that both natural parents play a role in the
child’s life. This is providing love, care and guidance to the
children. The exception must by when either parent is an abuser physically,
sexually or emotionally or neglects the child/children.
Having reached a very old age, I have always tried to
be reasonably just and fair to both parents and also to grandparents and
the extended family when families are in turmoil. I attempt to see things
from their point of view whenever possible, although I may not always agree
with what their views are. I do not believe that the custodial parent has
any more rights than the absent parent following divorce and separation to
have good contact with children. Any prevention of parental responsibility
in being allowed to be a good parent, must be considered an injustice and
not in the best interest of the child/children.
3. Good versus poor parents
I have frequently emphasised that good parents must
welcome the involvement of both parents in bringing up their
child/children. Any parent who feels otherwise cannot be viewed as
following a good parental example. If such a parent cannot be convinced, or
treated, to avoid alienating a child against another parent, it must be
accepted that that child will be suffering from emotional abuse. Such
parents suffer from implacable hostility and sometimes even a mental
aberration or illness that makes them ill-suited to be a good parent. Their
influence on children is wholly undesirable. A child does not benefit from
such a parent. Unless such parents have a real change in attitude and
behaviour, their role must be considered injurious to the child and should
not be allowed to continue.
Needless to say, the Judiciary has not always been in
accord with my own views. Sometimes I have even been viewed as biased
against the custodial parent and in favour of the absent parent. When this
occurs it is for a good reason or reasons.
Sometimes I propose removing a child from a parent with whom the
child has a strong intimate relationship i. e.
the mother/father to the exclusion of the other parent. Judges have not
always followed my advice of removing the child from a custodial parent who
is controlling and abusive considering my stance extreme and not
therapeutic, and possibly in their opinion harmful to the child. However,
they ignore the fact that the custodial parent is controlling, influencing
the child and preventing good contact with the other parent. This is
difficult to break without drastic action and the removal of that child
from the controlling influences of the custodial parent.
4. Parents in conflict
Judges may agree with me that a parent who has
alienated a child is evil or has a sick aspect to their personality. Many
Judges consider it more harmful to break the bond the child has with that
alienating custodial parent even if that parent can be proven to be an
alienator. Many Judges consider it is too extreme and harmful to the child
to remove such a child from a parent. They will consider that a child will
be traumatized if it is separated from the strong bond he/she has, even if
that parent is an alienator. Needless to say I disagree with such a stance
for several reasons:
is not in the best interest of the child to be made to believe that they
have one very good parent while the other parent, with whom the child has
had a good relationship, is bad and to be rejected.
2. Deep down the
child realised he/she has been lied to but the child for fear of losing the
second parent is forced, and actually believes the lie he/she has been
3. This results in
the child rejecting the now absent parent and thereby losing an integral
part of himself/herself, as well as that absent parent and the guidance,
support and love that parent may give.
4. The child
begins truly to believe the absent parent deserves to be treated with
hostility and contempt as the child has increasingly identified with the
child’s hatred for the now rejected parent reaches a point when the
child openly states to others (to the pleasure of the custodial parent): “ I hate him/her…..I wish he/she would go
away…..We don’t need him/her…….He/she causes
nothing but trouble……We are better off without him/her.”
6. Sometimes when
the mother or father has developed a new relationship the child will, with
the alienator’s encouragement embrace the new person and accept him/her
as the new parent while rejecting the natural parent. This is not in the
best interest of the child or indeed the alienated parent.
It must be said that the alienating parent actually
often believes that the hatred for the now absent parent is justified. They
fail to see the damage they are doing to their vulnerable child.
5. Contrasting the Judiciary and the expert witness
The Judiciary may fail to see and close their minds to
these issues. They therefore make decisions which do not disturb the
‘status quo’., Since they cannot alter the implacable hostility
of the alienating parent, Judges will frequently develop views such as the
1. Nothing appears
to be effective in resolving the animosity of the parents or of one parent
towards the other. This includes the use of therapy. It is therefore in the
view of the Judiciary least harmful if no further efforts are made to alter
the child’s desire to reject the absent parent. Perhaps in time the
child will realise the importance of such a parent and resume a
relationship. (Unfortunately this rarely happens from the evidence in the
2. Perhaps, the
now absent parent who has been rejected by the child and the custodial
parent has actually done something in the past to warrant being rejected!?
3. I (the Judge)
must make a decision, however difficult it seems which appears to me to be
the least harmful to the child. Removing the child from the remaining
parent is likely to be traumatic for the child. Placing the child with the
now absent parent, or in a neutral environment will be a tremendous
upheaval for the child. The older child may even run away and return to the
custodial parent if forced away from the custodial parent.
4. A judgment, no
matter how difficult, on the basis of what is likely to be least harmful
and destructive to the child must be made. This may mean leaving the child
with the alienating parent.
5. The Judiciary
may be aware that the child has been manipulated into rejecting a parent
but cannot see how this situation can be reversed without there being a
traumatic reaction with a child via a change of residence.
6. The Judiciary
is frequently aware that the process of alienation is an
“addiction” which involves an essentially “sick
(The basis of such an addiction is the hostility they
feel for the now absent parent. They will perpetuate their alienation much
as a alcoholic will continue drinking despite the
pressure to stop. They will justify their behaviour because they are unable
to accept that they are not only harming the victim of alienation i.e. the
child, but they are eventually harming their own future by rejecting a
former good parent. They are also harming themselves by excluding a
potentially helpful and caring father/mother. A cooperative now absent
parent can assist in many ways to make the life or the burden of bringing
up a child easier.)
7. The Judiciary
may feel that having tried all apparent options of giving advice,
recommending therapy, and having therapy, that there is nothing further
that can be done to deal with the continuing obstacle of the child refusing
to have good contact with the absent parent.
Ideally matters should not continue as they are and the
Judiciary considers it best to avoid extremes such as change of residence.
In somewhat rare cases they have considered changes of residence for the
child who has been seriously alienated against and absent parent and thereby
has suffered from emotional abuse.