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Parental Alienation in the US, Wake Up Australia!

It makes me wonder why the Family Court of Australia does not recognise when a child is deliberately alienated from the non residental parent, by the residental parent. This sees the destruction of a good relationship with the non residental parent (usually, but not always, the father). I have read Dr Gardner's book and Dr Baker's book on the subject and it appears the American courts are aware of this type of behaviour. It is so terrible to watch the lies the other parent tells to destroy the kids relationship with the other parent, this I liken to criminal behaviour and there should be systems in place to prevent this in the Australian Family Court, but there is nothing. Children are used as pawns and in a lot of cases it is for purely financial gain by the residential parent, who appears to suffer no consequences for this behaviour.

Dr Linda Gottlieb (a Family Therapist) has recently written another book on the alienation of children (The Parental Alienation Syndrome). One of the comments she made was she noticed that working with 'Foster and Abused children'  made her very aware that these children often wanted a relationship with their estranged parent (often the children had been removed from a home environment), but in the case of Alienated children , these kids wanted nothing to do with the other parent. She also felt that the children were saying this to please the residental parent. Sadly, these children  often go on to repeat the mistakes of the previous generation as adult children that have been exposed to this abuse. What this means is more generations of 'children living in poverty' and living in a welfare cycle can be hard to escape from.

My husband (who himself grew up in an orphange) has been estranged from his children for 17 years now, with little hope of any reconcilation, but I am hopeful that more can be done to prevent future generations from going through all this emotional separation and pain.

The following is the the link to the website:- www.endparentalalienation.com and there is also a book in print by Linda J Gottlieb.

There is also a Facebook page, "Make PARENTAL ALIENATION a crime" which often has some interesting cases (but all US based). Maybe the Australian media might take up the story one day, instead of continually running the story of  the CSA Dead Beat Dads' stories.
Thank you for that link.

We did endeavour to add a couple of areas into the detailed definition of family violence and  they were listed in our submission as:

(e) Where there is no physical violence or abuse, withholding the child from contact with the other parent or family member

One of the largest complaints we receive when parents are separating or have separated is that one parent is withholding contact from the other or one parent relocates until such time as Federal Magistrates' orders can be obtained. A previous Senate review of the legislation said, actions that deliberately exacerbate conflict and increase children's exposure to conflict are not uncommon and could be reasonably assessed as abusive and harmful to children".

Also

(d) Paediatric Condition Falsification (PCF)

Another area of concern in relation to abuse is when a parent or carer unnecessary subjects the child to unwarranted medical examinations or procedures and this issue is addressed in part (d) of our proposal.

Some parents deliberately fabricate and/or lie about physical illness and/or injury. According to research the fabrication almost always involves a mother (very rarely a male relative or caregiver) manufacturing symptoms in her child in order to serve her own emotional needs. The perpetrator may give exaggerated reports of an existing illness, or physically induce symptoms in an otherwise healthy child through starvation, poisoning, secret administration of emetics, etc. The victim receives repeated (unavailing) treatments that may include unnecessary surgeries and other mutilating procedures.

Main stream research in the U.S indicates approximately ten percent of victims die annually. Perpetrators usually present themselves as devoted parents closely involved in their childs treatment. They are eager to communicate with the healthcare team, and often have enough knowledge either as medical professionals themselves or as well informed laypeople and do so on a sophisticated level. It is widely agreed that the disorder centres on the perpetrators need for positive attention from physicians. As one survivor put it, My mother was courting the doctors, and my body was the frail gift she offered to attract them. We raise this medical and psychological malady as an issue that is being reported to us by litigants and others who are separating in conflictual cases.

The whole subject of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and PCF (Paediatric Condition Falsification) is an area, I believe, that we have not done a lot of detailed research on in Australia and overseas longitudinal information and studies on all of this seem light.

What we seem to be seeing, in the cases where there is a great deal of hostility by one parent toward the other, is that the sorts of things you are talking about materialise in different degrees. The most common I see is with-holding contact for a considerable period until orders are made or during various hearings submitting affidavit material that continually refers to difficulty in communicating and outlines how bad the other parent is. Often when an order is made and handover has to occur or at a supervised arrangement what never fails to amaze me is "suddenly" how civil that other parent becomes. I have read some case material that you would absolutely swear that this could not possibly be the same person who wrote the affidavit(s), where the person who previously clearly despised the other parent, and nothing would ever work when in court, suddenly speaks kindly to and acts as if they had been getting along since day one.

Its almost as if some parents have extreme Jekyll and Hyde personalities that often seems to manifest itself in the affidavit material and a diatribe of positively erroneous and degrading information permeates the material.

How do you fix a parent who wants to take out all the ills of the relationship on the other parent? I am not sure legislation will do it and certainly you would be hard pressed to get an agreement on the standard of evidence required. Currently as it stands in the definition of family violence (within the Family Law Act anyway) there is no standard of evidence required, simply a statement made.

The question remains as to how do you work out (standard of evidence, key factors, remedy's) when a child is deliberately alienated from the non residential parent (spends time with parent), by the resident parent (lives with parent).

Some ideas are welcome here as a proper framework would be required.

Does the presumption of equal time after separation with a clause allowing some negotiation to accommodate a parents ability to share time do it? Will that cover every case? How will we determine the factors around allegations of family violence? What changes will be required to the respective definitions in the Act?

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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