THE CRIME OF PARENTAL ALIENATION
Part 4 in a Series of Articles
By Joan Kloth-Zanard, RSS, ABI and LC
This is the continued case of a family, where the father has not seen his children in almost 2 years. There is no obvious reason to this relationship breakdown other than maybe a mother who refuses to support the father having a loving relationship with his triplets. It is called Parental Alienation and it is a serious problem for all involved.
As I am a fair and honest reporter, I have again tried to reach out to the maternal side of the family, to find out why this relationship with the children and their father has been allowed to deteriorate to this level. So far, I have received no response back, creating only more wonder and suspicion as to what is going on.
Could it be that the mother has family of origin issues with her own parents? Was there an abandonment issue with her own father or mother? Could it be that she is stuck in the anger stage of the grieving process and cannot move forward? Is it possible that she has extreme low self-esteem that makes her believe that she has to be perfect, because if she is not perfect, then she is not loveable; and if she is not lovable then she will be abandoned and alone without her children? Could it be deep depression from her own childhood that she is projecting through her own children toward the relationship with their father? Or could it be something worse, like a mental health issues that needs to be addressed so that she can move forward in her life and be able to properly parent by allowing the children to have their own emotions and feelings? Or could it be that she cannot control her own impulses when it comes to the borders and boundaries between the children and her, something this reporter calls, Borderless Boundaries?
It is for all of these reasons listed above that this reporter, author and expert in Parental Alienation, strongly believes that the first step, in any contested custody, visitation or contempt of a court order which involves the children, should be court ordered counseling. This counseling should be for a minimum of 3 months with a specialist in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and Parental Alienation or at the very least, specializes in Anger and Grief Management along with impulse control. But I hear you asking, how is this going to help if the parent is not going to the counseling or cooperating when they are in the therapists office? And what about finding these specialized counselors that do understand how to treat and solve for this kind of emotional projection and breakdown of relationships?
Let’s start with the first question, how do you deal with the parent who refuses to cooperate with the counseling orders. This is where a set of penalties or sanctions must be firmly in place. And then judges must apply them so that the parent gets the point, that the courts will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior. It should be like the 3 strikes and you are out theory, based on the fact that time is of the essence when it comes to the children. A violation of this order is NOT just about not going to counseling but not doing the hard work involved in the therapy session to deal with each parents’ own personal issues. In fact, it will be self-evident if a parent is cooperating with counselig by the children’s behavior and attitudes. And so my recommendations would be as follows.
- First, a warning is issued at the start of the orders that if either parent does NOT cooperate with the counseling, including not bad mouthing the other parent, impeding visitation or not allowing free communication between the children and the other parent, they will risk loss of custody and being forced to have only supervised visitation until such time that they have cooperated with the therapist. They will have three strikes and then they are out and will loose custody, whether temporarily or permanently. In addition, in order for them to move forward to the next step in the process, going to parenting classes, they have be cleared by a panel of not less than 3 therapists who agree that the parent has made progress and is ready to maintain a healthy relationship with their children.
- 3rd Week Mark: If a parent has not started weekly counseling, or is refusing to do the necessary work while in therapy, then they should be court ordered to do community service with children who have no parents.
- 6th Week mark: If the parent still has not cooperated with the counseling order, a fine of 10% of that parents income, which will include all child support income, will be charged and given to the targeted parent or to a charity for children or placed in an escrow account that collects interest. In addition, if the parent is the child support receiving parent, all child support will be put into an escrow account collecting interest until such time that the parent can prove to the courts that they will NOT impede in the relationship and have done the work necessary in counseling. If the parent is the child support-paying parent, an additional child support payment will be put into an escrow account for each 4 weeks of non-compliance, to be either returned to this parent once they comply or to be divided equally and given to the children when they turn 18 if no compliance ever occurs.
- 9th Week Mark: If the parent has still not complied with the courts orders or is still impeding, as evidenced in the children’s behavior, then the children will be immediately placed in the targeted parents custody and supervised visitation will be ordered for the offending parent. Again, via a panel of no less than 3 Counselors, this parent must clear to resume or reestablish a healthy unsupervised relationship and visitation with the children.
- 12th Week Mark: If after 12 weeks, the parent has still not gone to therapy and done the work required, after a final review by a panel of no less than 3 Counselors, the parent will Loose Custody, whether temporary or permanent. This is the only way to ensure that the children’s mental health and best interests are maintained.
If however, a parent has cooperated and done the work necessary in counseling, and via a consensus of no less than 3 other therapists, who deem the parent to be a fit parent, then this parent moves on to the Parent Class Stage of the divorce process. It is my belief, that with a standard of recommendations followed by the courts, we will see less volatile divorces, shorter divorce cases, less money wasted that is better earmarked for the children and best of all, chances are pretty good that if the parents are doing their part, then the children will never need counseling in relation to the divorce.
But what about these specialized counselors, where do we find them? This can be done in one of two ways. First, any counselor who wants to be involved in family court proceedings must go through a special training class for Alienation in much the same way as Judges, Guardian Ad Litems and Attorneys for the Minor child must do. Or if they are already well versed in Alienation, believe they can identify it and treat it, they can take a Mastery’s test to prove their expertise. This would also give the courts the opportunity to ask some questions about how different counselors are presently treating for it and what their typical recommendations are so the courts can learn what is new and developing in this area.
The last piece of this puzzle involves the constant court delays and stall tactics used to keep the children from a loving parent who has no substantiated claims of neglect or abuse. This issue is two-fold. The first part being if there is an issue involving visitation interference and a court delay of more than a few weeks. Do the need for swift and timely resolution to the visitation issue; the children’s physical custody should be changed immediately to the targeted parent temporarily or until the trial date at bare minimum. This prevents the aggressive parenting from gaining any further benefit from the court delays and stall tactics.
But I hear you saying, wouldn’t this mean alienating aggressive parents are going to start filing even more false allegations of abuse and neglect? Yes, I do believe that could happen, which is why the courts need to put their foot down when a parent is found to have filed false allegations. If the courts stood up to those parent filing false reports of abuse and penalized them or at the very least referred the charges back to the respective police department or agency to take appropriate legal action, I think, that parents would start to think twice before filing a bogus claim of abuse.
No this is not a perfect science and a one solution fits all but it is a start to bettering the way family courts are handling high conflict custody and divorce situations. If you would like to read more in depth about my ideas, contact me or come to our Monthly Meetings on the 2th Thursday of the Month at the Southbury Public Library in Southbury, CT.