Monday, December 15, 2008

Why Do I Need Consultative Services with My Parental Alienation Case?

Some may wonder: Why is it helpful to have a consultant in addition to my attorney in a
case involving parental alienation? There are several reasons. A few are listed below.

First, cases involving parental alienation virtually always find the targeted parent being falsely vilified in some manner. Experience has taught that if this is not properly dealt with, these false allegations never tend to “go away.” When handled properly, these false allegations can actually work on your behalf. The way that is done is not standard operating procedure within Family Law. These issues require an approach that may seem even unwise to your attorney, so you, as a client would be hard pressed to have such a conversation with your attorney. This is best handled by a consultant with expertise in parental alienation. I have found that once this occurs, the attorney realizes that such consultative input can be of significant value. I had one attorney refer to my role as consultant as the “secret weapon” in the case.

Second, since the targeted parent finds themselves in the disadvantaged position of having to constantly defend themselves against various false allegations, a significant amount of preparation in warranted in identifying these critical points and developing strategies or countermeasures for their defeat. This is almost never done adequately. Rather, it is typically done in a more knee-jerk fashion, if it at all. To insure that this is done properly, a strategy worksheet is developed which identifies these specific issues, and then develops specific strategies that are ready and waiting for use. For example, let us imagine that there have been abuse reports filed falsely, and that concern exists that these reports (regardless of their findings) will be used to cast an atmosphere of doubt and concern about you as a parent. In such a case, the countermeasures might include detailed investigation into the specifics of the reports, their sequence, and history, to create an understanding of the pattern of vilification that they create. Another countermeasure might be to consider an independent Psychological Evaluation which is focused on the specific allegations contained in the abuse reports, with an eye to reveal how out of character such behaviors would be. A third countermeasure might be to look for other patterns of misrepresentation engaged in by the other/alienating parent that would reveal this tendency to misrepresent events as a strategy to hoodwink the court. When these three strategies are prepared for and developed, a positive outcome is much more likely. However, given the busy schedules of most attorneys, the development of these strategies is typically considered a luxury, when in fact, they actually are more of a necessity for success. The specific role of the consultant is to provide just this layer of preparation and pre-warning into the litigation process.

Thirdly, you do not know what you do not know. When entering into the environment of Family Court, one relies on the advice and guidance of one’s lawyer to shepard one through the process. One must recall that Family Lawyers are Lawyers and not mental health professionals. Attorneys often make strategic decisions within a case and present the result of their decision to their client, precluding the client from the decision making process. For example, let us suppose that a custody dispute is under way and that parental alienation is present. Depending on the area, and personal preferences of the lawyer, it might be suggested that a Guardian be appointed vs. a Custody Evaluator to help the court in determining what is best for the child. In cases with parental alienation, the wrong choice on this question can seriously sabotage the case, however the reasons for this may be completely outside the expertise of the otherwise competent family lawyer. In these instances, the involvement of an experienced consultant can be invaluable. There are many other examples where otherwise insignificant or pedestrian choices, which would make little difference if the case did not include parental alienation, would be devastating in a case with parental alienation.

Fourth, in cases involving parental alienation, therapists, evaluators, and guardians are not created equal. While the vast majority of these professionals would attest some level of familiarity with parental alienation, experience has shown that the vast majority of these professionals do not truly “get it.” This is routinely devastating to these cases, with these therapist, evaluators, and guardians, becoming a voice in the chorus of the alienation, rather than the voice exposing it. One task that can be performed by the consultant is to research, interview and evaluate who truly does and who does not “get it.” This is not something that an attorney can be expected to be able to do, but it is of vital importance. It is not something that the client can do as well, however for other reasons. This task is something that the experience consultant can do with confidence.

While other areas of law (criminal, civil litigation) utilize consultants with great frequency, such is not the case in Family Law. Experience has taught however that when parental alienation is present in a case, such expertise is extremely valuable. Cases involving this problem are quite specialized and have an entire body of information that, if used properly, can have extremely beneficial effects on case outcome. Such utilization however, requires preparation, an overall case strategy and specific tactical

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two Courses Completed - Two New Courses

As you may know, we have just completed two courses that are currently available for purchase. They can be found on the link to the website. Each course is composed of three one hour sessions, and are downloadable to your computer. The courses are: Treatment of Alienated Children: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why and Family Court: What Works, What Doesn't and Why. In the first course, the current treatment modalities are reviewed, as are all the various treatment strategies. Inquiry is made into learning the ingredients for success in the treatment of alienated children. There are clear answers here, and this course identifies what to look for and what to avoid. The second course addresses how the Family Court System operates. It is well known that Family Court is probably the most unpredictable court system of all. The reasons for this are made clear, and, in spite of this quality, the basic principles for success are identified. Many are surprised to learn that these elements have less to do with the law and the facts of the case than they do with the case presentation.

The feedback received thus far has been very positive. I very much encourage your feedback on all of the courses offered. I learn a great deal from hearing your thoughts and suggestions, and appreciate your unique perspectives. Even though PAS is a very patterned phenomenon, it is also the case that all situations are unique, within this pattern. It is this uniqueness that helps us to further understand, so your feedback is appreciated.

I am also excited to announce that two new courses are under construction, as we speak. They are each two hours in length (two one hour sessions). The first course (being recorded December 3 and December 10) is entitled: Parenting Alienated Children. The second course is also in reference to the Parenting of Alienated Children, but is specifically focused on the unique challenges of the upcoming holidays. Both of these courses are focused on the "do's and don'ts" of dealing with children when contact may still be occurring, but with the children being alienated from you. We will discuss the behavioral principals that have been shown to be most effective in this challenging context. We will use real life situations and discuss the various options in their management, and walk through specific examples. Information about these courses can be gotten by contacting us through the website, as the details have not yet found themselves onto the site.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Consultative Services?

Why Do I Need a Consultant?

First and foremost, if you were searching for information about Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome, it is likely that you may be personally concerned about these issues in your own life and family. If so, it is vitally important that you realize that the specific issues that appear in alienation cases are very different than those arising in even a contentious divorce when alienation is not an issue. A few examples may be illustrative.

It is well understood that visitation interference is a central theme is alienation cases, as are false allegations of abuse. If one’s attorney is not familiar with this, it is very likely that improper advice will be given, such as “not making waves,” that the “kids will come around” and “not to make an issue of a little bit of visitation being missed.” If alienation was not present in an ongoing divorce, this advice would be very likely appropriate. However, if alienation is afoot, such advice could likely begin an avalanche of loss in a parent’s relationship with their children during and after divorce. Many otherwise competent and experienced attorneys who are unfamiliar with PAS will make this error in advice and unwittingly trigger such an avalanche of loss.

In the context of high conflict divorce where alienation is present, it is well understood that false allegations of abuse against the Targeted Parent abound as a strategy to gain advantage in the custody dispute. If an otherwise competent attorney however not intimately familiar with alienation, is representing a client who has been wrongly accused of being abusive to their child, they might very well recommend that that client agree to say, an Anger Management Course, so as to placate the other side and to convey to the Court that their client is being responsible. Such advice is commonly given even though the client in question does not have an anger problem. Such advice might also be given as a means for that client to have visitation, perhaps supervised, rather than have the visitation completely cut off. Again, if alienation was not present in a case, such advice could be sound under certain circumstances. However, if alienation is present, such advice would very likely stigmatize that parent in the perception of the Court as being an angry and difficult parent, when this is not the case, causing further injury to the relationship with the child. Further, such advice, perhaps resulting in unnecessary supervised visitation, would likely send a message to the child that this parent is perhaps “scary” or somehow inferior. Why else would they need a supervisor? In other words, such advice would ironically act in the service of the alienation.

As further example, imagine that the Court has ordered a Custody Evaluation or therapy for an alienated child. If an otherwise competent therapist, who is however unfamiliar with alienation, was appointed, it is likely that they would take a position of supporting the child’s resistance to seeing the Target Parent, essentially treating that child as if they had been the victim of domestic violence when such was never the case. Likewise, an otherwise competent Evaluator who is however unfamiliar with alienation and PAS, would very likely take the child’s complaints about the Target Parent at face value without ruling out bona fide abuse and otherwise negative parental behavior. Such an evaluation would then yield recommendations that likewise would support and even encourage the alienation.

Finally, it is important to understand that dealing with alienation and PAS in divorce are very specialized areas, in both the legal and the mental health arenas. Therefore, it is vitally important to understand that these competencies should not be assumed in the selection an attorney or in the selection of a mental health professional. Having been directly involved in the training of both attorneys and mental health professionals regarding PAS, Dr. Bone has developed an acute sensitivity to these issues of professional awareness and professional performance concerning alienation in the context of divorce. If anything, one should assume that most attorneys and most mental health professionals are not familiar with parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). This is a much safer operating assumption that the reverse.

As a consequence of this state of affairs, consulting services to parents, their attorneys, and to mental health professionals has become the primary focus of Dr. Bone’s work regarding Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Selection of Professionals

Over the years, Dr. Bone has developed networks of other professionals who are experienced in the problem of alienation. Through these networks, as well as through other means, both attorneys and mental health professionals can be interviewed and screened by Dr. Bone regarding their familiarity with alienation and PAS. This “initial filtering” process helps a parent who may be dealing with alienation to avoid falling into the “blind spots” of both attorneys and mental health professionals that may be simply unfamiliar with the peculiarities of parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Consultation with the Attorney

Competent attorneys welcome and are not threatened by consultative input. When one considers that a busy family lawyer becomes involved in PAS cases in only a relatively small percentage of their cases, it is easy to understand how it would be impossible for even the most competent family lawyer to keep up with the latest developments involving the litigation of PAS. In addition to this purely “informational” purpose, the consultant can also help the lawyer with the development of case strategy, with knowledge of what has actually been successful in other cases.

Most experienced attorneys will be the first to recognize the level of complexity and specificity that is involved in successfully litigating one of these cases. In the capacity of consultant, Dr. Bone typically reviews documents, pleadings and reports, and makes specific recommendations regarding expert testimony, review of expert work product and consultation with experts perhaps already appointed on your case. Through this strategy, the legal system becomes educated about PAS one case at a time, leaving in its wake, newly educated professionals and parents.

Litigating a complex family law case has been described in the following terms. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand pieces, and the attorney is only allowed to use ten of the pieces, yet must still accurately convey the picture of the puzzle to the court, using only these ten pieces. The process of selecting which ten pieces is enormously complex and vexing. The skill of “breaking the code” of which pieces to select, and which not to become distracted by, is a skill that is based on a level of experience that can only be developed by being “in the trenches” in the Courtroom for many years. Dr. Bone has served in all of the capacities for which he now consults. After all, even the most seasoned and experienced family lawyer has only litigated cases involving PAS in a fraction of his or her cases. Virtually all of Dr. Bone’s experience is born of dealing only with these cases in multiple states.

Review of and Trial Preparation For Extant Expert Witness Work

In most ongoing litigation there are already existing mental health professionals involved with the case. The experienced consultant can help the attorney with critique of adverse witnesses as expressed in the analysis of expert reports, analysis of past testimony, and the development of cross examination questioning, as reflected by the current standard of care. Additionally, the consultant can work with mental health professionals also involved in the case, but who may not be knowledgeable of the latest research and related matters regarding PAS.
Consultation for the Litigation Process

One of the most valuable functions served by the consultant has to do with the development of general case strategy, which points are most important to emphasize and which are not. One of the biggest challenges that the Family Attorney faces is in reducing huge amounts of information and presenting it in a way that tells the story of the case in its most compelling terms. If PAS is not involved in a case, this challenge is still present. However, if it is involved, the challenge is even greater and the likelihood increases that the case presentation and focus become distracted and that the fragmentation increases dramatically. The reason for this is that alienation cases typically have huge amounts of information to be organized and somehow presented in a concise manner.

In addition to these overall litigation strategy services, the experienced consultant can also become deeply involved in the “nuts and bolts” of the case in the form of witness coaching, development of cross examination questions for adverse witnesses and related activities.

Cases involving Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) typically have mental health professionals already involved in the case, who may be otherwise competent, but naïve to PAS. Such therapists may find themselves treating a child who has become alienated from the one parent due to the actions of the other parent. These therapists, otherwise competent but naïve regarding PAS, often side with the alienated child’s resistance to seeing the unwanted parent, believing that they are “protecting” the child from the other parent, when in fact there is no danger. In PAS cases, these witnesses become “adverse witnesses,” unwittingly supporting the alienation. In the context of litigation, the attorney for the alienating parent is often able to persuade these therapists to offer an opinion that supports the child’s not seeing that parent, even though they have never even spoken to that parent. Once a therapist has done this, he or she has committed significant ethical errors, that should diminish their credibility. However if the attorney for the alienated parent is not aware of the ethical intricacies of this process, this therapist’s opinion would go unchallenged, and potentially do great damage to the case. Exposing these ethical gaffs are extremely important to the truth of the case as it is understood by the Judge, however these types of ethical errors often go unchallenged. The consultant seasoned in PAS would not allow this process to go forward unchallenged.

Consultation With and Training of Mental Health Professionals Involved in the Case

In the process of having becoming involved in many PAS cases in multiple states, it is striking how many potentially good clinicians are available, except for the fact that they have not had the experience and guidance to know how to handle these difficult cases. Many years of experience has taught that well intentioned, otherwise competent (yet untrained in the area of alienation) professionals have sometimes even unwittingly done harm, and have inadvertently worked in support of the alienation.

Again, very competent therapists, however not experienced in dealing with alienated children, will often ironically support the alienation. Likewise, evaluators naïve to PAS will assume most, if not all, allegations of abuse to be valid and accurate, and will not have the tools to effectively evaluate this and to rule it in or rule it out. Therefore, finding a PAS savvy evaluator is critical.


There once was a time when, if faced with the process of divorce, one could just pick up the phone, call an attorney and they would “handle it.” In today’s environment of an over 50% rate of divorce, both parents vying for the custodial rights over their children, and record levels of abuse reports of all types, such a strategy to just let the attorney handle it, is perilous. In today’s current environment, it is wise to have an experienced consultant, familiar with both the legal arena as well as the mental health arena, to serve as a consultant or perhaps a case manager to advise all on the team. As noted above, when alienation is involved, failure to have PAS savvy professional advice can be disastrous.

Information for Family Attorneys

Family Law attorneys may be unaccustomed to working on a consultative basis with a mental health professional. More often than not, attorneys tend to see such professionals as being experts, evaluators and therapists, whom they will depose, examine in court and/ cross-examine. The concept of having a consultant in a “team” framework is often not familiar ground. The purpose of this brief monograph is to outline the nature of the Consultative work that is being proposed by this website.

First, the worlds of the attorney and that of the mental health professional could perhaps not be more different. The attorney deals with “facts” and “fact patterns” as though they were material objects, whereas the mental health professional traffics in subtle mixed realties, fraught with ambivalence and innuendo. As the attorney attempts to bring the mental health professional into the court room, and therefore into this legal world, the translation process can be difficult, imprecise and approximate at best. Lawyers often complain that they cannot get a psychological witness to come up with a simple answer, whereas the mental health professional complains about being “tricked” by the lawyer into saying things that they do not really mean. I would suggest that this dynamic is very often the result of these two “world views” attempting to mix together, however finding them to be more like oil and water, than of similar makeup.

In the most general sense, the experienced Consultant, through years of experience and traffic in both of these worlds, can act as translator. In so doing, the consultant can advise the attorney about how to draw what they need from the most obtuse psychological witness, or alternatively, help the mental health witness to avoid the entrapments that are part of the alien ground of the litigation process. In more specific terms, the consultant can help with cross examination questions of a technical nature, in questioning an adverse mental health witness. For example, familiarity with the otherwise hidden flaws of psychological instruments can help to weaken the credibility of the adverse mental health professional who may be erroneously vilifying the client on technical grounds. Many very competent attorneys are not aware of the striking absence of reliable scientific rigor for the instruments used in custody evaluation. As the Psychological community privately struggles with this serious problem internally, as it has for years, these issues seldom make it into public awareness, much less into public scrutiny. There are myriad issues related to reliability and scientific rigor, with which even the most informed attorney could never be expected to keep current.

As further example, the consultant can serve as a repository of the Standards of Practice and other guidelines by which their profession is called upon to operate. The administrative rules for the operation of the statues governing professional behavior are usually not well known by even the most practiced and experienced attorney. Therefore, when these rules are broken, which they very commonly are, an attorney’s unfamiliarity with the rules precludes exposing them as having been broken.

By acting in the consultative capacity, the Consultant is not hamstrung by the limitations of their role being narrowly defined as say, an evaluator, or a therapist. In order to remain unbiased, the evaluator or the therapist is restricted from casual information exchange that may otherwise be helpful to the attorney. Since the Consultant is typically thought of in terms of being “Work Product,” no such restriction applies. Consequently, a very broad and spontaneous “think tank” environment can exist, which can keep the case fresh, and give the client a sense of confidence with the representation.

In the event that a professional expert is required for testimony or for appointment by the Court, the experienced Consultant, having operated within the world of high conflict divorce for many years, can be absolutely instrumental in finding the best expert for the job. This might require a nation wide search, or it might involve a pre-screening of local professionals to determine their suitability for the job. The value that this single task can bring to the case can be very significant.

Other functions that may be performed by the Consultant are as limitless as one’s creative imagination. The bottom line is however, that the Consultant can and should serve as a valuable resource for the attorney as well as for the client. The effective Consultant should make the work of the litigation operate more seamlessly, and with less effort. In short, the attorney no longer has to carry the entire weight of the case.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two New Teleseminar Courses: Effective Treatment and The Family Court

I am very excited about two new courses that have been developed pertaining to two very significant areas of concern that are part of life when Parental Alienation is involved. They are: Treatment - specifically, which treatment strategies are more associated with success in the treatment of alienated children; and Family Court - specifically, given its very high rate of unpredictability, what one can do to reduce this.

First, the issue of treatment. Many have had experiences with reunification plans that involve therapy when a a child is alienated. It is my opinion that the vast majority of these efforts are not very successful. Often, the therapy is ordered, but it simply does not happen as it is scheduled, and when it does occur, it is not effective in reunifying parent and child. In fact, in a substantial number of cases, this kind of therapy often acts in the service of the alienation in that the therapy session itself becomes a place where the child acts out their alienation, very often convincing the therapist of their position. It goes down hill very fast after this. The purpose of this course is to examine the current existing treatment strategies, regimes, and programs in terms of their effectiveness. As this question is drilled down into, the actual mechanisms and foundations of these successful strategies are revealed. The result of this examination is to develop a practical and working understanding of what one should look for when asking the court, and/or a therapist for help in dealing with an alienated child. There are answers here, and the goal of this course is to identify them.

The second course addresses the phenomenon of Family Court. Since, in cases where Parental Alienation is involved, and therefore Family Court is often part of the picture, dealing effectively with this system is most important. For example, even if an evaluator, a guardian and a therapist may all agree on what would help a situation, the adversarial nature of the Court System, and the idiosyncratic nature of the Family Court system, can and often does confuse and fragment the truths that have been exposed. Put another way, the Family Court System can be easily manipulated and exploited by an alienating parent, and this can be as much of a problem as is the alienation. This course seeks to delve more deeply into the unique characteristics that make the Family Court as unpredictable as it is. As these reasons are exposed, another system that is in operation, and is more predictive of outcome is also exposed. Understanding and identifying the cues and signals that allow one to better present a case so that it will be best understood by the audience (the Judge) are explored. The goal of this course is to develop a working understanding of what really does impact outcome, to be utilized in very practical terms.

Each of these courses will be done in 3 one hour sessions which will be recorded. The first course will begin on September 9th, for three consecutive sessions. The Family Court session will take place beginning September 30th, also for three weekly consecutive sessions. Details, more information, and sign up details can be found on the web page.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reunification Therapy

In my recent Teleseminar, Overcoming Parental Alienation, I addressed the workings of what is referred to as "Reunification Therapy." As has been my experience in the past, I found that as I was describing it, I found myself being a bit surprised at my own conclusions. Specifically, as I systematically went through how it is supposed to work, and how it actually does work, I found that the prognosis for success that I heard myself describing, was even less than I would have said before the development of the Telesiminar.

There are very good reasons to understand why the courts would order such therapy. In so doing, the court does not have to make the difficult decision to change custody or to restrict or supervise the visits between the child and the alienating parent, so the next best thing is Reunification Therapy. Such Therapy recognizes that the child's negative description far exceeds what it should be, given the flimsy and even non-existent reasons offered for a child not wanting to see this parent. This Therapy also addresses the very important fact of the child maintaining contact with both parents. These are very good things for the Court to recognize. The problem is however, that when a child has therapy with a parent they claim to hate or fear, for maybe one hour per week, this therapy backfires, and, if anything, tends to actually intensify the alienation. The reasons for this are logical and predictable, and are addressed in some detail in the presentation.

It appears that much work is yet to be done in more successfully convincing the Court about the causes of alienation. Once we can do that more effectively, the Court is more likely to follow suit with interventions that actually work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Unqualified Mental Health Professionals

The following appeared on the Blog and Website of well known fathers and parents rights activists, Glen Sacks. I have had the honor to work with Glen on several projects, and he was kind enough to ask me to expand on a point made earlier in this Teleseminar.

Background: J. Michael Bone is an eminent authority on Parental Alienation, and I've often quoted his work in my newspaper columns on the issue.

Starting in late April Michael is going to be doing a four-part Teleseminar on how targeted parents can overcome Parental Alienation. The 4 week telewebcast series begins Tuesday April 29 from 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. EDT, and runs each Tuesday through 5/20. To register, click here or go to

Below is my Q & A with Dr. Bone.

Glenn Sacks: You caution against employing "Unqualified Mental Health Professionals." That's often a difficult thing for a lay person to judge. What should a target parent look at in order to make this judgment?

Dr. Bone: This is a very difficult identification process, and one that most attorneys and judges could not be expected to perform. That said, let me try to take a stab at it, but please understand that I could go on for many pages about this.

Since the vast minority of mental health professionals are not comfortable with or particularly familiar with going to court, the numbers of those who do this kind of work are relatively small. Within this relatively small number, an even smaller number profess familiarity with parental alienation.

Among those who are familiar with parental alienation and how it works, the basic issue boils down to this: the understanding that it is possible for one parent to alienate a child from another parent. Once a child is alienated, only those who truly understand this will be able to successfully manage the child’s protest and vilification regarding the other parent, without being pulled into believing it. Therefore, the best way to identify one who is truly qualified is to ask them questions about how they have, in the past, dealt with children who did not want to see one of their parents when it had been determined that the non-favored or alienated parent had not been abusive to the child.

When the truly qualified mental health professional is asked this question, they will have no trouble responding to it with fairly long and clear explanations of whatever successes or lack of successes they have had with this. What I look for is less about the “success rate” and more about their ability to talk about the complex nuances of this very complicated problem. Mental health professionals who do not really understand that a child can be alienated from a parent will very quickly begin to side with the child, and justify this by finding relatively small imperfections in the targeted parent, and use that as an explanation for the child’s position.

Put another way, ineffective or “less than connected” parenting might well produce somewhat estranged children, but this ineffective parenting alone will not produce alienated children. The necessary ingredient is the alienating behavior of the alienating parent. What one needs is a mental health professional who gets this.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Upcoming Teleseminar

I am very excited about the upcoming teleseminar that will be offered beginning Tuesday, April 29, 2008. This seminar consists of four one hour sessions, attended via telephone, and recorded for later listening. The attendees, once registered, will be given a specific telephone number and pass code that will admit them into the call, each of these four Tuesday evenings. In the event that an attendee cannot be present for the live call, a recorded version will be available for later listening.

Each session will consist of an interactive interview format wherein John Curtis, PhD, author, well known parenting advocate, will be interviewing myself on the topic of that particular evening. Each of these four separate interview sessions will be focused onto what I have identified as the four most prevalent errors committed in the litigation of cases in Family Court where Parental Alienation is present. My experience for over fifteen years as an expert witness, evaluator, therapist and educator in cases involving Parental Alienation, has given me the opportunity to witness and then to distill the specific and predictable points where these cases are sabotaged. Just as Parental Alienation is a very patterned process with a predictable outcome and course, likewise, how it evolves within the Family court System is also patterned. This patterning creates a high degree of predictability that typically is only seen when it is too late.

The purpose of this four part teleseminar is to prepare the parent and their attorney to identify these seemingly benign issues, before they blow up into becoming a serious problem to later overcome.

The goal of this four part seminar is to provide proactive strategies that allows one to spot a potential upcoming problem area, and develop counter strategies to overcome it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Misinformation and the Critics

One of the most mysterious and vexing issues related to the subject of Parental Alienation, as especially Parental Alienation Syndrome, is the continued criticisms of it. In most cases, the criticisms are based in misinformation. One of the most prevalent of these notions is that Parental Alienation is used as a shield to deflect from the abuse of a child by a parent. This is simply not the case. It is repeated throughout the literature (even by sources that disagree on other matters related to the subject) that Parental Alienation is not a proper explanation for a child’s not wanting to see a parent, when that parent has truly been abusing that child. When this is the case, Parental Alienation is not the proper explanation. That said, it is also the case that Parental Alienation may be misused by unethical attorneys and abusive parents, claiming that their abused child does not want to see them, not because they have been abused, but because of the influences of the other parent. This is a clear misuse of the Parental Alienation label. This misuse however should not be used as a rationale to dismiss it legitimate use.

Other such criticisms follow this same pattern of misunderstanding and misuse of the literature related to Parental Alienation. I would like to draw attention to an article authored by myself that addresses this in more detail. It may be found on my website or by the following link

I have found that when the criticisms are confronted, that the critic has not read that to which they are referring, or that they had simply been told this misinformation by someone else, who also had not read the source material. This is a troubling, but common finding. It should not perhaps be surprising to find that the dynamic of vilification and distortion is well practiced within this context.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Professional Debate About How Children are Alienated

There is currently a debate within the professional community regarding just what causes children to become alienated within the context of their parents divorcing or its aftermath. The debate boils down to this question: Is the behavior of the alienating parent sufficient to cause children to become alienated, or does the targeted parent’s behavior also play a role? While this may seem like an interesting question with not much significance, we find that its answer has profound implications regarding what may be recommended as a solution to the problem.

For example, if one believes that the behavior of an alienating parent is sufficient cause to create alienation within a child, and that the targeted parent simply plays little if any role in the creation of the alienation, the recommendations coming out of that understanding will focus much more on eliminating the toxic effects of that alienating parent’s behavior onto that child. The goal here will likely enforce time with the targeted parent, even over the child’s protest in the beginning. This model will tend to see the child’s protests regarding that parent as unrealistic or even irrational. The goal will be to help the child to eliminate these unrealistic or irrational negative feelings about that parent.

If however, one believes that the alienating behaviors of the alienating parent is necessary but not sufficient to create alienation, then the responsibility for the child’s alienation will be also be placed at the feet of the targeted parent as well as the alienating parent. Even though this model will recognize that it is unhealthy for a parent to influence a child to see their other parent critically and negatively, it will tend to see this parental alienating behavior as being simply bad parenting, but not tantamount to child abuse. Under this understanding, recommendations will be more likely to include, among other things, parenting classes for the targeted parent, and will be less likely to enforce access between that targeted parent and that alienated child. These recommendations will probably refer to access between this child and this parent, as resuming when “the child is ready.”

As a greater generalized understanding of Parental Alienation develops, it appears that the latter model, the one that spreads the responsibility between both parents, is gaining more popularity among the professionals who do these evaluations. This is concerning since this latter model tends to see the alienation of children, once sufficiently progressed, as being incurable. The first model however does not agree with this at all. In support of this position, growing evidence is cited, gleaned from once alienated children, that even severely alienated children can and do become no longer alienated, and do and can reconnect to the parent from whom they were once alienated.

What does this mean? It means that it is of paramount importance to know to which model your potential evaluator subscribes. Both groups will boast knowledge of and familiarity with Parental Alienation, and they will do so honestly, but their recommendations will vary dramatically, as will their outcomes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Surviving the Family Court System

Family court is unique among its other variants (criminal, administrative, etc.) in that the rules of evidence may be applied variously in deference to what is best for the children. This has the effect of making any outcome in any Family Court vulnerable to manipulation and misrepresentation. In cases where Parental Alienation is present, this vulnerability is routinely exploited, making the parents status in this scenario especially precarious. For example, when the court is faced with an allegation that one parent has abused a child, and this allegation is not carefully critiqued, the system opens itself up to limitless distortion. I have personally witnessed countless examples of innocent parents being treated by the court as being abusive, when this was simply not the case. As any of these parents will attest, once this label has been acquired, it is very difficult to erase it in the eyes of the court. The abuse allegation may be ruled as being "unfounded," however the cloud of suspicion will probably remain, causing the court to hesitate to allow more time between that parent and that child. Any parents who have experienced this are nodding right now.

One of the most effective, yet still the least used strategies to correct this, is to "litigate the false allegation." By this, we mean that the unjustly accused parent must do more than merely show that they did not commit the abuse. They should then go on to affirmatively argue that the making of the false allegation of abuse by the other parent, is itself evidence of pathological parenting. They should then go on to show that this spurious misuse of the system is designed to actually remove the child from the accused parent for purposes of gaining advantage in the custody dispute. This "second step," the litigating of the false abuse allegation is rarely pursued however. The omission of this step often spells the difference between the truth being revealed, or it being obfuscated.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Alienation of Children is Child Abuse

It is important to understand and recall that Parental Alienation is a form of child abuse. The manipulation of one’s children to the belief that their other parent does not love them, is the cruelest form of child abuse. Since it is the parent child- relationship that orients a child’s understanding of their own sense of self and their lovability, teaching a child that one of their parents does not love them, also teaches them that they are in some basic way, unlovable, or not worthy of love. While alienated children typically describe hatred or fear of the alienated parent, gently probing into the nuances of these negative feelings, virtually always reveals that these children believe that the Alienated Parent is self centered, not interested in their wellbeing, and unloving. They are taught, and come to believe that they are not loved by that parent. This is absolutely child abuse in its most pure form. Parental Alienation is child abuse.

Given this, it should not be surprising to realize that parents who perpetrate this form abuse, are also prone to other form of abuse. The literature clearly indicates that those prone to domestic violence, are prone to multiple forms of domestic violence. As we see an increased tendency for truly abusive parents to misuse the diagnosis of PA and PAS to explain why their children may not be close to them, or may be reticent to visit with them after marital separation, it perhaps should not be surprising to then see that when these parents are successful in mis-portraying the other parent as being an Alienating Parent, that they themselves then tend to become the true Alienating Parent. Adults prone to domestic violence, tend to be prone to multiple expressions of abuse. Once these abusive parents have their children more in their control that they ever had before, these children become extremely vulnerable to becoming quickly alienated from the parent whom they used to look to for protection. Under this scenario, these children often become severely alienated, and very quickly. As noted earlier on this blog, I believe that this is an ever increasing phenomenon.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Misapplication of Parental Alienation

As awareness of Parental Alienation and its effects on children increases, the possibility that it can be used improperly also increases.

There appears to be a growing phenomenon of improperly accusing, let us say, Parent A of being an Alienating Parent by the actual Abusive Parent, whom we shall refer to as Parent B. This spurious explanation is initially offered up as explanation as to why the children are hesitant to see Parent B, when, in actual fact, Parent B has been abusive to them or to the other parent. It is important to note here that the abusiveness of Parent B is well established. There are typically Orders of Protection and Police involvement that go beyond only accusations of abuse. The abuse is clear and not in dispute. This is the first phase.

This is then followed by the phase where the abusive parent puts pressure on the children to "act out" that their parental agenda of vilifying the other parent. This typically takes the form of the children beginning to be provocative and testy with that parent, to which that parent typically then eventually responds by becoming upset, and to some degree, "loosing it." This episode is then portrayed by the abusive parent as being emblematic behavior of the now estranged parent, and representative of his or her instability. The focus now shifts to the non-abusive parent, Parent A, who now is seen as being unstable, abusive, and in dire need of therapy. In the period of time that this sleight of had takes place, the reality of the abusive parent's (Parent B) abusive behavior, which has been clearly documented and recognized by the court, is now obfuscated by these more recent developments, and essentially forgotten.

The original non abusive parent (Parent A), who was a victim of the abuses of Parent B, has now been manipulated into appearing to be unstable and abusive. Parent B improperly uses an allegation of Parental Alienation to explain why the children are not as keen to see him or her. Here, the abusive Parent has blamed the other parent for the children's feelings, when the record clearly shows that his or her behavior was the problem. However, since the children are still emotionally connected even to abusive parents, this abusive parent manipulates this connection with the children to begin the actual process of alienating them from the other parent, the one accused of being an Alienating Parent.

Paradoxically then, the abusive parent becomes the alienating parent, and the now alienated parent is portrayed as being unstable, abusive, and unsafe to be around the children. As fantastic and unrealistic as this may seem, it is a phenomenon of increasing incidence.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome(PAS)

Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome was first defined and described by Psychiatrist Richard Gardner, M.D. in his work with divorcing families with minor children in 1985. He began to notice a growing phenomenon where one parent would try to alienate the children from the other parent so that the children would ultimately reject that parent. When this alienation was successful, Dr. Gardner identified a cluster of symptoms that these children would begin to exhibit, which he described as the "Parental Alienation Syndrome". Since his original work in this area, there has been much further work and research done by Dr. Gardner as well as many other mental health professionals.

Since this phenomenon would occur in the context of divorce only, it is perhaps not surprising that it would generate a great deal of controversy. That is, it was essentially discovered, described and battled over in the acrimonious environment of the court.

The existence of Parental Alienation Syndrome has been debated in court in the context of litigation. It had until recently been argued that PAS had not been tested within the courts as being admissible as evidence. As noted earlier, this challenge has always been in the context of it being a litigation strategy. It is therefore of some significance that PAS was tested and did pass this important legal test in November of 2000, in Tampa, Florida. J. Michael Bone, Ph.D. was directly involved in this Frye Hearing as was Richard Gardner, M.D. along with Richard Warshack, Ph.D. The court ruled that PAS was accepted in the professional scientific community and did meet the Frye standard. Click here for more detailed information regarding this legal event.

The Misapplication of Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation, wherein a child no longer wants to see a once loved parent due to the influence of the other parent, is not the only reason that a child might not want to see that parent. When parents are abusive, neglectful, frightening, etc., these behaviors on the part of that parent can also cause a child to not want to see them. This is not Parental Alienation of the kind often referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Therefore, when a parent has been abusive to their child to the degree that the child no longer wants to see them, this is not PAS. PAS should never be given as a diagnosis, when domestic violence is present.

Unfortunately, PAS is now being inappropriately used as a shield to hide a parent's abusive behavior. This misapplication of PAS is a great disservice to the families where this is occurring, and is dangerous to the children. With this being said, we should also be reminded that it takes a significant amount of abuse from a parent, for that child to become estranged from them. All of the research on domestic violence is consistent in saying that before reaching the point of becoming estranged from a parent, due to that parents behavior, that children will attempt to contort themselves and their behavior to get into the good graces of that abusive parent, in the hopes of them no longer acting this way. Therefore, it is typically only where there has been a great deal of abuse, that a child will want nothing to do with that parent. Small slights and parental missteps simply will not alienate a child from a parent.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Upcoming TeleSeminar

Beginning on Thursday evening, May 1, 2008, I will describing what I believe are the four most common mistakes made in the litigation of cases where Parental Alienation is present. The course will consist of 4, one hour conference telephone calls, held on 4 consecutive Thursday evenings at 8:00 PM EST, beginning May 1, 2008. For more information about registering for this seminar, please see

The rationale for the course follows:


The audience for this course are parents whose children have been alienated from them within the context of divorce. This course provides the tools necessary to overcome this alienation process both within the court system as well as outside this context. The content of this course is the result of two decades of working with this problem as an evaluator for the court, a therapist, and as a consultant.


This course is the result of my 20 plus years of work devoted to the problem of what has been referred to as Parental Alienation. During this time, I have witnessed egregious errors and injustices that have resulted in the destruction of a great many families. Most of these errors were avoidable if properly handled. However, given the special challenges and demands of the dynamic of parental alienation, failure to understand them within the professional community is more the rule than the exception. There are many reasons for this.


The structure of this course is organized around the “Most Common Errors” that are committed in these difficult cases. These “Errors” tend to be patterned, repetitive, predictable, and common. These “Errors” are not typically the result of inferior representation or incompetence, but are the result of the special challenges that alienation cases present, both in and out of court. Each hourly session is devoted to one of these common, if not universal, errors, and provides clear strategies to overcome and avoid them.


Beginning in 2007, I closed my clinical practice and began a purely consultative practice devoted to helping parents, attorneys and mental health professionals with the special problem of Parental Alienation. As a consultant, I am able to apply my experience and understanding in ways designed to help you to be successful with your case. This course represents the basic elements of my consulting work with individual clients.

The Importance of Qualified Experts

While most mental health professionals who work in the area of divorce would describe some familiarity with Parental Alienation Syndrome, it is important to understand that this is a very specialized field that requires different evaluative techniques and tools than if Alienation is not present. If the evaluator is not intimately familiar with the nuances of this phenomenon, it is likely that this condition will be misdescribed and mistreated.

First, Parental Alienation must be distinguished from Parental Alienation Syndrome. Parental Alienation refers to the behaviors engaged in by the parent, with the possible result being the development of Parental Alienation Syndrome in the child. Parental Alienation refers to the actions of one parent onto the children. Specifically, this refers to one parent denigrating, criticizing and attacking the other parent in front of and ultimately with the children. It represents the one parent's attempt to remove what is referred to as the “Target Parent” from their children's lives, and making it appear that it is the child who feels this way. How this is accomplished ranges from the most subtle to the most obvious of strategies. But they all carry the common goal of attempting to eliminate the Target Parent from the child's life and world. Parental Alienation refers to specific actions by the Alienating Parent. These behaviors are predictable and form an identifiable pattern. The pattern of these behaviors form four Criteria which are listed below

Visitation or access blocking by one parent
False allegations of abuse or unfit parenting against the Target Parent
Deterioration in the relationship with the child and the Target Parent since marital separation
Exaggerated fear reaction on the part of the child at displeasing the Alienating Parent
When these four criteria are present, the stage is set for the development of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the psychological condition that exists within the child who has been a victim of these Parental Alienating behaviors. These behaviors have the effect of causing the child to internally reformulate how they view and feel about the now absent Parent. Parental Alienation Syndrome is the process of manipulating the child to internally transform their view of the other parent from being an object of love into being an object of hate. This is a profound and very damaging psychological illness can and often will create life long harm to the child, well into adulthood.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is the result of the child living in the presence of the four criteria listed above for some significant period of time. Parental Alienation Syndrome can be identified by the presence of following manifestations or symptoms in the child. They are:

Campaign of Denigration
Weak or Frivolous Rationalizations for the Deprecation
Lack of Ambivalence
"Independent Thinker" Phenomenon
Reflexive support of Alienating Parent
Absence of guilt over cruelty and exploitation of Alienated Parent
Presence of Borrowed Scenarios
Spread of Animosity to Extended Family of Alienated Parent

Children Need Both Parents: TalkShoe Radio Interview


TalkShoe RADIO

Dr. Michael Bone will join hosts Ron Smith and Robin Denison for this live broadcast of Children Need Both Parents.
DATE: Thursday, February 7, 2008
TIME: 9:00 p.m. EST

1. Phone: Dial 724.444.7444
Enter: 53118# (Caller ID)
Enter: 1# or your PIN if you are a member
2. Join the call from your computer or just listen in by clicking here.
3. Become a TalkShoe Member by clicking here (optional and free)

Dr. Bone participated in the program on January 24, 2008. You may listen to this episode by clicking here and selecting Episode 29.

For additional information, please contact:
Paula at
407.443.5627 or

Divorce and the Modern Family

In today’s changing social landscape, divorce has become a significant and immutable feature. Currently, more marriages end in divorce than do not. The reasons for this are many and complex, and although these reasons are debated, the fact of the predominance of divorce is not disputed. With this upswing in divorce comes also an explosion in the number of children of divorce.

Due primarily to social and legal changes that occurred in the 1970’s, the dilemma of where and with whom the child would live primarily became a reality that more of us knew directly or indirectly. Simply put, child custody disputes have became a much more prominent feature of our everyday lives. Children are routinely fought over in custody disputes, and seldom does a day pass that one does not hear of some tragic and sometime violent event that occurred in the context of a custody dispute. Related to this, the courts have become choked with allegations of one spouse abusing the other spouse and/ or the children, again in the context of one of these custody disputes. It is within this complex social and legal context that the terms Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome were born.