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 www.overcomingparentalalienation.com.

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.