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