Friday, December 25, 2009

Holidays for the Targeted Parent

Each year about this time I have every intention of creating some sort of conversation, or an audio course, or something that addresses the uniquely piercing experience of the Targeted Parent during these holiday times. While, as you look around your world, it may seem like the neighbors and most strangers are having a very different holiday experience than you are, I would offer you this. If we have learned anything from the growing research regarding the alienated child's inner experience, we have learned that the surface behavior of the child is only part of the story. Granted, it is a big and often loud part, but it does not overtake the entirety of the child's experience. We have learned that, even when there is no outer splinter of evidence of the child still being connected to the targeted parent, we now know more clearly than ever that it is most likely still there, albeit silent and mute. Therefore, even in the absence of all evidence to the contrary, the deeper reality is f that the powerful connections of early childhood are still there.

Therefore, if I can offer anything during these holiday times it would be to suggest that this quiet but clear reality be focused upon. I would ask that you try to locate this and try to take refuge in it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pressure on the Courts for Enforcement

I received a note from a fellow professional who works with parental alienation cases. I have cleansed it of any identity clues and have cut and pasted it below. It follows:

I just received a desperate email from a parent who has been enduring outrageous behavior from their alienated children. These children are obviously acting out a mission on behalf of the other parent. In this case, this is transparently clear. The court had even warned that both parents must cooperate. The court had issued this "warning" before, however with no action. This case had a Parenting Coordinator, Evaluators and virtually all of the tools at the Court's disposal, and all basically agreed that one parent was orchestrating the alienation. There was not much debate. However, even with all of this unusual clarity, little - no nothing - had been done to hold this alienating parent accountable.

If there is a single failure (of all of the many minor ones) that is most tragic, it is the failure of the Family Court to act decisively and with the courage and integrity that was intended to have. The Family Court System has so very much to explain regarding its failure of doing what is best for the children it is charged to protect. We must make it our business to make it clear that the lazy and toothless responses that it so favors, will cannot be accepted.

This person goes on to advance various political suggestions which I did not include. I would however ask for responses from those who agree or disagree.

Thank You.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Problem of Custody Evaluations

I got an email yesterday from a dad who underwent a custody evaluation that basically “got it all wrong.” The evaluator apparently believed the untrue things said about this dad, and it sounded like the evaluator did not even investigate the veracity of the claims against the father.

I get about two to three of these kinds of emails each week. They always describe a custody evaluation that got it wrong, was not properly investigated, but was nonetheless accepted uncritically as “the truth” by the court. Most of the victims of this - could be mothers or could be fathers - do not understand why all of this went so wrong. When I have talked to these parents I mostly hear that they were either given no preparation or advice about how to approach being evaluated; or I hear that they were given very bad advice that actually harmed them.

On a personal note, and as a former evaluator, I can readily say that I am routinely frustrated and even sickened by the systemic injustices that are committed under the banner of “psychological objectivity” in the performance of many custody evaluations. The fact of the matter is that custody evaluations are notorious for getting it wrong about as frequently as getting it right.

In response to this, I am preparing a document that basically tells you what you need to know about sitting through a custody evaluation when parental alienation is involved. It provides you with the tools to maximize your chance of being accurately heard by the evaluator.

In addition to this document, I am in the process of creating a much more detailed discussion in the form of an audio course, that takes the points made in the aforementioned document and expands on them with specific examples and suggestions.

If you are in the position of being evaluated or re-evaluated, I know that these resources will be of great assistance.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Need More Than an Expert

I frequently receive email requests for expert witnesses in a given case, in a given town. The basis of the request is that if one has the right expert, the case is done. This is simply not the case. While having the right expert is an essential part of any case, it is only part of the puzzle.

Most targeted parents in PA cases have literally boxes of evidence in the form of emails, letters, recordings, etc. However, what most fail to grasp is that even the most voluminous box of the best evidence is basically worthless unless it is properly assembled so as to assist in the telling of the story of your case to the Court (Judge). It is the story that moves the Judge, not the boxes of evidence. The boxes of evidence operates more like the set in a play. It contributes to the story, but does not tell it.

The telling of the story in a way that causes the particular Judge who hears it to become moved to act in ways to take the children in question out of the situation they are in, is the goal. The evidence is the flour, eggs and milk, and the story is the recipe. Therefore, the construction of the story, the selection of specific examples with an eye to the specific audience of the Judge, is absolutely critical. In my experience, this is grossly misunderstood or under weighted in the preparation of Family Law cases involving Parental Alienation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting Others to Understand Parental Alienation

I have just created a new course designed to get those who do not understand parental alienation, to begin to get it. This course was previously entitled "Parental Alienation: A Primer." I re-titled it because I got enough feedback to the effect that this title was not very clear or helpful. I appreciate the feedback!

Anyway, this course is conversational in nature and I believe very digestible for those who are just outside the circle of personal experience with parental alienation. This course explains why there is a tendency to overly criticize the targeted parent, and how this is a symptom of not really understanding the phenomenon.

I hope that this is helpful.

The link for the course is to the right of this page.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Misinformation Regarding Parental Alienation

I recently received a comment from a viewer regarding a video that I had posted. The comment said that PA and PAS was junk science and that protective parents had been accused of alienating their children from the otherwise abusive spouse wrongly. Sadly, I am sure that this has happened. However, as is repeatedly made clear in the literature, Parental Alienation should never be considered when real abuse does in fact exist. This is one key method to ruling it out. It is only to be considered when the allegations of abuse are false. Let me repeat that: Parental Alienation should only be considered when the allegations of abuse are false. When real abuse exists, parental alienation does not.

Therefore, when this sort of criticism arises, it suggests that the phenomenon of one parent influencing a child to become alienated from the other parent is somehow bogus, as though this never occurs. I believe that it is important to state that virtually all legitimate published expert opinion which is based on a great deal of literature and research, clearly recognizes that the phenomenon of parental alienation does in fact exist. One parent, under the right circumstances, can indeed influence a child to think badly about and eventually even reject that other parent. No reputable source would disagree with this. Therefore because of the fact that allegations of parental alienation may be falsely and illegitimately made, is not justification for eliminating the entire argument. Such an argument would be tantamount to saying that because some children have been erroneously diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, that ADHD does not exist.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

New Course for Newbies and Neophytes

I have just completed a new audio course that describes the dynamics of Parental Alienation.

One of the things that occurs almost universally, is the phenomenon of the Targeted Parent having those in their lives who do not really "get it." I believe that all will agree that this phenomenon is so powerful and bizarre that those that have not seen it up close may have a hard time really understanding what is occurring. Therefore I have created a new audio course that is very conversational in nature, and I believe easy on the palate of understanding. I have made it as digestible as I know how, using elements of the other courses but putting them in a not too overwhelming format.

I believe likely candidates could be family members, lawyers, guardians, mental health professionals who have not had much traffic with these issues, as well as school teachers who become entangled in these cases. I believe that this course hits the mark, and as always, I look forward to your feedback.

I have entitled this course, "Parental Alienation: A Primer"

I wish you all well.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Word About Cost

One of the most pernicious problems associated with dealing with Parental Alienation in the courtroom is cost. These cases can be very expensive. An attorney’s success is premised on him or her being well prepared, which requires significant time and money. Experts are often part of the mix, which also represents added expenses. It is therefore reasonable to question the necessity of hiring an additional person to the team in the form of a consultant, when there is already so much expense.

However, in cases involving Parental Alienation, the experienced consultant – properly having both extensive clinical and professional experience with Parental alienation, as well as considerable time in the courtroom – can actually reduce cost. A common example can perhaps make this clear. As noted above, Expert witnesses are often required in these cases. When an experienced consultant is not involved, this typically takes the form of the attorney finding and hiring the expert, usually from a pool of forensic experts in the given community. If the local experts do not have adequate experience in Parental Alienation, then the attorney is faced with trying to find such an expert who can then be imported for the purpose of litigation. Depending on the attorney’s network of such experts, his or her degree of understanding of the issues, and his or her time in finding such an expert, the expert is eventually found. Once this occurs, the attorney educates the expert about the case and then sends them voluminous documents about the case for their review. Having served in this capacity, I can attest that the preparation required to be able to testify in such a matter can and often is a great many hours of reading over documents that may or may not be germane to the issue. This review and preparation time consists of the expert organizing, reviewing and sifting through all of the documentation in an effort to prepare for testimony. This process can and often takes many hours and typically costs thousands of dollars. This is, of course, even before any conclusions and opinions are hatched. Once this happens, then the expert and the attorney will spend significant time in consultation with each other for strategic and preparatory purposes. This can also take hours and thousands of dollars.

This process is however different with a consultant on board. First, the consultant would take responsibility for finding the best and most viable expert - either locally or not – based on the issues involved. This selection process involves matching the expert to the issue being argued, which should not fall onto the attorney, who could not be expected to know such subtle differences. Even the best prepared attorney should not be expected to be able to perform this function. With the consultant on board, the attorney expends none of their billable time on such a search, yet ends up with a more thoroughly researched choice of experts. Secondly, the consultant would have already reviewed and boiled down the issues and the specific documents that would be necessary for the expert to review and would be able to present it to them in their “own language.” Less time is therefore spent getting the expert up to speed since they do not have to start from scratch. The case is presented to him or her by the consultant who has already pre-digested it. The preparatory time for the expert is therefore significantly reduced to sometimes a fraction of what would have been the case were the consultant not involved.

Friday, January 9, 2009

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Welcome to Family Court

You don’t know what you don’t know. Let me repeat that. You don’t know what you don’t know. At first glance, this would appear to be a truism, or an obvious statement. However, while it is obviously true, it far from obvious. In fact, as we move through the minutes and hours of our days, we encounter countless ambiguous or unclear situations and circumstances. In an effort to understand the many ambiguous piles around us, we sort them and stack them into orderly piles by making specific assumptions about their meanings, so as to make them sensible to us. This is an automatic cognitive reflex for us humans and we do it thousands of times daily. In the process of doing this, the assumptions that we use become the building blocks of the edifices that we construct that then forms our reality. We use these assumptions to bridge the spaces that we do not know, thereby creating a level of greater comfort for ourselves. We do this so quickly and seamlessly that it is mostly beyond our own notice. It makes us feel better, perhaps more in control.

For example, if one assumes that the court system, by its design and operation, has a way of revealing the truth of a given situation, this assumption would orient how one goes into court. One would go into court with the belief that simply being candid and honest is sufficient to the revealing of the truth. This assumption, after all, is very much supported by taking the oath to tell the truth, the rules of evidence, and other judicial inventions. The machinery of this is, after all, supposed to grind out the truth. Perhaps the reader, by virtue of having found and read this, has a reaction to this position at this moment.

However, if the assumption that the court system, and its operation is supposed to operate in this fashion, but that it, in fact does not, then one would approach the courtroom with a very different orientation. One would be much more cautious and vigilant to understand exactly how it did work, as opposed to how it is supposed to work. Under this circumstance, one might well look to one’s lawyer to be a guide to explain just how it does work. This certainly sounds reasonable. However, such a position would be based on the assumption that the lawyer actually did understand the true workings of the court, was willing to share them with you, and actually did so. These are all things that you simply do not know.

The late, brilliant and albeit eccentric British psychiatrist, R.D. Laing wrote, “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.” By this, he meant that it is only when we truly realize and accept that we cannot actually know what we cannot see, that we can begin to remove the blinders that this creates. This paradox of embracing the blindness in order to gain sight, is of crucial importance. Yet this insight comes with a price. It is characterized by tireless skepticism and testing. It is themed by such questions as, “what do you base that on?”, and “why?” This state of mind is uncomfortable, difficult to maintain and exhausting, especially in times of stress, like during a divorce. Due to all of this difficulty we humans are therefore easily seduced by untested assumptions that promise a wealth of certainty, yet may well end up being the next Ponzi scheme. We are suckers for this. We are human.

But enough of Philosophy 101. What does this have to do with Family Court, parental alienation, and looking to the court intervene to return your child to you? Everything. The Family Court System is a very specific environment whose true rules of operation are unstated and are, in fact, quite contrary to those which are stated. For example, one often hears the remark that you can or cannot “prove” parental alienation in court, as if this question was critical to being successful in court with parental alienation. In actual fact, the ability or inability to “prove” the presence of parental alienation in a specific family case is very much secondary to the issue of getting the court to “believe” that parental alienation is present. What we very often find is that what one can or cannot prove in family court is quite different than what one can get a very human Judge to “believe.” The rules of evidence and the evidence code do more or less rule the issue of proof, but the subjective impact of causing the audience (the Judge) to believe your story is more the province of emotion, presentation, and even theater. These are, in fact, the principles – emotion, presentation, and theatrics - that predict outcome in Family Law cases where parental alienation is present. Not the law.

Perhaps surprisingly, competent Family Law attorneys very often do not understand this. They believe that outcome is predicted by the “rules” and the application of the law to the facts of the case. If this, in fact, should be so in a given case, it is due to the fact that the legal case happened to agree with the emotional presentation that successfully made the Judge “a believer.” We see over and over that when these two levels disagree – that is when the legalistic level disagrees with the emotionally related “story” - that the subjective emotional level trumps the legal one. Family Law cases involving parental alienation provide abundant example of this. Oddly, the lawyers are often as surprised by unwanted outcome as are their clients. Sadly familiar examples abound. Visitation between parent and child are regularly interrupted when doing so is completely at variance with the conditions that are to be met by the law. Orders of Protection are routinely given when there is no evidence of threat or event a hint at one. Custody is often changed when the burden of “change of circumstance” has been in no way met or even addressed. Visitation Orders are ignored by the very court that issued them for no legal reason whatsoever. False abuse allegations are rarely if ever prosecuted in spite of statutory language that requires prosecution. The list goes on.

The significant fact here is that these anomalies are not anomalies at all. They are the predictable outcome of a “sub- logic” that exists beneath the level of the law, has nothing to do with the law, and is often at odds with the law. Welcome to Family Court.