Friday, January 22, 2010

Success in Court

I regularly receive requests for help from parents who find themselves in the throes of parental alienation. Very often, the parent calling will have educated themselves to some degree about the phenomenon, and then call me with a specific request for something that they feel will help their situation. I recently got a call from a father who wanted me to review some documents and then write an affidavit which he could submit to the court as evidence that these documents revealed parental alienation. While his thinking was accurate about realizing the importance of having the court understand what had happened to his children, his method of educating the court, an affidavit from me about parental alienation in his case, would have been unsuccessful had I agreed to provide this service. I pointed out to him that when a child has become alienated to the degree that they say that they never want to see that parent again, a powerful case strategy is what is needed, and an affidavit by myself or anyone else would simply not work.

I believe that it is important to understand that when a child becomes severely alienated, the Court becomes automatically biased in favor of the child’s position, even if the Judge believes that the child got that way due to the influences of the other parent. The statistics on this are very clear. In other words, it is a significant task to get a Judge to recommend a solution over the protest of the alienated child. In my experience, Judges only do this when they have been shown enough argument that forces them to see the peril that exists for the alienated child to be left with the alienator. What this represents essentially is a “two against one” phenomenon where the child and the alienating parent are saying one thing and the other parent is saying something else. Therefore, when this is the case, the targeted parent is well advised to put together an overwhelming argument about why this child should not be given what they say that they want. So…in the above example, what this father really needed was a comprehensive plan to create this overwhelming argument. It might go something like this: first, an analysis of the judges biases and proclivities regarding parental alienation, the use of psychological experts and personal history should be undertaken. Next, an appropriate expert conforming to these biases would be researched and found. Next, the attorney for the targeted parent would craft direct and re-direct questions to the expert which would be developed in a hypothetical manner that allowed the court to understand how alienation had worked its way into this family’s life. This hypothetical testimony would be structured to echo the fact witness testimony from witnesses that describe specific incidents that show alienation. These steps are only the beginning.

While all parental alienation cases are different, one thing that they have in common is the challenge of making it clear to the Judge why the child should not be left in the situation that they claim they want to be in. Successful results are virtually always premised by the creation of a well thought out, well prepared case that addresses the problems in the case and systematically creates counter-measures for their solution. These cases are simply not won by the “seat of ones pants.” They are the result of careful and painstaking planning and preparation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Taking Action and Never Giving Up

I met with a dad recently who is sadly representative of so many mom’s and dad’s who are: (1) being falsely accused of doing things that they have never done, (2) of having scary qualities that they never have had and somehow of (3) posing a danger to the child that they have been moving heaven and earth to somehow see. This familiar and tragic situation can easily overwhelm the strongest parent, yet I continue to notice how few actually give up and walk away. In this dad, I saw the same thing that I have seen so many times: a parent desperately searching for actions, or things to do that will combat and overcome the campaign of vilification that is being waged against them in an effort to poison and remove their children from them. This might be the most important message of his story, the refusal to give up and become inert and defeated. The actions that represent this refusal to give up can take many forms and new ones are explored constantly. I recently heard of a dad who planted a tree in honor of his absent and alienated son. The tree became a symbol of his commitment and love and this father’s care of it kept him sane I think. I heard of a mom who began rescuing the breed of dog that her absent and alienated son had always wanted. Her commitment to this love of his kept her connected to him and moving forward. I heard of a dad who began a website devoted not just to his absent and alienated children, but also served as a touchstone and message center for other alienated children providing them a place to reach out anonymously to other like children and even to their missing parent. I hear many stories of parents who start support groups, chat groups and discussion groups.

I guess that the point is that one must have an action plan in order to be successful. Sometimes the plan may be directly related to the court case, or to the therapy or to the evaluation, but other times the action is more personal and indirectly related but still a part of the refusal to give up. I routinely marvel at the creative actions that parents can do in these circumstances.