Friday, October 14, 2011

Upcoming Radio Program

While still working out the logistical details (time, date, etc.) I wish to put out there my current thinking about the call-in program I hope to start within the month. First, I want it to be solution oriented. There are many phases in the parental alienation experience and each one has its own special challenges. What I envision is an examination of each of these phases, looking for examples of what a solution would like like for each of them.

For example, during the phase where a parent has no contact with a child for a period of time, what would a solution look like? My thinking is that, if all avenues of access to the child or children have been reasonable exhausted, a solution would be more focused on the internal landscape of dealing with this situation. A solution might entail an examination of strategies from the various tracks of psychology that provide specific exercises and things that can be done to maintain a healthy self in the face of this dilemma. Within this one example, there is a wealth of empirical data that supports the fact that one can actually do things that helps turn this experience into not only something that one can hopefully survive, but something that one can ultimately grow from. This is the kind of thing I think would be helpful. And I would hope and anticipate hearing from those in the audience who have successfully found their own methods of dealing with these challenges.

Other phases of the parental alienation experience likewise will have their solutions as well. For example, if one is in the process of preparing for a court hearing or trial, there are practical do's and don'ts that often only are seen when it is too late. Solutions in this phase may include very practical input about the hidden land mines and trip wires that are the stuff of the Family Court System. For example: when can a GAL be a good idea, and when can a GAL's appointment be a disaster? There is a reliable calculus to this and this information can be shared and discussed.

My plan is to have guests on the program that can likewise shed light into their understanding of such solutions. In all, I hope this program to be a clearinghouse and laboratory for the development and exploration of such helpful solution oriented information. Input is invited.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Secret Rules of Family Court

Today I spoke with a parent who was following the direction of the court, and in so doing, contacted a Psychologist as directed. From the conversation that occurred between this parent and the Psychologist, it became fairly clear to me that the court had not been clear about the role that this Psychologist was supposed to play, that of evaluator or that of therapist. This is a very significant distinction in that the role of a therapist and the role of an evaluator are as different as night and day. It is surprising that very often, Family Law Judges are not aware of this distinction, and therefore issue unclear and ambiguous orders. The significance of this is that if she, in fact, was to contact this Psychologist to act as an evaluator, she herself should not have contacted him, but her lawyer should have. Her contacting him, assuming he was to act as an evaluator, would have tainted his objectivity to the degree that he probably would have declined to take the job as evaluator. The problem is nobody tells you these rules before you enter into these actions. The fact of the matter is that many otherwise well qualified attorneys and judges do not really understand this. I know that this must sound ridiculous, however I suspect many who may read this post can describe the price they ended up paying for not knowing any better

In Family Law there are many rules that are never described. Most often, parents learn of them after they inadvertently break them, honestly not knowing any better. In the adversarial environment of the the court, the hapless parent in the hypothetical example described above, could have been portrayed by the other side as perhaps sabotaging the whole process and the court's wishes, which was never the case at all. I would have difficulty counting the number of times I have heard the comment that "if I only understood then, what I now have learned now, none of this would have happened."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Working with Attorneys

A recurring issue that I see repeatedly is that of working in concert with Family attorneys. Like most professionals, attorneys are habituated in how they approach a family law dissolution case, just as a physician approaches a medical problem with an analogous strategy. We humans are all creatures of habit and it shows in our work; even psychologists are this way am told. The interesting thing about family law cases with parental alienation present is that many of those habituated responses will not likely be successful. This is because the elephant in the middle of the room is the overall theme of false allegations of poor parenting, abuse, neglect, and everything in between. These cases must be approached differently and this theme must be exposed early on.

In my consultative role, I have had the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of family lawyers over the years. Many are not initially too certain about my role as a consultant, some are immediately openly inviting and some are skeptical and even a bit put out by another pair of eyes looking in on their work. So what I try to do is to show that I can be a powerful resource for them that can make their job easier and increase the likelihood of success in these difficult cases. What I have found generally is that even the initially skeptical attorney can be brought around to see how I can be of help. As with all things human it is about the relationship that develops in working together.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Book Announcement

I am very pleased and excited to announce the publication of a book co-authored by myself and my friend and colleague, Robert Evans, PhD. This book, The Essentials of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS): Its Real, It’s Here and It Hurts, is derived from a continuing legal education course that Bob and I created about four years ago. The purpose of the course was to educate family lawyers about the phenomenon of parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome as well as how to best litigate this problem in family court. The course was well received and I believe that we were successful in giving these family lawyers what was essentially a “crash course” in the problem of parental alienation. Since the audience was exclusively attorneys, our focus was very practical and explanatory.

We did not spend too much time on theory or history so much as we did on the “how too’s” of dealing with this problem in the adversarial family court system. We spent a fair amount of time on the issue of dealing with false allegations of abuse, as this is one of the most vexing and challenging that attorney’s must deal with. We spent a good amount of time addressing the fact that the family court system must contain a bias to protect the children that it is asked to oversee. We explained the fact that it is precisely this bias to protect children that is exploited not only by the alienating parent and his or her counsel, but potentially the entire adversarial system of family law. There was significant interest is how to overcome this, and I believe that we did a good job on how to do that, as just one example.

Several months ago Bob Evans realized that this very practical, hands on course, has a wider audience than just the attorney’s in our original audience, and I believe that he was right. So he set about transcribing the course and then editing it so as to be suitable for a book. The result is The Essentials of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS): Its Real, It’s Here and It Hurts. We believe that this little book contains what are truly the essentials of dealing with this problem not only in the court, but outside of the court system as well.

We hope that you find it to be of assistance, and we always appreciate any feedback that you might have.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tragedy in Norway and Parental Alienation

Earlier this week, a 32 year old Norwegian man named Anders Behring Breivik blew up a government building, killing an uncertain number of people and then went on a shooting spree at a youth retreat, killing even more. The death toll is estimated to 76 at this point. His reason? He was trying to save Norway from Islam. While his acts are obviously heinous and horrible, and the work of a madman, we find that he does not look mad or crazy at all. He is calm, articulate and pleasant looking. He claims that he is guilty of no crime and that his actions are if anything, heroic. This how could this be possible? How is it possible that anyone but a psychotic could do such things?

At this point, you may well be asking, what does this have to do with parental alienation? Unfortunately, much more than you might expect. I believe that the simple answer is this: when motivated by hatred and fear of “the other” from whom they have been separated, unspeakable acts can and do occur, be they in a family context or in the context of politics. In the case of alienated children, they are taught to hate the targeted parent, and this hatred covers over a fear of displeasing the alienating parent. In this young man’s case, he had developed a hatred of the growing Muslim population in Norway, and had been taught to fear its continued growth. Just as alienated children often carry a sense of power, entitlement and a responsibility to protect, this young man seemed to feel a sense of obligation to obliterate what he came to believe was the growing Muslim threat in Norway.

Before appearing before a judge, he asked for trial to be public and even televised, so that he could educate the Norse population and indeed the world of his sense of what he saw as the horrors of the growing Muslim population. He also asked to be able to wear some sort of uniform during court proceedings, in the hopes of suggesting that he was acting in some heroic manner. Both requests were denied by the court. When we look into this young man’s background, we find that he had become more of a loner in the last three years. We learn that his isolation was hastened by his sister’s departure to the United States, when she married an American, and that his spare time became more occupied with internet games, blogging and the creation of a rambling manifesto reminiscent of that of Ted Kysgenski, whom he quoted directly. In other words, his spare time was spent alone in a room with a computer, through which he interacted with other strangers whom he would never actually meet. In this soup of isolation and social distortion, grew a sense of empowerment, hubris, and misinformed heroic obligation.

When children become parentally alienated, they are likewise isolated not only from the targeted parent, but also from adverse opinion as well as even interaction with those with whom may disagree. This sense of isolation and uniformity of perception is likewise intensified and cooked down into a powerful stew that overwhelms all other points of view. It turns out that Anders Behring Breivik parents had divorced when he was young, and that he had no relationship with his father for years. The New York Times described their relationship as being “estranged”. His father had since moved to France. While we cannot know this, it may be speculated that this man might himself be a product of alienation. If this was and is the case, it might be said that a template of isolation, hatred, judgment and cruelty, may have been formed many years earlier, and that it might have invited what later developed in this man’s mind.

As I review more and more cases where parental alienation is present, I see the same patterns. I see isolation from the targeted parent. I see this isolation as a fertile ground for the breeding of harsh judgment and intolerance. I see children claiming to be afraid but acting angry instead. This recipe of judgment, intolerance, distortion and exclusion is the breeding ground of the greatest horrors that we humans have ever created. On the large political and historical stage, examples include Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge, and Jim Jones. The list goes on. However on the more subtle and quiet home front, these same qualities may be seen in the parental alienation of children.