Article: Parental Alienation – It’s real and it’s child abuse.

By: Susan J. Elliott, JD, M.Ed.

I wrote about co-parenting with a personality disordered person in my series HERE and wanted to follow up with a series on parental alienation syndrome.

A client of mine has professionals who are involved with her family because they have been tagged as “high conflict,” a term that is used when a family is involved with the courts and social services to an unusual degree.

Like most high conflict families, her ex has a personality disorder and spends a lot of time accusing her of things she has not done, and litigates and relitigates every single issue in divorce and custody.

Even though courts and social services are supposedly dedicated to combating child abuse, too often they are complicit in allowing parental alienation, a form of emotional child abuse, to continue unabated, harming the child in sometimes irreparable ways.

My client has been separated from her daughter for months based on a false accusation made by her ex. Even though there is video evidence in her favor, over seven months have passed and the court has still not seen the evidence that will exonerate her. In the meantime, considerable damage has been done to the child by the very people she has turned to for help.

Over the course of many months, my client has been able to provide evidence to legal and social services professionals that her ex is engaging in a campaign to move her out of her daughter’s life. It has been difficult but she has finally been able to convince her daughter’s therapist, DCF and various other entities that her ex is coaching her daughter.

Unfortunately during their last hearing, the judge recommended yet another round of meetings with Family Services. Despite the amount of professionals already involved with this family and relying on their counsel, the judge has brought another group into the scene.

As is usual, the new professionals see it as an even playing field and she has to start all over again to convince them what is going on. In addition, she told one of the new social workers that her ex was engaging in parental alienation. To her utter shock, the professional said, “There is no such thing.”

It is absolutely astounding to me that a professional can work in a state that actually recognizes Parental Alienation Syndrome (Connecticut) and defines it as emotional child abuse and ascribe to the belief that there is no such thing. To me, this person should NOT be working with high-conflict families.

Connecticut is a “friendly parent” state which means that judges are required to consider which parent is more likely to promote a full and healthy relationship with the other parent. To many attorneys, myself included, these statutes appear to be designed to avoid parents trying to alienate their children from the other parent. However, many judges seem more than willing to avoid the statute and its intent. It has taken my client many months to convince professionals, without hitting them over the head, that her ex is waging a non-stop campaign designed to alienate her daughter from her. And it’s been working.

She read through her DCF file which is replete with entries based on interviews with her daughter’s therapist and interviews with her and her ex. It is clear that, over time, the professionals have become convinced that her ex is engaging in emotional warfare. Despite these conclusions and the fact that each day that goes by without intervention, the alienation becomes deeper and more permanent, the case slags on.