Don’t risk becoming the “hated parent” to your own children, as a result of your separation or divorce. Learn the antidote to poisoned minds, and counter the negative impact of “parental alienation syndrome”.
It’s an area of family law which both as a parent, and a family lawyer, I find most troublesome, and frustrating. Of course, I’m referring to the often bitterly contested issues of custody and access.
Children often become mere pawns, manipulated by one, or the other spouse, to suit their own legal agendas. It’s something which has come to be called “parental alienation syndrome.” It’s a condition whereby children are essentially programmed by one parent, the “loved parent,” to reject, and despise, the other parent, the alleged “hated parent.”
Tactics used by a parent can include both conscious, and subconscious, techniques to “poison” a child’s mind against the other parent.
How do you recognize this syndrome?
There are several key characteristics. Typically, a child will constantly denounce the “hated parent,” and, if asked to explain, such negative feelings will be unable to provide any rational explanation.
There will also be an unquestioned, and absolute approval, of the “loved parent,” including sharing the “loved parent’s” description for the “hated parent.” In addition, the description of the “hated parent” will often appear to be consistent, and unchanging, suggesting that the child has been coached, or prompted, by the “loved parent” to provide a negative description.
Finally, and perhaps most damaging of all, the “loved parent” professes that the child’s own wishes, and views, must be respected, including their desire not to see the “hated parent.”
While in my own experience, courts have been slow to recognize and address this syndrome, there may be a glimmer of light, at the end of the tunnel. An Ontario Superior Court Justice fined a woman $10,000.00 for “poisoning” the minds of her children, against their loving father.
Specifically, the woman, the custodial parent, had refused to comply with several orders, which required her, to facilitate contact between the children and their father, and to undertake family counseling.
The court could also have awarded sole custody of the children to the father, but felt such action was not appropriate, since the youngest child, now 16, was “so attached” to the mother, and soon to be fully independent.
Unfortunately, as this case readily demonstrates, once the emotional and psychological damage is done, there is no force on this earth strong enough to compel a child to maintain, or develop, a relationship with the other parent, regardless, of how loving, or well meaning, that parent may be.
What do I recommend as an “antidote” for such “poisoned minds?”
Firstly, if you and your spouse are separating, or divorcing, keep the legal matters out of court, if possible. Going to court creates considerable stress and pressure on both parents, and children. Minimizing both, may help salvage your short, and long term relationship, with your spouse, and children.
Secondly, I recommend counseling for all parties. If you are an employee, your employer may have a benefits program which provides personal and family counseling. If it does, take advantage of it. In most cases, it will be free of charge, as well as being confidential.
Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, I believe changes in the Divorce Act are urgently required. Changes such as removing the divisive term “custody,” and replacing it with a more neutral, but vital, concept such as “parental responsibility.”
But rather than address this particular issue, which has been researched to death, and potentially impact thousands of separating, and divorcing families, each year, the Federal Government has other priorities.
It’s no surprise many doubt the Federal Government’s commitment to families, me among them.
The contents, opinions, and observations, contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce, are strictly intended for general information and entertainment purposes only, and are not intended to be relied upon, or to replace, legal advice.
It is recommended you obtain legal advice from Mr. Taylor,(604-534-6361or firstname.lastname@example.org), or another lawyer, with respect to your specific jurisdiction, and legal circumstances.