Poison Control

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 info@underappeal.com), or another lawyer, with respect to your specific jurisdiction, and legal circumstances.

Give Peace a Chance!

How not to become another tragic casualty in your own dirty divorce war.

The weaponry in this particular conflict is purposely designed to cause maximum psychological, financial and emotional damage to it’s intended target.

The initial salvo of legal weapons, consisting of a Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim and various Demands usually begins late in the afternoon, in order to catch you off-guard, and create general shock and havoc. It works. But before you have any chance to regain your composure and dignity you find yourself a moving target for the dreaded bombardment of the heavier caliber legal weapons, consisting of Affidavits packed with accusations and allegations of all sorts, and Notice of Motions, targeting custody, property and everything else you hold dear.

In case there is any doubt in your mind, you have just become a new and unwilling recruit in a dirty war, otherwise known as divorce.

You immediately seek the advice and counsel of your own top commander, who recommends immediate evasive manoeuvres, combined with a vigorous counterattack. You launch your Statement of Defence, Counterclaim, cross application and other materials in the direction of your adversary in the hopes of stalling the attack and gaining the upper hand.

After all, as you’ve been told, the best defence is a good offence.

Months pass, punctuated by short, expensive and frustrating legal skirmishes. You assess the progress of the conflict. Your financial and emotional resources are stretched to breaking, personal relationships with children, family and friends have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair, and it doesn’t appear that any substantive gains have been made on the legal battlefield to achieve your objectives. In fact, you may not be clear or certain what are your objectives.

Then comes the final battle, and considering everything that you have suffered through, it is aptly named, it is called a trial. When the smoke clears and the final judgement is made, by someone who is a total stranger, you survey the carnage and ask yourself whether this was all really necessary.

The answer, my friends, is absolutely not.

Before firing your guns in your own divorce war, or anytime after hostilities have begun, you can make some smart choices. You can decide to call a truce, to give yourself and your “adversary” the time and opportunity to consider your options such as collaborative divorce.

In a collaborative divorce there is a team of professionals made up of divorce counsellors, collaborative family lawyers and child and property specialists, who all work together for the common good of the parties and the children.

One important feature of this process is that the parties and their lawyers agree that any and all discussions cannot be used for any future legal actions. This alone can often enhance more effective dialogue and the potential for resolution. It’s also far less costly than litigation, but most of all it’s a non-adversarial process which can create a lasting foundation for a family friendly future.

Don’t risk becoming another tragic casualty in your own dirty divorce war. My best advice to you, if you’re considering going on the legal attack or responding in kind, is to take the time to give peace a chance.