If your client’s custody case is particularly hostile, you may begin to suspect your client is the victim of parental alienation.
It’s an increasingly common occurrence in custody litigation and disputes, judging from anecdotal evidence supplied by divorce lawyers across the country, so it’s worthwhile to take some time to learn more about this phenomenon, how to recognize it, and what to do about it when it does occur.
This post will focus on the first two issues – parental alienation (PA) in general and indicators of PA – and a subsequent post will discuss what to do when you suspect it’s happening to your client in custody litigation.
It’s important, right off the bat, to distinguish parental alienation from Parental Alienation Syndrome. PA is an observable set of behaviors in a child/parent relationship, while PAS is a term coined by Richard Gardner to describe a mental diagnosis that is heavily debated and controversial.
If PA is an issue in your client’s custody case, be very careful of your terminology. If you ask questions about “parental alienation syndrome,” and your testifying expert responds in kind, expect a motion to exclude.
Expert testimony on PAS is not accepted by any court that I know of in the child custody litigation context. Additionally, PAS is recognized neither by the DSM-IV-TR (in the US) or the WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.
Instead of focusing on a label or diagnosis, most experts now agree that we should speak of “the alienated child” and the behaviors we can observe in that child in relation to the alienated parent.
Some of those observable behaviors include:
In the next post, I will share some strategies divorce lawyers and their clients can utilize to prevent and counter parental alienation.