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Parental Alienation Syndrome

You may have heard the phrase “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” particularly if you are involved in a contentious situation with your ex over custody or parenting time. The unfortunate truth is that many children of divorce do end up alienated from one parent, for various reasons. Not all such estrangement rises to the level of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), but it is all potentially harmful–not just to the other parent, but to the child as well.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome in Michigan?

It’s a collection of eight symptoms, first identified in the 1980s, and seen primarily in child custody cases. Not all of these symptoms are present in every case. The primary symptom is a campaign of denigration and hatred by the child against the targeted parent. The child also exhibits weak or even absurd rationalizations for this hatred; bias against the targeted parent; conviction that it is their own decision, not influenced by the favored parent, to reject the targeted parent; reflexive support of the favored parent; lack of guilt over the treatment of the alienated parent; use of borrowed scenarios and phrases from the favored parent regarding the targeted parent; and the denigration not just of the targeted parent but also of that parent’s family and social circle.

Despite what a child may assert, PAS is almost always the result of “parental programming” by the favored parent. The child may internalize the favored parent’s attitude and comments toward the other parent and adopt them for her own. This may be an unconscious effort to align herself with the favored parent, perhaps out of fear of losing that parent’s support or love. It is possible that children experiencing PAS feel they must abandon the targeted parent in order to keep the love of the favored parent.

Often in cases where PAS is alleged, there are allegations of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, against the targeted parent. This creates a real dilemma for courts. On the one hand, it is unthinkable that abusers should be able to deflect blame from themselves to the accuser by falsely claiming that the child is suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome. On the other hand, it is equally loathsome to think that a parent would deliberately indoctrinate a child with false notions of abuse just to harm the other parent. Sorting out the truth in these cases can be incredibly difficult, and a wrong decision damages an innocent party–either the abused child or the falsely-accused parent, or both.

Parental Alienation Syndrome has not been formally recognized as a clinical disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. The concept has been hotly debated by both mental health and legal scholars. Whether or not you accept it as a clinical diagnosis, it’s undeniable that there are parents who turn their children against the other parent, either maliciously or out of a misguided belief that they are protecting their kids.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Metro Detroit Family Law Attorney

As painful as it is when the other parent simply denies parenting time, it is still more painful when your child says that he or she doesn’t want to see you anymore because they’ve been brainwashed by the other parent. If you are experiencing a custody or parenting time battle and believe the other parent is turning your child against you, you need an experienced Metro Detroit family law attorney. In his over three decades practicing law, Carlo Martina has developed significant expertise in this area.

To schedule a consultation, call (734) 254-1140 or complete our contact form.

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