Parental alienation syndrome, a term coined in the mid 1980's by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner, occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple's children against the other parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse or ex-spouse accomplishes this estrangement by painting a negative picture of the other parent via deprecating comments, blame and false accusations shared with the children. They will also do everything in their power to thwart the other parent's parenting time.
- Change custody of the children to the estranged parent;
- Provide a transitional placement where the children are placed with a neutral party and arrange for therapy for them so that eventually they can be placed with the rejected parent;
- Order therapy for the children, but leave them with the favored parent;
- Do nothing at all—i.e. give the culpable parent a stern tongue lashing but leave the status quo unaltered.
A change of custody is very rare. The reason: often by the time a court has made a finding of parental alienation, the death knell has already tolled for the relationship. The judge might conclude that yes, the children have been alienated from the parent, but now forcing the children to see this parent could be traumatic for them, causing more harm than good.
So, what is to be done? If you want to salvage your relationship with your children and you are certain the alienating parent is not going to voluntarily stop his/her campaign to estrange, act with haste. The court system is flawed but it is the only recourse you have. Do not hesitate to bring an ‘Application’ in family court and possibly seek leave to bring an urgent motion [i]
[i] A blog dealing with ‘urgent motions’ is in the works.