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Parental Alienation Syndrome And Family Law

In the process of navigating a divorce, the best interest of children are typically considered a high priority. Parents are inclined to expose their children to the least amount of stress possible and try to help them emerge from the other end generally unscathed.

Unfortunately, divorces often do not proceed smoothly and even the best intentions can yield problematic results. In instances where parents are engaged in a bitter dispute or have opposing views on how to best raise their children, the youngest members of the family often suffer the greatest consequences.

The Creation And Controversy Of Parental Alienation Syndrome

The concept of parental alienation syndrome how was discovered in the early 1980s when psychologists who examined children of separated parents noticed that in some cases, a child would develop an especially strong alliance with one parent. As a result, the child would refuse to spend time with the other parent which contributed to litigation. Psychologist Richard Gardner coined the term in reference to parent-child relationships where the child would show signs of willingness to reject one parent entirely. Some experts posited that the alienation was a result of one parent, often the mother, purposely corrupting the child’s view of the other parent, often the father.

Parental alienation syndrome wasn’t discussed without controversy. Different groups held strong, opposing opinions concerning the theory’s validity and extreme nature. Over the years, new contributions were made to expand on the concept of parental alienation syndrome and how it could be applied to family law and custody disputes.

A Theory Revisited

In 2001, a new article was published that effectively reworked the theory to change the focus from the parent to the child. The concept of estrangement was introduced, as were alternate reasons that may explain these types of situation. The ideas of children rejecting one parent based on lived experiences such as violence, discipline, or a sense of emotional unavailability were considered as opposed to focusing entirely on parental influence.

So where does this leave a parent who feels as if though they are being rejected by their child? Negotiating child custody issues is complicated and requires customized, family-specific solutions. When it comes to the divorce process, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. From exploring the possibility of mediation and collaborative law to helping parents find practical, long-term solutions, working alongside a skilled family lawyer is critical.

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