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parental alienation


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During a separation or a divorce, there are a number of factors that can put you and your children at risk for parental alienation. Early recognition of these factors is important so you can intervene and protect your relationship with your children.

  • Visits are withheld.
  • Children are frequently not returned on time (later than a half-hour).
  • A parent threatens to abduct the children.
  • Suggestions of sexual, physical, and/or mental abuse.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • A parent having a severe mental disorder.
  • A parent interferes with a reasonable number of phone calls.
  • Children begin refusing to visit.
This list is not intended to be a list of symptoms, these are risk factors that you should be aware of that can lead to alienation.

Provided by Douglas Darnell, Ph.D.

stay focused & educated
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Harm to the Child
Dr. Peggy Ward

All litigation concerning children can effect their healthy growth & development negatively. The greater the acrimony & the greater the part that the children need or are asked to play in the litigation, the greater the potential for harm. To judges & lawyers involved in severely acrimonious cases, this is obvious. It is less apparent to the legal system that, when the parents are divorced or separated, parental conflict concerning the children in the presence of children also causes harm.

The persistent quality of the conflict combined w/its enduring nature seriously endangers the mental health of the parents & the psychological development of the children. Under the guise of fighting for the child, the parents may succeed in inflicting severe emotional suffering on the very person whose protection & well-being is the presumed rationale for the battle. " (emphasis added).

It is psychologically harmful to children to be deprived of a healthy relationship w/one parent.

"Visitation agreements must insure that the emotional bond of the child with bothparents is protected. There is substantial research that indicates that children need contact w/adults of both sexes for balanced development"

With the exception of abuse, there is no good reason why a child should not want to spend some time w/each of her parents & even w/abuse, most children still, want to maintain some relationship w/the abusive parent. It's the job of the parents, the professionals & the courts to see that such contact is possible under safe circumstances.

While alienating messages & behavior affect a child negatively & impact upon the child's growth & development, the impact on the child may not vary w/the parent's intentions. The effect will be to place the child in a severe loyalty bind, a position wherein the child believes she\he must chose which of her two parents she\he will "love" more. To have to choose between parents is itself damaging to the child, & if the end result is the exclusion of a parent from the child's life, the injury is irreparable.

There is a continuum of alienating parental behaviors which cause harm to children, and all positions on this continuum need be of concern to the professionals and the Courts. Some of the behavior is scarcely detectable with the result that attorneys and the court system a loss over the alienation as a "normal " part of the divorce or litigation process.

All families are made up of individuals who live together in relatively stable intimate groups with the ostensible purpose of supporting and caring for each other. Family members develop their own rules and boundaries, spoken and unspoken, about the ways that they will behave with each other, cohabit, be intimate, support and care for each other. Each familys' rules and boundaries are unique and change over time to reflect modifications in membership. The evolving needs of its members and the realities the outer world places on the family, such as schedules, finances, etc. Most of the time changes in the family system are gradual and evolving, but some events force cataclysmic upheaval in the system. Divorce is usually such an event.

Unless a separating family can change its own rules and boundaries without outside intervention, the divorce process itself may reach an impasse, the term applied when the divorce process itself becomes "stuck" and the family system falls to appropriately restructure itself. When there is an impasse, any move by anyone, family member, attorney, spouse, is met with a counter move resulting in no forward progress.

The impasse creates a system of its own, with its own membership, rules and boundaries. Although little recognized by professionals, membership in the divorce impasse system will include all members of the family living together and all professionals involved in "helping," the family get a divorce, i.e. the lawyers, mediators, therapists and even the judge. A divorce impasse can occur at three different levels: an internal level (inside an individual), all interactional level (between two individuals); and/or an external level (within the larger social and familial system. An impasse at any one of the levels will affect the entire system, and and how each individual member responds will affect all members, especially the child.

The children themselves are members in both the changing family system and in the developing broader divorce impasse system. As a member of the family system, a child is attached legally, emotionally and psychologically to each of his parents. As a member of a divorce impasse system, a child is often asked to ally himself with one parent or the other, a request which clearly places the child in a loyalty bind. Sometimes the request, either overtly or covertly. is that the child make the alliance exclusive. All members of the divorce impasse system, including the professionals, are affected by the loyalty struggles and may become polarized.

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Motivation for Alienation
by Dr. Peggy Ward

There are many motivational factors that could cause a parent to want to alienate her child from the child's other parent. An alienating parent most likely has strong underlying feelings & emotions left over from earlier unresolved emotional issues which have been resuscitated & compounded by the pain of the divorce.
The individual, in attempting to ward off these powerful & intensely uncomfortable feelings, develops behavioral strategies that involve the children. One solution to the pain & anger is to sue for custody of the child & to endeavor to punish the other parent by seeking his exclusion.
The internal world of all alienating parent can have complex & multifarious origins which are beyond the scope of this article.

If the motivating factors are unconscious or subconscious, the alienating parent may not feel and/or may not be aware of the feelings & emotions described above. Unaware parents may deny to lawyers & judges both motivation & behavior quite convincingly, but nonetheless, may be involved in alienating behavior.

Parents may also be aware of their angry or hopeless feelings but may consciously desire to protect the child. They tell their attorneys & the court of their conscious plans; however, despite the conscious desires, they may, unintentionally & unwittingly, engage in alienating behavior, driven by less conscious needs.
Frequently, the unconscious or unintentional alienating behavior results in the milder forms of alienation of the child from the target parent. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the concrete signs of alienating behavior in order to thwart the development of alienation.

The courts should not tolerate alienating behavior simply because the intention to alienate is denied. The disavowal of alienation & active verbal espousal of relationship may be quite convincing & mislead lawyers & judges from the actual truth of the alienation.

Neither should the courts predicate a custody award on the hopes that the behavior witnessed & cited in court is merely a product of the acrimony generated by the litigation. Parties engaged in a high conflict divorce may show their worst behavior to all, but it is impossible to predict, as the courts so often wish they could do, whether this behavior will lessen after the final resolution of the case.
In a case in which the Plaintiff father was awarded custody against the recommendation of the Guardian ad Litem, the Marital Master concluded:

"The (Father) has also demonstrated some behaviors which have been troublesome to the Master as well as the Guardian ad Litem. The (Father) has been manipulative in the presentation of this case, the Master concludes that he has inappropriately attempted to influence & pressure the children into giving negative information about their mother & he has demonstrated a lack of cooperation & flexibility in respecting the (Mother's)'s parental rights. It is the hope of the Master that these factors have been the result of this litigation & the hostility between the parties will resolve themselves and not be a factor following this decree." S.L. v. S.L., Superior Court, 1989.
Here, the master has been witness to a divorce impasse which may not resolve itself w/out intervention & the parties' statements of good intentions should not be relied upon to bring about a reversal of a behavioral trend already witnessed.

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Recognition of Alienating Behaviors
Dr. Peggy Ward
Recognizing the mild form of alienating behavior is tricky because the behavior itself is often subtle & because the alienating parent will deny both motivation & acts & often will make sincere statements to her attorneys & the court that reflect a regard for the children's needs for the other parent & a respect for the unique role the other parent has to play in the life & development of the child.

Although such statements are sincerely meant, the alienating parent's view of the other parent is compromised at this stage, as indicated by her behavior. She\he isn't aware of the beliefs & feelings that motivate her unintentional alienating behavior (internal) or of the effect that her statements & behavior can have on the child (interactional).
Her feelings, emotions & beliefs about the other parent are largely unconscious or subconscious at this stage.

Because the statements of the alienating parent won't give the lawyers or the courts clues that there is alienation in process, it's important to look at the underlying messages given directly to the child. In this milder form there's less polarization of the external sources of the divorce impasse system (attorneys, courts).
The communications to the child of the regard w/which the other parent is held is the key to detecting alienating behavior.

Examples of mild forms of alienating behavior include:

1. Little regard for the importance of visitation/ contact w/the other parent:
  • "You're welcome to visit w/Mom; you make the choice; I won't force you."
  • No encouragement of visits
  • No concern over missed visits
  • No interest in the child's activities or experiences during visitation (in a positive manner)

2. Lack of value regarding communication between visits:

  • No encouragement of communication between visits
  • Little awareness of the distress a child may feel if a visit or phone call is missed.

3. Inability to tolerate the presence of the other parent even at events important to the child:

  • "I won't go to any soccer games if your mother is there."

4. Disregard for the importance of the relationship to the child:

  • Displaying a willingness to apply for & accept a new job away from the other parent, w/out regard to the child's relationship w/that parent.
At this stage alienation is most likely to become obvious during family system transition times, such as when children leave one home & go to another, when one parent remarries or has another child.
The knowledge that a child needs the other parent may be present, but this rational belief may become overwhelmed by internal & interactional problems at this phase.

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Once an alienation process has been identified, the court must intervene.
Even at the mild or beginning stages there's much work to be done. There's usually a healthy psychological bond between each of the parents & the child & at least a cognitive recognition on the part of the alienating parent that an estrangement between the child & the target parent is not in the best interests of the child.
The alienating parent is frequently willing to participate in a program to change the direction of the case, if given the information & the guidance necessary.

Often the alienation at this stage is
motivated by fear that the impending divorce will cause the child to love the alienating parent less. The finalization of the divorce itself together w/specific education & the therapy described below may ameliorate the situation.

At the mild stage, it is imperative that the family be engaged in a "family systems" therapy that is focused on changing the behavior of the parties around the child.
The traditional individual therapies are not helpful as individual treatment tends to focus only on one side, therefore -
"... potentially increasing the alienation by advocacy for a client."
If individual therapy is necessary for a child or a parent, it must take place w/a therapist who understands the alienation process & who supports the value to a child of having a relationship w/each parent.

All therapists engaged w/the family must understand family dynamics & parental alienation, have a systems approach & clearly understand that children need two parents.
The therapists must be strong & forceful & able to utilize the force of the court through the Guardian ad Litem. The therapy must be directed at the resolution of the divorce impasse.

The Court ordered divorce impasse therapy must include all the adults directly involved in the custody of the child. This includes both parents & any live-in lovers or current spouses & any other adult who lives in the home of either the alienating parent or the target parent & any other adult who may be involved in the alienation. A court order may be necessary to require the warring adults to sit in the same room together, but we believe that they must actually face each other if possible, or, at a minimum , be involved w/the same systems therapist if meeting together is not recommended.

The Court order must be forceful & explicit. The rights, responsibilities & duties of each parent must be spelled out explicitly. Attendance in therapy as required by the therapist must be court ordered. The custody & visitation schedule may also need to be explicit, w/details of how, when & where pick-ups & drop-offs are to occur.
All parties must understand that a court order cannot be modified unless approved by the Court; if modifications can be made by the family w/the agreement of the systems therapist, this must be made explicit in the order.

Confidentiality will always be an issue which should be addressed by the court, the parties, lawyers & the therapist. If the parties are able to agree to confidentiality. it should be written into the court order. If the therapy is confidential, it should be confidential to all. including the court & the guardian ad Litem. The ability of the parties to agree to confidentiality would be a major step to resolution as it indicates both
motivation & trust of the system.
If the parties can't agree to confidentiality, the court should do what it can to insulate the therapist from legal inquiry, w/due regard for the parties constitutional rights".
The Court can order the attorneys not to speak w/the therapist (except for the Guardian ad Litem) during the therapeutic process, order complete confidentiality for the therapist's working notes:
  • delay all depositions until further court order, or otherwise limit the therapist's involvement in, the litigation process.
  • There must be a mechanism for enforcement of the court order.
  • The court should appoint a Guardian ad Litem who will have the authority, independent of further Court order, to require a complete family system evaluation if the above treatment is not successful.
  • The order at this stage should include the mechanism for the payment of both the Guardian ad Litem & the court ordered evaluation.

The order should also contemplate the need for rapid & complete intervention, should the parties fall to ameliorate the situation. We suggest that the court schedule a review hearing at the time it issues the therapy order & allow only the Guardian ad Litem to cancel it.

We are hopeful that, in most cases, the court ordered expensive evaluation will be sufficient sanction to motivate the parents to genuinely participate in treatment, but the partie must be made to feel the strength of the court behind the court order.

Sanctions for failure to comply must be explicit. We urge the court to spell out the next stage of intervention & include an explanation of what sanctions to expect at a future date, if necessary.

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The alienating parent has some awareness of her emotional motivations (fear of loss, rage) & little sense of the value of the target parent. Sometimes, an alienating parent will understand the theoretical importance of the other parent in the life of her child, but believes that in her case, the other parent, due to character deficiencies, can't be important to the child.

Their statements & behaviors are subtle but damaging to the child.

1. Communication of dislike of visitation:

  • "You can visit w/your Dad, but you know how I feel about it."
  • "How can you go to see your father when you know, I've been sick; Aunt B is here."
  • Visitation w/your Dad is really up to you."

2. Refusal to hear anything about the other parent (especially if it's good):

  • "That's between you & your father." (regarding reports of visitation; plans for visitation)
  • " I don't want to hear about it." (what you did w/your father) (especially if it was fun)

3. Delights in hearing negative news about the other parent:

4. Refusal to speak directly w/the other parent:

  • When the target parent calls, gives the phone to the child "It's him," in a disgusted tone of voice."
  • Hangs up the phone on the target parent...
  • Silently hands the phone to the child when its the target parent calling.

5. Refusal to allow the target parent physically near:

  • Target parent not allowed out of the car or even on the property, in the driveway, for pick-up & drop-off for visitations;

6. Doing & undoing statements: Negative comments about the other parent made & then denied:

  • "There are things I could tell you about your Dad, but I'm not that kind of person."
  • "Your Dad is an alcoholic; oh, I shouldn't have said that."

7. Subtle accusations:

  • "Your Dad wasn't around a lot when you were little."
  • "Your Dad abandoned me."

8. Destruction of memorabilia of the target person.

At this stage alienation continues to occur more frequently during transitional times, but is present in other circumstances. With moderate forms of alienation, all 3 divorce impasse systems are involved.

  • The alienating parent is facing an internal conflic
  • The allienating, parent is interacting w/the spouse in a manner designed to produce conflict
  • The external forces, such as therapists, attorneys & the court, are involved in the polarization, at least to some degree

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Intervention for moderate alienation can't be only the educational & counseling intervention described for mild alienation. Education can't be successful because the alienating at this level is not a rational process & reason alone will not change an irrational behavior.
At this level the alienating parent's individual internal difficulties have become so intense that insight & judgment as to the target parent is impaired.
Further, the alienating parents interactions w/& about the target parent are based not on observed behavior but on inner fears & serve to reaffirm the belief that the target parent is bad.
Additionally, external forces (individual therapists, attorneys, extended family) have become polarized on behalf of one party & serve to perpetuate the alienation.

We believe that the family system must be thoroughly evaluated by a professional or a team of professionals competent in the "family systems" approach.
The evaluation must be of the entire system, including all adults directly involved in the life of the child, as described above. The evaluation must be generated by a single source or team:
  • multiple individual psychological evaluations will not be able to advise the court as the inter-relational issues that are effecting the functioning of the family.

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

  • identify the specific motivations & behaviors that are causing the divorce impasse or subsequent alienation
  • to assess whether or not individual therapy might be beneficial for any party to help resolve intrapsychic issues
  • to develop a complete behavioral plan to intervene in the alienation process

The behavioral assessment must be very specific:

 as motivation for the impasse behaviors that are causing the alienation & the changes necessary to alter the system.

Once the behaviors & beliefs are identified, the evaluator can make recommendations as to specific behavioral measures to take to counter the alienation. The recommendations must be sufficiently detailed & specific to be quantifiable.

We wish to emphasize here that individual psychological evaluations & therapies or "talking" group or family therapies are of minimal value in these situations, as they may only serve to perpetuate the alienation process. The goal of appropriate treatment is not only to gain understanding of the divorce impasse but also to behaviorally reduce or eliminate alienation within the system.

In order to intervene in alienation, behavior & group dynamics must be modified.

We suggest the Individual Educational Plan (the IEP) as a model. The Recommendations must be as specific & goal oriented as the IEP & compliance must be targeted in much the same manner.

Compliance should be approximately 70% compliance the first two months; 80% the third or fourth month; 90% the fifth month & thereafter.

For example:

  • The child will see Target Parent X times per week without parental conflict at times of transition
  • The child will telephone Target Parent X times per week, & talk about positive things for a minute or two
  • (depending on the age of the child)
  • (depending upon whether telephone calls to a hostile environment would be beneficial or not to the child)
  • During the visit the Alienating Parent may call only "x" number of times ( or may not call at all)
  • The child will send Target parent a picture or painting in the mail once per week, w/a positive note attached
  • The child will bring home from visits a project done or a note to Alienating Parent about what was enjoyed during each visit.
  • The Target parent will provide a photograph of himself to the child & the Alienating Parent shall encourage the child to display it.

Essentially, what the evaluators must do is to understand the impasse, address it directly & compassionately. Clearly, this plan will work best if the internal & the interactional issues which created the divorce impasse are concurrently addressed & alleviated.

At the same time the court must mandate the occurrence of specific behaviors that counteract the battle forces. The court must make the parents demonstrate that they can follow a plan whose ultimate goal is the mutuality of interest, even if they don't feel it.

It's our position that the alienating parent must become the welcoming parent, in deed, if not in thought.

Finally, the plan must cover a specific & lengthy period of time during which the behavioral requirements of the parties & the child are explicitly laid out. This will provide the parties sufficient predictability to calm the system down & to allow every one in it to get used to the idea that different relationships between all the members are going to be established in a predictable manner.

We suggest that the plan cover approximately six months with an automatic court review at that time.

Procedurally, we suggest that the Guardian ad Litem be authorized at first stage of intervention, as noted above, to require the evaluation & that the Guardian's request have the force of the court behind it.

When the evaluation is commenced, the Guardian ad Litem simultaneously should request the Court to schedule a hearing to be held before the Court when the evaluation is complete. At the hearing, all parties could present to the court proposed remedial measures; the Guardian ad Litem would present the evaluators' report & recommendations which will likely include individual therapy to address the impasse & all IEP like behavioral management program.

The Court should then issue a detailed, quantifiable. specific order w/sanctions enumerated, as to the behavioral changes necessary to ameliorate the alienation & order the parties into therapy, if recommended.

There will be no confidentiality by the time a family is in this stage of alienation & need for intervention. The court needs to be able to monitor the progress of the family through the behavior management therapy. The behavior management therapist will need to be able to communicate w/any individual therapists involved w/family members so as that there is a full & complete exchange of information & no family secrets.

Creative sanctions must stand behind the court order as compliance at this stage will be motivated only by fear. The ultimate sanction is a change of custody, but there are many others we could suggest the legal system has traditionally used fines and loss of liberty as punishments for failure to comply with court orders. Certainly, these are sanctions that could be used in these cases, but they may harm or confuse the children as much as the contemnor. Obviously, an award of attorney's fees, the threat of attorney's fees, the threat of weekend jail time may be a useful sanction.

Threats of transferring or assigning responsibility to the Guardian ad Litem's fees, the cost of the evaluation, the costs of the child's therapy or even therapy for the other parent can all be used to motivate compliance in this early stage of intervention, subject always to the best interests of the child.

We also suggest that the court could shift both time (expand visitation or award cherished holidays and birthdays to the complying parent) and function (assign areas of traditionally joint parental authority such as medical care, education) in favor of the target parent. both as all appropriate sanctions, and as possible preparation for the ultimate sanction, a change in custody.

The careful monitoring of such a detailed court order is an essential piece of this intervention, and we suggest that there be a monitoring team to do it. The Guardian ad Litem and a therapist most likely the evaluator or the original post-divorce counsellor, should work together monitoring compliance. Such monitoring perforce will be largely through reports of the principles involved, the parents and the child, but can also be done by teachers.

individual therapists, friends, etc. through reports to the Guardian ad Litem. For instance, teachers can be asked to report on the emotional condition of a child before and after visits and to report on any information the child offers in school. A child can be asked where he keeps the photograph of the Target Parent (as an indicator of the degree of comfort the child has in the display in the allegedly hostile environment).

A team is necessary to lessen the danger of the professionals becoming caught into the polarization in the family system. In extreme cases the monitoring team may even want to have a third consultant monitor available to them to oversee the case as a more distant figure not caught up in the everyday details these kinds of cases chronically present. A consultant monitor could stay aloof of the various warring, factions.

If the parties fail to comply with the court orders there needs to be swift access to the courts and a second look at the custody situation.

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When the alienation is overt, the motivation to alienate, the intense hatred of the other is blatant. The alienating parent is obsessed & sees the target as noxious to himself, the children & even the world. He relates a history of the marriage which reflects nothing but the bad times. The target parent was never worthwhile as a spouse or a parent & isn't worthwhile today. Such a parent shows little response to logic & little ability to confront reality.

Many alienating parents at this stage entertain the overt belief that the target parent presents an actual danger of harm to the children. They present this belief as concrete knowledge that if the children spend time w/the target parent they will be irreparably harmed in some manner or that they will be brainwashed by the target parent not to value/love the alienating parent.

1. Statements about the target parent are delusional or false:
  • "Your Mom doesn't pay support" when there is evidence to show payment.
  • "Your father doesn't love us" (or "you") when there is no evidence to that effect.
  • "Your mother drinks too much," "uses drugs," "smokes," etc. when there is no evidence to support these statements.
  • "Your father went out & got the meanest lawyer in town."

2. Inclusion of the children as victims of the target parent's bad behavior:

  • "Your Mom abandoned us"; "Your Dad doesn't love us (or you) anymore;"

3. Overt criticism of the target parent:

  • "Your Mom is a drug addict/alcoholic/violent person..."
  • "What's wrong with your Dad; he never/always does... "
  • "Your mother endangers your health."
  • "Your father doesn't take good care of you/ doesn't feed YOU/ take you to the doctor/ understand you during visits. "

4. The children are required to keep secrets from the target parent:

  • "Don't tell your Mom where you've been/ who you've seen/ where you are going/ etc."

5. Threat of withdrawal of love:

  • "I won't love you if you ... (see your Dad, etc.)"
  • " I'm the only one who really loves you."

6. Extreme lack of courtesy to the target parent.

At this state of alienation, conscious motivation is always present & the internal, interactional & external systems are fully engaged in supporting the alienation process.

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By the severe stage, the alienating parent no longer needs to be active. In terms of the motivation, the alienating parent holds no value at all for the other parent (whether motivated by fears, emptiness, helplessness) & the hatred & disdain are completely overt. The alienating parent will do anything to keep the children away from the target parent.

At this stage the child is so enmeshed w/the alienating parent that he agrees totally that the target parent is a villain & the scum of the earth. The child takes on the alienating parent's desires, emotions & hatreds & verbalizes them to all as his own.
The child too sees the history of the target parent & family as all negative & is able to neither remember nor express any positive feeling for the target parent.

These & overt cases, are the ones that as an attorney invade your private life & lead to emotional over-involvement, although any high conflict alienation case beginning in the moderate category can do so.

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A partnership of judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals is critical in the high conflict alienation uses. The judge has the power but is not as readily available to the parties.
Lawyers are more available, but do not necessarily have a systems understanding. As advocates. they can easily become part of a divorce impasse system, aggravating an already inflamed system.
Mental health professionals must have a systems understanding, and are more available but don't have the power of the court, nor the legal understanding of the attorney. A partnership is essential.

Attorneys must help their clients discern their long term interests as to their children, the meaning behind a custody battle (hurt, revenge, fears) and ensuing alienation. Attorneys must hold the knowledge that they may be the sanest, most objective voice in a divorce, and offer education about the importance of coparenting and moving beyond the battleground.
Attorneys must treat with caution and trepidation a client who sees a divorcing spouse as all bad and must avoid joining with the client in further escalating this belief. Attorneys must refer to a mental health professional, when necessary and appropriate, who is trained in family systems, and who will work for the best interest of the whole family.
Attorneys must recognize when they have been enlisted as active parties in the polarization alienation conflict, and seek consultation so as not to further escalate the already inflamed process.

The courts must act decisively and explicitly in cases of high conflict divorce and alienation. The orders must be pragmatic and the grounds for decisions must be explained in terms that make it less likely that one party can claim a moral victory and the other feel the shame of defeat.
The courts must use their knowledge and power to understand the family system, to recognize high conflict alienation cases, and to make appropriate, timely and specific referrals and recommendations. By recognizing alienation in its early form, prevention of future harm to the child and family may well be possible. Intervention, at any point along the continuum of harm is crucial to prevent further harm.

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 Recognizing Alienating Behaviors
 prevention thru education
As stated above, in the ideal cooperative divorce, there is little or no alienation occurring. Parents recognize the difference between their own needs and the needs of their children. They fully, believe that their children have needed both parents throughout the marriage & will continue to need them after the divorce. Each parent values the role that the other parent can play in the lives of the children & the different interests and talents the other has to offer the children, There is no motivation for alienation because of the value attributed to the other parent.

This ideal is infrequently realized in real life because divorce is such an intense change of role, life stage & life style for almost all who go through it. Participants need as much education, support & information as possible to help mitigate the harms that result from high conflict divorce.

Certain counties, court systems & other governmental entities' are requiring all parents of children involved in a divorce to attend an educational program designed to help them understand the impact of the divorce process on themselves & their children & to recognize the value to children of having both parents involved.
The parents are educated as to the typical stages in divorce & child development & the impact they can anticipate their divorce having on their children. The studies of the long term effects of divorce & the usual problems that occur are discussed.
These programs are designed to be preventative of the kinds of problems that commonly arise when parents do not understand the psychological & emotional consequences their divorce has upon themselves & their children.

Other states require mandatory mediation prior to a court trial as a way of avoiding litigation. Mediation advocates believe that mediation is more successful than the courts at avoiding future litigation.

While there have been no studies as to the effectiveness of these programs in preventing or ameliorating alienation, in one such program the participants themselves have reported great satisfaction w/the program & have recommended that it be expanded.

We strongly believe that such an educational program would have significant preventative & some ameliorating effect on alienation, depending on the stage of the alienation.
Much of the early intervention we recommend involves education. A required program for all divorcing, parents & all litigants involved in custody litigation is a cost effective method of getting basic information to parents who may still be cognizant of their children's separate needs & who're still motivated by a true regard for the child's well being.

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It's important for the courts to recognize & support healthy family systems & not to over-react to the volatile emotions of divorce.
At the same time, courts must recognize the initial seeds of alienation & seek information about family structure to examine the degree of risk in the family:
Are the adults using or manipulating the children in furtherance of their own emotional needs?
Are the children vulnerable to alienation?

All children can be enlisted into the battle, but, generally speaking, the children who are most vulnerable may be overly dependant, fearful & passive.
These children may express guilt feelings about their parents' divorce, identify with or play the rescuer of the alienating parent, assume caretaking roles of a parent, and/or feel conditionally loved.
The more vulnerable children pick up & resonate w/the parental feelings. Generally, the children will have little insight into their situation.

The factors that identify families where alienation is less likely are:
  • abundant positive contact between both parents & the children
  • sibling groups who all have good relations w/both parents
  • good relations of the children w/family & friends of both parents
  • free communication to the child by others of the good qualities of both parents
  • lack of defensiveness on the part of each parent as to the emotions, statements & criticisms of the other
  • ability of each parent to discuss schedules & parenting concerns w/the other parent
  • abiltiy of each parent to accommodate the schedules & desires of the other

Many high conflict families view the court as determining not only custody & visitation . but also making judgments about right & wrong, good & bad parenting.

Court is seen as a place where one person is judged to be fit & the other unfit. The court can help ameliorate this unfortunate scenario by making explicit the legal & pragmatic grounds for a decision.

If appropriate, the court can declare neutrality on personal & moral issues that do not expose a child to harm.

Compassionate communication that does not further the anger, loss, shame & humiliation in this public forum can be immensely healing.

the parent evaluation
If the above described interventions fail & the child remains virtually without relationship to the target parent a different level of intervention is warranted.
If the alienating behavior continues despite the education, the post divorce counseling, impasse resolution therapy, and the specific behavior management intervention, one can conclude as a matter of established fact that the alienating parent does not have the capacity to foster a relationship with the other parent which is inherently harmful to the child when the effect is to alienate the child from one parent.

There is a considerable body of research which specifically examines the effects oil children of single parent homes. A full review of this literature is beyond the scope of this article, but, in general, the evidence is overwhelming that in father-absent homes, boys have lower self esteem, are more likely to be rejected by peers and may experience deficits in cognitive functioning. Girls may be less effected than boys in father-absent homes, but the research does show negative effects on girls' social and cognitive development.

There is an additional body of research on reactions of children to high conflict divorce. Children who experience high degree of conflict between parents during divorce show more emotional difficulty than those whose parent are able to better resolve their difficulties. Children whose parents are in conflict "are more likely to feel caught, and children Who feel caught are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and, to a lesser degree, participate in deviant behavior.

The deliberate alienation by one parent of the other, unmodified by the numerous interventions described above, is psychologically harmful to the child.

It is important to appreciate that a parent who inculcates a parental alienation syndrome in a child is indeed perpetrating a form of emotional abuse in that such programming may not only produce life long, alienation from a loving parent. but lifelong psychiatric disturbance in the child.

A change of custody must be contemplated under the best interests standard as the Perrault` standard of a "strong possibility of harm" has been met.

The court must determine what custody location would be the most beneficial to the child, although in many of these case the courts actually have to decide which placement is the least damaging to the child. A comparative determination of the custodial capacity of each parent must be done. The court or the parties may well have sufficient information at this point to litigate the issue of the best interests of the child. If not, parenting evaluations become crucial.

Knowing that the alienating parent doesn't have the ability to foster a relationship between the child & the target parent, the issue before the court will be:
  • Does the target parent offer the child sufficient parenting capacity to outweigh that very serious harm?
  • We believe that, because of the very nature of the harm to the child from the lack of a relationship w/the target parent, the court must determine whether the target parent has adequate parenting capacity.

If the target parent shows a parenting ability that is adequate as defined in the research & fits the needs of the child & there is a reasonable likelihood that the target parent will foster the relationship of the child w/the alienating parent, the court should seriously consider modifying custody, unless the child is so enmeshed w/the alienating parent that a change in custody would be permanently harmful to the child.

If the target parent is not adequate, it becomes incumbent on the court to see if there are other family members or foster care available to take the child, someone to help the child create & maintain a relationship w/each of his parents.

Parental Alienation:
Symptoms of Alienation:
Provided by Douglas Darnell, Ph.D.
To prevent the devastating effects of Parental Alienation, you must begin by recognizing the symptoms of Parental Alienation. After reading the list, don't get discouraged when you notice that some of your own behaviors have been alienating. This is normal in even the best of parents. Instead, let the list help sensitize you to how you are behaving & what you are saying to your children.

1. Giving children choices when they have no choice about visits. Allowing the child to decide for themselves to visit, because when the court order says there is no choice sets up the child for conflict. The child will usually blame the non-residential parent for not being able to decide to choose whether or not to visit. The parent is now victimized regardless of what happens; not being able to see his children or if he or she sees them, the children are angry.

2. Telling the child "everything" about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce is alienating. The parent usually argues that they are "just wanting to be honest" w/their children. This practice is destructive & painful for the child. The alienating parent's motive is for the child to think less of the other parent.

3. Refusing to acknowledge that children have property & may want to transport their possessions between residences.

4. Resisting or refusing to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to school or medical records & schedules of extracurricular activities.

5. A parent blaming the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the family, changes in lifestyle, or having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.

6. Refusing to be flexible w/the visitation schedule in order to respond to the child's needs. The alienating parent may also schedule the children in so many activities that the other parent is never given the time to visit. Of course, when the targeted parent protests, they are described as not caring & selfish.

7. Assuming that if a parent had been physically abusive w/the other parent, it follows that the parent will assault the child. This assumption is not always true.

8. Asking the child to choose one parent over another parent causes the child considerable distress. Typically, they do not want to reject a parent, but instead want to avoid the issue. The child, not the parent, should initiate any suggestion for change of residence.

9. Children will become angry w/a parent. This is normal, particularly if the parent disciplines or has to say "no". If for any reason the anger is not allowed to heal, you can suspect parental alienation. Trust your own experience as a parent. Children will forgive & want to be forgiven if given a chance. Be very suspicious when the child calmly says they can't remember any happy times w/you or they can't say anything they like about you.

10. Be suspicious when a parent or stepparent raises the question about changing the child's name or suggests an adoption.

11. When children can not give reasons for being angry towards a parent or their reasons are very vague w/out any details.

12. A parent having secrets, special signals, a private rendezvous, or words w/special meanings are very destructive & reinforce an on-going alienation.

13. When a parent uses a child to spy or covertly gather information for the parent's own use, the child receives a damaging message that demeans the victimized parent.

14. Parents setting up temptations that interfere w/the child's visitation.

15. A parent suggesting or reacting w/hurt or sadness to their child having a good time w/the other parent will cause the child to withdraw & not communicate. They will frequently feel guilty or conflicted not knowing that it's "okay" to have fun w/their other parent.

16. The parent asking the child about his or her other parent's personal life causes the child considerable tension & conflict. Children who are not alienated want to be loyal to both parents.

17. When parents physically or psychologically rescue the children when there is no threat to their safety. This practice reinforces in the child's mind the illusion of threat or danger, thereby reinforcing alienation.

Making demands on the other parent that is contrary to court orders.

19. Listening in on the children's phone conversation they are having w/the other parent.

20. One way to cause your own alienation is making a habit of breaking promises to your children. In time, your ex-spouse will get tired of having to make excuses for you.

Dr. Peggy Ward
Attorneys & therapists are the front line professionals in most custody battles. They too, have an obligation to educate their clients that divorce involves anger, rage, upset, distress, loyalty binds & kids & parents who manipulate each other in crisis.
The clients must be helped to understand the normality of these themes & to learn the strategies for controlling them & only outgrowing them. Alternatives to intense battles, vindication or retribution must be explored. Clients must be educated as to the possibilities for "humane divorce".
Attorneys & therapists must educate their clients throughout the divorce process about the cost to children of warfare & the cost to children if they don't have access to both parents if access is possible.

It is the duty of the attorney to advocate for her client. Good representation will include assessing the family system clearly from the client's point of view & to advocate for that client's interests zealously.
However, we believe that such zealous advocacy must occur in the context of the client's long term interests as a member of a restructuring family system. Whatever the outcome of the immediate litigation, the client will remain in the family system w/contact & relationships w/all other members of the family system for the rest of his life.
Long after the lawyers are gone, the client will live w/the effects of the positions taken & the statements made in litigation. The client may later regret the vitriol & the permanency of the damage done by a high conflict divorce.

It's the attorney's job to help the client through the immediacy of the pain & the rage & to help the client see the long term view of her family relations.
Allowing voice to be given to rage, anger, fear & even vengeful fantasy can be helpful so long as it is not acted out in behavior & innocent victims are not hurt. Attorneys must help clients see both short term & long term interests in terms of family relations & must not themselves confuse their role as "counsellors" of law who listen & counsel wisely & their role as champion & advocate for the client.

Attorneys must also be acutely cognizant of the divorce impasse system itself & the important part they play in it. Maligning the other spouse, requiring the client to have no further contact w/the spouse, prohibiting any temporary agreements or a temporary separation can interfere w/a real resolution of the conflict.
Zealous advocacy is a poor excuse for actually damaging a client's long term familial relations.

Alienation cases present the greatest difficulty for attorneys who are asked to represent a parent who wishes to excise as much as possible the other parent from the life of a child.
In the advocacy, role, an attorney is bound to allow the client to define the goal of the representation & to advance that position zealously. An attorney is also bound not to bring, or defend frivolous actions." We believe that actions harmful to children could fall under that prohibition.

If alienation is in progress, accepting at face value all derogatory comments about the ill serve both the client & the attorney, as the client's judgment is emotionally tainted. It is incumbent on the attorney to sufficiently explore w/the client his motivation & the reality basis of his beliefs before litigation is undertaken.
Careful & thoughtful exploration w/the client about the good times in the marriage & the positive parenting traits of the other side will give the attorney much information about both parties & will tell the attorney just how balanced a view the client holds.
We believe that under no circumstances should an attorney encourage a client to gain information about the opposing party from a child.
Nor should an attorney interview a child even if the child is unrepresented. The willingness of a client to directly involve a child in the litigation should be a red flag that the parent may well be using a child to further his or her own agenda, even if the child is apparently acquiescent.

It is crucial to note, however, that we are
"describing cases where alienation exists & other forms of abuse, such as physical or sexual abuse, do not."
If abuse is honestly suspected safety of the spouse or children becomes paramount & full evaluation by a competent professional is a necessity.

your continued glossary
of terms & vocabulary

BAILIFF - the court attendant in charge of maintaining order in the courtroom.

BENCH WARRANT - an order issued by a court for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear in court as ordered. Can also be issued for a witness who has failed to appear in response to a subpoena.

BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD - a discretionary legal standard that pertains to support, visitation and custody.

BILL OF PARTICULARS - the formal title for information attached to a complaint or petition.

BONA FIDE - truthfully, honestly and without deceit.

BRIEF - a document presented to the court outlining one side's position.

BURDEN OF PROOF - one spouse must prove to the court any claims made against the opposing spouse. The claims must be supported with sufficient evidence.

CAPIAS - an arrest warrant ordering the sheriff or another police officer to take a person into custody because he or she refuses to show up to court.

CAPITALIZATION - the conversation of income into value.

CAPTION - the heading of a motion or other document illustrating the names of the plaintiff and the defendant, the name of the court, the court term and the identification number.

CERTIFICATE OF MAILING - a written statement proving to the court that a copy of a certain document was mailed to the person for whom it was intended.

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE - a written statement proving to the court and completed by a process server that a copy of a document was served to the person for whom it was intended.

CERTIFIED COPY - a copy of the document contained in the court file. It includes a stamped seal confirming that the copy is indeed a true and correct copy of the document contained in the court file.

CHANGE OF VENUE - a change of judges when one side one side feels the present judge is prejudice.

CHART CHILD SUPPORT METHOD - the method used in some legal areas to establish a basis for determining child support. It takes into consideration the gross income of both parents, less special adjustments such as support for children of a previous marriage, and a set amount of money to be allotted monthly for the child. The court has the authority to digress from the said formula as it decides is necessary in each case.

CHATTEL - personal property.

CHILD CUSTODY - deals with the living arrangements and the legal decision - making concerning the child (see child custody section in your state).

CHILD SUPPORT - the money the non - custodial parent pays to the custodial parent to help pay for the needs of the child.

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES - a series of mathematical formulas that help derive the proper amount of child support that should be awarded.

CHILD SUPPORT WORKSHEET - a court form devised to calculate the child support guidelines.

CITATION - an order from a court requiring a court appearance.

CIVIL COURT - the court which presides over non - criminal cases.

CLAIM - the charge by one spouse against another.

CLEAR TITLE - transferring ownership of an asset without any encumbrances, obstructions or burdens that present any reasonable question of law or fact.

CLERK - the person responsible for keeping court records and procedures in an orderly fashion.

COBRA - Federal Legislation which guarantees that all individuals who are covered by medical insurance have the right to continue coverage for a monthly fee if employment changes or marital status changes.

COHABITATION - two people living together. This can be grounds for terminating support in some states and provinces. Often time a period of cohabitation is written.

COLA - the cost of living adjustment (a COLA offset).

COMMON - LAW MARRIAGE - a marriage in which no formal ceremony took place and no license exists.

COMMON - LAW PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION - the method of dividing property in a divorce according to who holds the title to the property.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY - all income or property that was acquired during the marriage, with exception to gifts or inheritances.

COMPARABLES - a shortened term for competitive property sales, rentals, or operating expenses used for comparison in the valuation process.

COMPLAINT - the initial pleading filed for divorce with specific grounds states. (see legal process section).

CONCILIATION - the attempt to establish an agreement between the divorcing spouses concerning the children and any other areas in which they do not agree.

CONDONATION - when misconduct of a spouse is no longer grounds of divorce due to the act of forgiveness.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST - when any professional is not capable of performing services due to previous relationships or present relationships and/or a situation where confidentiality can be broken.

CONSTABLE - a person who is given the legal right to serve process.

CONSTRUCTIVE ABANDONMENT - the refusal of one spouse to engage in sexual relations with the other spouse. In some states and provinces this is considered grounds for divorce if lasting for a certain length of time.

CONSTRUCTIVE SERVICE OF PROCESS - when the service of process is delivered through other methods such as a newspaper due to the unknown where abouts of the spouse.

CONTEMPT OF COURT - any deliberate failure to comply with the legal process, including the disruption of the court.

CONTESTED DIVORCE - a divorce where at least one issue has not been settled before court. The court must decide the issue or issues.

CONTINGENT FEE - an agreement which specifies that the attorney does not get paid unless the client wins the case. This type of arrangement is generally not allowed in divorce and custody cases.

CONTINUE - the act of postponing a scheduled court hearing to a later time.

CONVEY - to transfer property to someone by selling it or by other means.

CO-RESPONDENT - the individual who is targeted as the partner in an adulterous relationship.

COST APPROACH - a set of procedures in which an appraiser derives a value indication by estimating the current cost to reproduce or replace the existing structure, deducting for all accrued depreciation in the property, and adding the estimated land value.

COUNT - a statement of facts that clearly defines the complaint.

COUNTER - CLAIM - a pleading filed by the defendant (respondent) against the plaintiff ( petitioner ).

COURT CLERK - the administrative personnel of the court who handles the filings for court procedures and answers questions concerning them.

COURT ORDER - a written document ordering a person to do something. It is issued by a court and signed by a judge.

COURT TERM AND NUMBER - an identifying date and number that appears on the captions of a papers filed in court. The assignment is made by the clerk.

COURTS OF COMMON PLEAS - the state trial-level courts that have the authority to grant divorce.

COVERTURE - the period of time a women is married.

CREDITOR - a person to whom money is owed.

CROSS-EXAMINATION - the questioning of a witness of the opposing party in court or at a deposition. The purpose is to test the credibility or pursue advantageous avenues.

CROSS-PETITION - a statement of the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage issued by the respondent. It will be different than that of the petitioner.

CROSS REFERENCE CASE - a separate case involving one parent in common, but in which there are other children from a different mother or father. Either parent can have cross reference cases.

CURABLE DEPRECIATION - items of physical deterioration and functional obsolescence that are economically feasible to cure.

CUSTODIAL PARENT - the parent a child normally lives with, and the one who makes legal decisions concerning the child. There are several different types of custody arrangements. (see child custody section in your state).

CUSTODY - the legal right and responsibility to raise a minor child and to make decisions.

DAMAGES - the monetary harm caused by the actions of another person.

DEBTOR - a person who owes money.

DECREE - the final decision made on an action for divorce.

DEED - a written, legal instrument that conveys an estate or interest in real property when it is executed & delivered. There are numerous types of deeds.

DEFAULT ORDER OR JUDGMENT - an order or judgment made based on only the plaintiff's (petitioner's) complaint, due to no response or presence of the defendant (respondent).

DEFENDANT - the spouse who defends against the lawsuit brought against him or her by the other spouse.

DEFERRED ANNUITY - an income stream that begins at some time in the future.

DEFERRED COMPENSATION PACKAGE - this includes all retirement assets (such as a pension, 401K, IRA) & any other saving or postponed income earned during the marriage.

DEPOSITION - the testimony of a witness under oath & reduced to writing. It is also used to question opposing spouse. (see legal process section in your state).

DEPRECIATION - in appraising, a loss in property value from any cause. In regard to improvements, deterioration & Obsolescence. In accounting, an allowance made against the loss in value of an asset for a defined purpose & computed using a specified method.

DIRECT CAPITALIZATION - the capitalization method used to convert an estimate of a single year's income expectancy or any annual average of several years' income expectancies into an indication of value in one step, either by dividing the income estimated by an appropriate rate or by multiplying the income estimate by an appropriate factor.

DIRECT EXAMINATION - the initial questioning of a witness called to the stand by an attorney.

DIRECT PAYMENT - child or spousal support paid directly to the parent who has custody by the parent who does not have custody.

DISBARMENT - the official seizing of an attorney's license to practice law.

DISCOUNTING - the procedure used to convert periodic income & reversions into present value: based on the assumption that benefits received in the future are worth less than the same benefits received now.

DISCOVERY - procedures used to absorb information that pertains to the credibility of the opposing party's case. The term may also be used for the interview procedure between the attorney & the client at the initial meeting. (see legal process & or the attorney section in your state)

DISCRETION OF THE COURT - an area of choice available to a judge to make decisions after reviewing reasonable evidence.

DISMISS - the termination of a case w/out a final disposition of the matter.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE - a legal judgment that severs a marriage relationship & returns each person to single status.

DIVORCE - a final decree required to legally terminate a valid marriage.

DOCKET - the calendar schedule of the court.

DOCKET NUMBER - the number assigned by a court to a civil or criminal case. It is used to identify all court actions & it appears on all documents filed w/the court in a specific case.

DOMICILE - the place where a person lives & will return if temporarily absent.

DOWER - a wife's common law right to inherit from her husband.

EMANCIPATION - the point at which a minor comes of age. The age is typically 18 or 21.

ENCUMBERED - when a lien, mortgage or other restraint is placed against a property.

ENTREPRENEURIAL PROFIT - a market - derived figure that represents the amount an entrepreneur expects to receive in addition to costs; the difference between total cost & market value.

EQUITABLE DIVISION (DISTRIBUTION) - a system of dividing property acquired by spouses during their marriage in connection w/a divorce proceeding.

EQUITY - the net proceeds from the sale of a home, minus the fees of the solicitor & the real estate agent & the satisfying of the mortgage.

ESTATE - a right or interest in property or the property of a deceased person.

EVALUATION - a study of the nature, quality, or unity of a parcel of real estate or interests in, or aspects of, real property, in which a value estimate is not necessarily required.

EVIDENCE - documents, testimony or other informational material offered to the court to prove or disprove allegations in the pleadings.

EXHIBIT - an item of evidence presented to the court.

EX - PARTE - court relief that is granted due to the absence of opposing party.

EXPECTANCY - future proceeds from an estate.

EXPERT WITNESS - a professional used to help a judge reach a decision. Experts can include: Appraisers, Counselors, Evaluators, Accountants.

FAMILY COURT - a court with jurisdiction over child support , divorce and comparable issues. In Pennsylvania, Family Courts are part of the Court of Common Pleas.

FATHER'S RIGHTS - legal principles and concepts promoting the idea that custody decisions must not discriminate against fathers.

FAULT - BASED DIVORCE - a type of divorce to be granted if one member of the marriage is guilty of some kind of marital misconduct.

FEE SIMPLE ESTATE - absolute ownership unencumbered by an other interest or estate; subject only to the limitations of eminent domain, escheat, police power, and taxation.

FILE - to personally deliver a document to a clerk of a court so that the document can be included in the official records of a case.

FINAL JUDGMENT - relitigation of a matter as the result of a judge's decision. It does not become final for purposes of appeal until the expiration of a certain amount of time.

FOREIGN ORDER - a court order issued by another county, state or nation outside of the jurisdiction in which the custodial parent lives.

FORENSICS - a general term sometimes used by a therapist hired to evaluate a family. The therapists will state in court which parent they feel should have custody of the child. This is know as a Custody Evaluation.

FOUNDATION - the evidence that must be presented before asking certain questions or offering documentary evidence on trial.

GARNISHEE - an insurance company, bank, employer or others upon whom a judgment creditor has placed a Writ of Garnishment because that person or entity holds assets due the original debtor.

GARNISHMENT - a support enforcement technique in which the support payment is automatically deducted from the supporters paycheck and delivered to the spouse. This is an enforcement method of paying support. (Garnishment of Wages).

GOOD CAUSE - a standard by which a recipient of welfare is excused from cooperating with the CSE agency because by doing so the recipient and the children could be in danger. A good cause finding usually results from ample documentation of violence and abuse by the non-custodial parent.

GOOD FAITH - absence of intent to commit fraud.

GOODWILL - the value of a business that is beyond the market value of any tangible assets. It includes reputation, prestige, and company name.

GROUNDS - a legal basis for a divorce.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM - an adult, usually appointed by the court, who represents the non - legal interest of a minor child in a divorce. He or she is a trained social worker, counselor or other professional.

HABITUAL RESIDENCE - the place where a person resides - 'as of habit ' or permanently, for the purposes of the law.

HARDSHIP - the inability of a parent to support his or her children because of a financial strain.

HEALTH INSURANCE ORDER - a court order that instructs the non - custodial parent to purchase health and dental insurance for the children and to add them to the policy.

HEARING - any proceeding that takes place before a court where testimony is given and arguments are heard.

HEARSAY - something a person claims he or she was told by someone else. Often hearsay cannot be used as evidence in a trial.

HOLD HARMLESS - a phrase used to describe an agreement by which one person agrees to assume full liability for an obligation and protect another from any loss or expense from that obligation.

HOSTILE WITNESS - a witness who shows prejudice during testimony that the party who called him or her will actually do a cross - examination.

IMPEACHMENT - the act of proving a witness is not credible due to inconsistent statements or other conflicting evidence.

IN CAMERA - when preceedings are held in the chambers of a judge without the participating parties. This is usually the procedure followed when children testify.

INCOME AND EXPENSE DECLARATION - the form completed by a parent under oath stating that parent's income, assets, expenses and liabilities. The document is used to help determine child support to be paid by the non - custodial parent.

INCORPORATION - part of civil law, making one document part of another. For example, the Agreement becomes part of the Decree in Divorce.

INJUNCTION - a court order preventing someone from doing a particular act which is likely to cause physical, mental injury or property loss of another individual.

INTANGIBLE ASSETS - items of personal property; examples; franchises, trademarks, patents, copyrights, goodwill.

INTANGIBLE VALUE - a value that cannot be imputed to any part of the physical property.

INTERCEPT - a process by which CSE agencies take part of a noncustodial parent's unemployment insurance payments, disability insurance payments, income tax returns and lottery gains to pay child support arrearages owed by the noncustodial parent.

INTERLOCUTORY HEARING - any hearing at which a pretrial or court ruling is requested.

INTERROGATORIES - a group of questions served upon the opposing party to gain knowledge pertaining to the issues in the matrimonial proceedings.

INVENTORY AND APPRAISEMENT - a listing and valuation of properties owned by the parties seeking a divorce.

INVESTMENT ANALYSIS - a process in which the attractiveness of an investment is measured by analyzing ratios.
JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY - a form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the responsibilities and major decision-making related to the child. (see child custody section).

JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY - a form of custody of minor children in which the parents share the actual physical custody of the child. (see child custody section in your state).

JOINT PROPERTY - property that is held in the name of more than one person.

JOINT TENANCY - a form of joint ownership in which each joint owner has an equal share.

JUDGMENT - the ruling or order of the court.

JUDGMENT OF DIVORCE - a formal written document that states that a man and a woman are divorced. This is prepared by an attorney and presented to the court for the Judge to sign. In some states and provinces, this is recognized a the Divorce Decree or Decree of Dissolution.

JURISDICTION - the power of the court to rule on issues related to the parties, their children and their property.
LAW GUARDIAN - an attorney that is typically assigned by the judge to represent the child or children in an intense custody battle.

LEASE - a written document in which the rights to use an occupancy of land or structures are transferred by the owner to another for a specific period of time in return for a specified rent.

LEASED FEE ESTATE - an ownership interest held by a landlord with the right of use and occupancy conveyed by lease to others: usually consists of the right to receive rent and the right to repossession at the termination of the lease.

LEASEHOLD ESTATE - the right to use and occupy real estate for a stated term and under certain conditions: conveyed by a lease.

LEGAL CUSTODY - the authority of one parent or both parents to make legal decisions regarding health, education and welfare of the child.

LEGAL SEPARATION - a legal lawsuit for support while the spouses are living separate and apart.

LEVERAGE FACTORS - considerations made by each parties pertaining to the issues that are being disputed.

LIEN - an encumbrance put on a property owned by a judgment debtor. It prevents the sale, transfer of title or refinancing of the property until the debt is satisfied.

LIQUIDATION VALUE - the price that an owner is compelled to accept when a property must be sold without reasonable market exposure.

LITIGATION - the process of fighting a legal dispute in the court system.

LONG ARM - the means by which a court can get jurisdiction over someone who lives outside the jurisdiction in which the court is located.

LUMP - SUM ALIMONY - a spousal support that is ordered to be paid in a fixed amount. The completion of the payment may be made in installments. (see spousal support section).

MAGISTRATE - a person who performs the functions of a judge but does not have the power to issue a court order. Judges sometimes pass work, hearings and trials, to magistrates or masters who then in turn make recommendations to the judge as to the particulars of the case.

MAINTENANCE - the same as spousal support or alimony.

MARITAL PROPERTY - property that is acquired by the spouses during the marriage. It typically does not include any property owned prior to marriage.

MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT - a written agreement entered into by the spouses getting divorced stating their rights and agreements pertaining to property, support and custody.

MARKETABLE TITLE - a title not subject to reasonable doubt or suspicion of invalidity in the mind of a reasonable and intelligent person: one which a prudent person guided by competent legal advice would be willing to accept and purchase at market value.

MEDIATION - a non - adversarial divorce procedure where the spouses are assisted in reaching a settlement by a neutral third party that is trained in the divorce process.

MEDIATOR - a neutral person who presides over the mediation process.

MILITARY ALLOTMENT - a deduction from child support from the salary of a noncustodial parent on active duty in the United States military.

MINUTE ORDER - an official record of a court proceeding. It is prepared by the court clerk and is not a judgment.

MISTRIAL - a trial that is terminated due to some kind of error that would declare the trial invalid.

MODIFICATION - an order changing the terms of another order.

MOTION - a written or oral request to the court for some type of action.

MOTION TO MODIFY - a written request of the court to change a previous order regarding child custody, support, alimony or other divorce - related decisions.

Parental Alienation Syndrome vs. Parental Alienation:
Which Diagnosis Should Evaluators Use in Child-
Custody Disputes?

Richard A. Gardner. M.D.
Department of Child Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University, New York, New York, USA

The purpose of this article is to elucidate the sources of this controversy & to delineate the advantages & disadvantages of using either term in the context of child-custody disputes, especially in evaluators reports & testimony in courts of law.

The author concludes that families are best served when the more specific term parental alienation syndrome is used rather than the more general term parental alienation.

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