Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preferred, Estranged or Alienated?

Divorce, when children are involved, is a common but complex process. Quite often the request for a custody and access assessment comes hot on the heels of one parent alleging that the other parent is undermining or obstructing access. The parent who feels wronged will claim they are being alienated. The term “parental alienation,” was first coined by the late psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Gardner. According to his theory, the child is brainwashed by one parent against the other so that the child rejects the other parent as if it were the child’s own idea. Further, in these scenarios, allegations of abuse are posited against the rejected parent but there is no tangible evidence to support the abuse allegations. Parental alienation is different though from estrangement. With estrangement, the rejected parent has acted in a tangible way so as to reasonably elicit their child’s rejection, whether or not the rejected parent takes responsibility for their actions.

The reality is, that children can prefer or reject a parent for many reasons, including the child’s temperament, gender issues, simple preferences, siding with the custodial parent, anger at the rejected parent’s behaviour or any combination thereof.

For instance, a 9-year-old boy has enjoyed a good relationship with his mother. His father has been marginal, often busy with work. The boy has been sheltered from the distancing in the marital relationship between his parents. The boy learns of his mother’s affair and witnesses his father’s anguish when he learns of his wife’s infidelity.

Upon marital separation, the child relentlessly seeks to reside with his father and in pursuit of this objective displays a distain for his mother. His mother, through a Court process alleges the father has poisoned the boy against her as retribution for the affair. On the surface her allegation is plausible and serves as the basis of a hotly contested battle wherein the boy becomes entrenched in his position while the father takes a passive position resting his case on the stated desires of the child.

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

For more information, contact the Family Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at


No comments: