Parental Alienation Attorney in Independence, Missouri

Divorce is one of life's most painful passages. It is painful for the spouse who wants it, painful for the spouse who feels rejected and painful for the children. We can understand and empathize with the spouse who feels wronged and wants revenge, or the spouse who is overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of losing the children, or the spouse who prefers to forget that the marriage ever was. But using the children to get revenge, to cope with anxiety, to erase the past, is unacceptable. Parents must hold themselves to a higher standard. Parent-child relationships are particularly vulnerable when children are first informed of the impending separation, or when one parent actually leaves the home. If your spouse manipulates the children to blame you for the divorce, or to believe you have abandoned them, affection can dissolve overnight as their distress and hurt feelings are channeled into hatred. The risk becomes multiplied if, for any reason, you have no communication or contact with the children after you leave the home. This keeps you from reassuring the children of your love and helping them understand that they do not have to choose between their parents.

A child who feels caught between two homes may feel that the solution to the conflict is to declare a clear allegiance to one household. This motive can result in alienation from either parent. A child who is anxious or angry about the remarriage may channel these feelings into unwarranted hatred of the remarried parent and stepparent. Or the child's alienation may express the disappointment of reconciliation wishes that have been dashed by the remarriage. Regardless of the child's underlying motivation, if the favored parent welcomes the child's allegiance and fails to actively promote the child's affection for the other parent, the child may cling to a maladaptive solution. Excepted from: Dr. Richard A. Warshak. Divorce Poison, Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex, Regan Books, New York2001.

The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

Distressed woman with her hand on her cheek

PAS is more than brainwashing or programming because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:

  1. The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
  2. The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
  3. The child is sure of him or herself and doesn't demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
  4. The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The "independent-thinker" phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
  5. The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
  6. The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
  7. The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
  8. Animosity is spread to also include the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.

In severe cases of parent alienation, the child is utterly brainwashed against the alienated parent. The alienator can truthfully say that the child doesn't want to spend any time with the other parent, even though he or she has told the child that he has to, it is a court order, etc. The alienator typically responds, "There isn't anything that I can do about it. I'm not telling the child that he can't see you."

Alienation advances when the alienating parent uses the child as a personal therapist. The child is told about every miserable experience and negative feeling about the alienated parent with great specificity. The child, who is already enmeshed with the parent because his or her identity is still undefined, easily absorbs the parent's negativity. They become aligned with this parent and feel that they need to be the protector of the alienating parent.

The obsessed alienator is a parent, or sometimes a grandparent, with a cause: to align the children to his or her side and together, with the children, campaign to destroy their relationship with the targeted parent. For the campaign to work, the obsessed alienator enmeshes the children's personalities and beliefs into their own. This is a process that takes time but one that the children, especially the young, are completely helpless to see and combat. It usually begins well before the divorce is final. The obsessed parent is angry, bitter, or feels betrayed by the other parent. The initial reasons for the bitterness may actually be justified. They could have been verbally and physically abused, raped, betrayed by an affair, or financially cheated. The problem occurs when the feelings won't heal but instead become more intense because of being forced to continue the relationship with a person they despise because of their common parenthood. Just having to see or talk to the other parent is a reminder of the past and triggers the hate. They are trapped with nowhere to go and heal.

The characteristics of obsessed alienation are:

  • They are obsessed with destroying the children's relationship with the targeted parent.
  • They having succeeded in enmeshing the children's personalities and beliefs about the other parent with their own.
  • The children will parrot the obsessed alienator rather than express their own feelings from personal experience with the other parent.
  • The targeted parent and often the children cannot tell you the reasons for their feelings.
  • Their beliefs sometimes becoming delusional and irrational. No one, especially the court, can convince obsessed alienators that they are wrong. Anyone who tries is the enemy.
  • They will often seek support from family members, quasi-political groups, or friends that will share in their beliefs that they are victimized by the other parent and the system. The battle becomes "us against them." The obsessed alienator's supporters are often seen at the court hearings even though they haven't been subpoenaed.
  • They have unquenchable anger because they believe that the targeted parent has victimized them and whatever they do to protect the children is justified.
  • They have a desire for the court to punish the other parent with court orders that would interfere or block the targeted parent from seeing the children. This confirms in the obsessed alienator's mind that he or she was right all the time.
  • The court's authority does not intimidate them.
  • The obsessed alienator believes in a higher cause, protecting the children at all costs.

The obsessed alienator will probably not want to read what is on these pages because the content just makes them angrier. (Three Types of Parental Alienation Copyright 1997 by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.) Also see Article by Forensic Family Services, Inc.