By Guest Contributor, Judianne Cochran   |   November 22nd, 2008

Our guest contributor this week is Judianne Cochran a nationally recognized expert/consultant in the following disciplines: sex offender profiling; interstate and international parental abduction; interstate custody and parental alienation. She has testified in numerous Courts throughout Ohio and the country. Judi presently resides in Columbus, Ohio.

jud_pas.jpgIt is important that family law attorneys remain aware of the patterns of behavior found in cases involving possible parental alienation and pay heed to ongoing complaints by clients experiencing even the early stages of alienating behavior. Early in a custody case it can be very apparent that one parent is extremely angry, bitter or feels betrayed, by both the other parent and by expectations of the “system”. Having to share custody may only intensify the anger due to having to continue the relationship with a person they despise. Then a campaign begins to align the children to his or her side and together with the children work to destroy any viable relationship with the target parent.

Often the alienating parent will file false domestic violence charges, seeking the easy route to obtaining sole custody by obtaining a civil protection order which includes the children. During this stage, the alienating parent, most often the mother, will seek support from family members and more often than not the local domestic violence shelter. These supporters often crowd the courtroom during hearings even though they aren’t called as witnesses. This phalange of people appear to operate in a quasi-bodyguard capacity, presenting the appearance of “protection” from the target parent.

One must understand some of the characteristics of the alienator to be able to correctly read the pattern as it develops.

  1. The alienating parent is obsessed with destroying the child’s relationship with the target parent. Children, especially younger children, will begin parroting the alienating parent and start to express anger or fear about the target parent. The child often cannot tell you the reasons for their feelings beyond what they are told by the alienating parent.
  2. A pattern of interference with parenting time begins very quickly after a custody order is in place. Telephone contact is either cut off or sharply curtailed. Visitation is often denied, often by claims that the child is ill or was ill during the night, or citing vague excuses.
  3. Their anger sometimes becomes irrational and no one, especially the court, can convince them they are wrong and anyone who tries becomes the enemy. At this stage, often the alienator will begin firing and retaining new attorneys in an effort to find someone who will “side” with them and file “smoke and mirror” motions in an effort to get the court to intercede and block the target parent from seeing the child. If met with any success in modifying the order, the alienating parent then has a powerful tool to use in their effort to convince the child there is danger in a relationship with the target parent.
  4. The court does not intimidate or deter them, and they will openly defy any orders. What may appear as a series of minor incidents actually foretell a fully developed case of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
  5. In some cases, when thwarted in getting their way with the court, a parent may actually abduct and conceal the child. In their minds, they are doing “whatever is necessary” to “protect” the child, and they wholeheartedly believe the action is justified. It should be noted that in almost every instance of criminal custodial interference, once caught and arrested, the abducting parent claims they were simply protecting the child. Even a cursory look at the history of a case will often show the developing pattern of behavior and the fact that absolutely no evidence of abuse, domestic violence or inappropriate behavior has ever occurred.

It is important to document the escalating pattern of behavior of interference and defiance of court orders and make certain that this is presented appropriately to the court. It should not be allowed to continue for a long period of time because there is the danger that the alienation becomes so entrenched in the child that any hope of the target parent having any meaningful relationship with the child is destroyed. It is interesting to note that more often in the last several years a target parent with good representation in a CPO hearing may end up with a stay-away order between the parents, but the children are not included and the parenting time is not disrupted. This, of course, will engender more anger in the alienating parent, and it should be expected that the interference may escalate. It does appear that courts are beginning to recognize the behavior and the need for modification of the custody order.

It should be noted that while we are able to see the appellate decisions and reported cases, it should be kept in mind that most of these decisions at the trial level are not reported so careful attention should be paid to the current “climate of the court” in any jurisdiction. A well documented history, or log, of the patterns presented in supporting memorandum to a motion to modify is becoming more successful in Ohio courts today.

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About The Author: Guest Contributor, Judianne Cochran

Can Parental Alienation Be Far Behind? The Warning Signs Every Family Lawyer Should Know

12 thoughts on “Can Parental Alienation Be Far Behind? The Warning Signs Every Family Lawyer Should Know

  • November 22, 2008 at 10:37 am
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    Indeed I am so grateful for this discussion about PAS. Let nobody ever tell you it is not real. My daughter is now 23 years of age and still cannot find it to pick up a phone. The advocacy group in Houston, Justice for Children did this and they reject PAS as credible.

  • November 23, 2008 at 8:12 pm
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    I would argue that all attorneys that handle custody disputes be trained in the signs of parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome so that they can identify the problem as soon as it begins and can provide guidance to their clients as to how to respond. Such training should be available and perhaps mandatory for all professionals involved in the family court system.

    Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D.
    http://www.amyjlbaker.com
    author: Beyond the high road: Responding to 17 parental alienation strategies without compromising your morals or harming your child.

  • November 24, 2008 at 10:05 am
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    For Dr. Baker –

    Education of attorneys and judges has long been one of my “litanies”. Too often before the pattern of behavior is properly brought before the Court, the situation has become too severe for any meaningful remedy to be effective except through intense long-term therapy, or the alienating parent has absconded with the child. In these situations too often attorneys will just seek psychological evaluations on the parents, when in reality what is needed is evaluation and treatment of the child by a child psychologist or psychiatrist knowledgeable about parental alienation and its aftermath. The ensuing report would be far more valuable to the court than psych evals which usually just summarize that “both parents love the child and are adequate parents”. Just saying “Your Honor, we believe there is parental alienation occuring” has little impact if not well supported by documentation presented either by an expert who has evaluated the case at hand or who has provided the attorney with the appropriate “tools” to argue the case properly.

  • November 24, 2008 at 6:58 pm
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    Parental alienation exists. It is heartbreaking that so many parents and children have to experience this and the judicial system does NOTHING about it. How many lives have to be affected by this before the laws change and there is a stop to the real abuse that is happening? Parental alienation is ABUSE!

    Not only should all attorneys and judges be well educated in this area, they need to have the backing of laws to put a stop to this. Children are brainwashed by the alienating parent and can make the statement that they do not want contact with the other parent. Children are empowered by the courts because they have a “say” without the proper investigation.

    Until things change, children will loose the one parent that has their best interests at heart and that parent will loose their child.

    It is a sad world that we live in.

    http://parentalalienation.blogspot.com/

  • December 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm
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    I am an alienated mom in Montgomery County. I missed 17 days of visitation in 2006, 58 in 2007 and over 100 in 2008, all against court order. I’ve been accused of abuse, neglect, now sexual abuse against my daugter. I am so disappointed that the courts haven’t done a single thing, despite GAL reports, contempt charges, psych evals, police reports, children’s services investigations and more, all which found me innocent and a fit mom. I’ve tried time and again to see my precious young children and it only gets worse. All attorneys, judges and magistrates should be well versed in PAS and stop the child abuse. My children are confused and each time I do see them, are more emotionally damaged.

  • February 6, 2009 at 10:29 am
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    Change is a slow and painstaking process and the legal system will not change overnight. So of course, education and awareness is crucial to every professional associated with the legal system, but this effort has to be two-fold. Early intervention and awareness of PA/PAS is crucial to every parent going through a divorce. Providing better tools, resources and support empowers them to better handle the terrible situation at hand. In addition to all the education and training of lawyers, judges, law guardians, and mental professionals, we must focus on a better network of resources in every community, providing practical day to day tools to help targeted parents.

    I agree with alienated mom, children are empowered by the courts, but with PA/PAS, their true voices are not being, only the voice of the alienating parent through them.

  • Pingback: The Bribed or Manipulated Child: Handling Your Child Custody Case | Win Custody of your Child!

  • March 24, 2009 at 9:01 am
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    Hello:

    The book, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation has been published and is now available.

    You can order the book at our new website — http://www.afamilysheartbreak.com. The book is also available on Amazon.com; however you will receive it faster if you order it directly from the website.

    We created the new website to coincide with the release of the book. If you have the old Hugs to Heartbreak website bookmarked, in your contact information, or as a link on your webpage, please replace it with this new URL. If you are interested in a link exchange, please go to http://www.afamilysheartbreak.com/resources/ and fill out the Submit a Resource form.

    We wrote A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental
    Alienation to raise the visibility of an issue that as you know, affects millions of parents, children and extended family members every year. We’re confident A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation will help anyone dealing with this very painful situation and educate the legal and mental health professionals involved in these cases about this very destructive family dynamic.

    If you order a copy, please provide a comment about the book on the
    new website or on Amazon. We look forward to your feedback.

    Sincerely,

    mike “jeff” jeffries
    Author, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation

  • May 31, 2009 at 1:33 pm
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    Thank you for making known that the patterns truly exist and tactics of alienators reach broad spectrums for their motives, including intimidation, fear control and retailiation towards the children, filing false allegations, and the ongoing anger and hatred of the target parent. I am glad to see Dr. Amy’s and Mike’s books noted in this site and moreso appreciative to see it expressed from Dr. Baker that our any professional involved be provided education to understand the effects of alienation and these tactics as abuse to protect these families and children.

  • November 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm
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    Yes it does exist but is can also and is more often than not misdiagnosed. Often a parties defense when there is actual abuse is “parental alienation”. I went through this myself. I was accused of parental alienation when my children spoke of memories they had during a custody evaluation. I had an admission of child abuse on tape and the psychologist said I was playing victim to win. He stated I was too positive of a person so I must have something to hide. He said the children and I seemed to be on a feeding frenzy and showed signs of food deprivation (which is something I had told him) but he said it must have been when I fled to the shelter. He forgot to mention in his report that the shelter had a fully stocked kitchen where you could eat 24 hours a day, and that for the first time in my life I had food stamps that were issue within 48 hours of my departure.

    Successful suicide and attempted suicide in his family, abuse, and alcoholism didn’t matter because nobody would listen. They would not listen to me or my children. His dad was a partner in a law firm, and unfortunately money wins. Money buys the best lawyer, which in turn buys the best defense.

    As I watch my children being further abused I feel helpless. The things he says to them, the things he does, the mind games, not letting them take transportable items back and forth, violating right to first refusal, and many other orders…. still nothing. A son that tested gifted yearly and was ranked 99th percentile in the nation, that hasnt passed the test for the gifted program since the beginning if our shared parenting every other week agreement.

    I sit, I worry, and I wait. I encourage them to love him, I let them go there when they want despite the fact that he doesnt let them visit when its his week. Ive read numerous books on how to cope but I sit here today wondering how in the world it ended up like this. Its awful!

    I think the diagnoses of such should be more closely monitored. I find it necessary for our courts to monitor cases such as mine because that WOULD be in the best interest of the children. If I hired a lawyer and filed motions/complaints it would only start another war. I didnt want a war to begin with. All I wanted was a peaceful life for my children and I.

    If child custody cases went under an automatic review like any other system in our government, people would be on their best behavior at all times…… and THAT is in the child’s best interest.

    So as much as this condition of parental alienation exists, it is sometimes misleading. Often the person “found guilty” by a court, judge, etc is actually the victim in the situation.

  • November 6, 2009 at 12:40 am
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    i know that i’m not alone. it’s a terrible thing that parents do to these children thinking that they are protecting them. it’s even worst harder for me cause the person that i’m fighting is not even my daughter’s parent. she is an ex-girlfriend of mine. my daughter was 4months when we got together and 2 when we separated. i had never planned to keep her away from my baby but when i left the relationship she wouldn’t let me leave with my baby. the police did nothing. i had to take her to court. she told so many lies my heart dropped and i couldn’t believe the things she said. my daughter is now 11 and i have supervised visits.

  • June 2, 2010 at 10:12 am
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    Most people handle divorce or breakp_up in many different ways. Several haven’t any response and just move through the motions of divorcing and becoming on with their lives. If only everybody could be like that. But, you know we are human and we are influenced by our emotions.

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