I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mom loses custody for alienating dad ~ Judge Faye McWatt applies justice not just gender biased law

Some progress is being made albeit slowly in the Ontario Family Law legal system. We had the Turnbull decision in 2008 and now the McWatt decision this week. Alienation of a child by a parent is child abuse that will last a life time unless steps are taken to remove the alienator from the children. Many alienators are female, but not all, but no matter the gender it is harmful. The target goes through a grieving process without end and only the target knows how excruciatingly agonizing it is to have his/her children turned on them. I'm a target and the alienator does have mental health issues and I get my trial this coming April. I don't have the resources of the target in this case but I'll do my best to stay in the lives of my children. Hopefully more judges will be able to see this is child abuse affecting the mental health of children for life if not stopped.MJM
Toronto Star

Ruling a 'wake-up call' for parents who use kids to punish ex-partners

Jan 24, 2009 04:30 AM
LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER

In a stunning and unusual family law decision, a Toronto judge has stripped a mother of custody of her three children after the woman spent more than a decade trying to alienate them from their father.

The mother's "consistent and overwhelming" campaign to brainwash the children into thinking their father was a bad person was nothing short of emotional abuse, Justice Faye McWatt of the Superior Court of Justice wrote in her decision.

The three girls, ages 9 to 14, were brought to a downtown courthouse last Friday and turned over to their father, a vascular surgeon identified only as A.L.

Their mother, a chiropodist identified as K.D., was ordered to stay away from the building during the transfer and to have her daughters' clothing and possessions sent to their father's house.

McWatt stipulated that K.D. is to have no access to the children except in conjunction with counselling, including a special intensive therapy program for children affected by "parental alienation syndrome." The mother must bear the costs.

Harold Niman, the father's lawyer, said the decision serves as a wake-up call to parents who, "for bitterness, anger or whatever reason," decide to use their children to punish their former partners.

"Maybe if they realize the courts will actually step in and do something and there is a risk of not only losing custody, but having no contact with their children, they'll think twice about it," Niman said in an interview.

McWatt's judgment was released Jan. 16 and published on legal databases this week. By yesterday, it was a hot topic within the family law bar.

The judge said awarding A.L. sole custody was the children's only hope for having a relationship with their father, given their mother's long-running transgressions.

These include ignoring court orders, shutting the door in A.L.'s face when he came to collect the children and refusing to answer the phone when he called to say goodnight. (He was granted telephone access to say good night on Monday, Wednesday and Friday). At times, she also arranged for police to show up when her daughters had overnight visits with their father.

Eventually, K.D. cut off contact altogether, refusing to allow A.L. to see or speak with his daughters. He was reduced to shouting goodnight to them through the door of their home, often not knowing whether they were there.

"It is remarkable that A.L. has not given in to the respondent's persistence in keeping his children from him over the last fourteen years and simply gone on with his life without the children as, no doubt many other parents in the same situation would have and, indeed, have done," McWatt said.

The mother squandered several chances to change her behaviour and is unable to accept it is in her children's best interests to have a relationship with their father, the judge said.

Nicholas Bala, a Queen's University law professor who specializes in family law, said "badmouthing" or negative attitudes by one parent toward another is quite common among separated couples. But in recent years, the justice system has begun to understand the harmful effects of the worst form of this behaviour.

In most cases, the problem is resolved through counselling, where parents are encouraged to accept they'll both always be in their children's lives, said Bala. "I tell them, `... if you're the survivor, you'll be going to the other's funeral, not because you love that person, but to support your children.'

"Having said that, there are some people – and I think some of them are suffering from personality disorders – who will not respond to therapy and will not respond to directions from judges."

Transferring custody is a last resort, because "it can be quite dramatic and traumatic" – yet sometimes better than the alternative, said Bala.

"We often talk about the best interests of the child, but often it's the least detrimental alternative, really."

Bala said courts are unlikely to take such a drastic step without hearing expert testimony about what's happening in the family. A child may be avoiding a parent for legitimate reasons such as physical or emotional abuse.

McWatt heard testimony from Barbara Fidler, a Toronto mediator and clinical psychologist who predicted eight years ago the three girls were at risk of becoming alienated from their father.

The Office of the Children's Lawyer argued the family dynamics could not continue.

Fidler said research points to long-term damage in people alienated from a parent in childhood.

Children are more susceptible at about age 10 or 11, after their brains have developed to the point where they can hold positive and negative information about a parent.

If what one parent is saying about the other doesn't accord with their own perceptions, they can become confused.

In some cases, the only way out of the emotional conflict is to take one parent's side. The child can even begin inventing his or her own reasons for hating the other parent, the court was told.

Early intervention is best, Niman said."Really, parental alienation is a process. If you can nip it in the bud, that's the best advice I can give to clients.

"Because the longer it goes on, the more difficult it can be to undo."

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Thank goodness

I have gone through and continue to go through what this father has. His (and his children's) victory gives me hope and encourages me to keep up the struggle. The article doesn't say, but I wonder how much this cost him. Lawyers' fees and the cost of expert testimony are a huge barrier to fathers seeking to maintain a paternal relationship through the iron curtain of a hostile and aggressive ex.

Submitted by Mao Li Osa at 9:02 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

parental alienation syndrome aka revenge!

Submitted by Proud Scarberian at 8:53 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

JUSTICE AT LAST!

I can totaly sympathize with the father. I have gone through a very similar situation in Ontario & my ex spouse bad mouthed a great father and because of it I lost contact with one of my children who was brainwashed. Thankfully my other child was too young for that ( she eventually threw the child out at 11) and my childbnow lives with me. Well it looks like finally a Judge did the right thing. If I did the things my ex wife did, I would still be in jail...this is the first step forward for fathers rights and now will have set a precident. CHEERS!!!!!!

Submitted by RustyF at 8:42 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

About time!

Hopefully this warning will be taken seriously by all parents with custody of their children. It may be tempting to badmouth and isolate the other parent but it is harmful to the children.For me, the ruling comes 15 years too late. My ex-wife insisted I had "left the family" when, really, I had just left her. One child believed her and still is bitter, one didn't believe her and we have a close and loving relationship. Unfortunately, I didn't have the assets (I was never behind on support payments) to pursue the issue as the father is this story had. Bitter, vindictive custodial parents (male or female) - pay attention!

Submitted by Turners at 8:23 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

court case

how much did this cost? both parents are well-heeled. justice for the rich and d-all for the rest of us.

Submitted by gonzo at 8:20 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

You have to have money

Unfortunately the average Joe doesn't have the money to take his complaint to court.Another example of the justice system being only for the rich

Submitted by Dewey at 8:04 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

About Time!

This has been going on for years, including my family. Does this mean there is precedence to sue my mother to bear the costs of emotional abuse using the kids as pawns?

Submitted by TechnoRob at 8:03 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

Hurray for the kids

When my first wife and I divorced in 1984 it was nasty to say the least. Thakfully we had no children as I know that we would have used them as weapons against each other. I could very well have behaved the same as "KD" in this case and so could my ex'. Ultimately it is the children who will pay the price in these cases and quite likely their children as well. I love children and regret never having any, but given what happened in my earlier marriage, it is far better that I have regrets than innocent children being put through hell. I wish "AL" and his daughters all the best.

Submitted by Uncle Peter at 8:03 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

Not the only one

And how many more fathers out there are in the same position but don't have the $$ to go to court! Lots I guarantee, maybe there should be a government subsidy to start and maintain proceedings!

Submitted by knowall at 7:59 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

Finally,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

the courts should open up more cases,and give more parents the wake up call to be civil, its gone on too long,and to many children have been scarred from this behavior, This women needs life long treatment. the judge deserves a pad on the back.

Submitted by ztazti at 7:44 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

it is about time

that courts level the playing field a little. guys in a family law dispute always start at the end of the line no matter what while the opposite is true of the woman. nothing against woman. just an observation taken place over 30 years watching family law evolve.

Submitted by galaxygroove at 7:28 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

Its About Time!

I, as a father and parent, am so elated to read this article. I know what my ex has put me through and I'm sure that there are men out there that are just as vile. We need to do more for the kids. It shouldn't be a given that either parent can do a better job just because of their gender. This article proves my point succinctly. The kids should come first!

Submitted by Naramsin at 7:19 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

No massive turnaround

I see no massive turnaround with one decision by one judge our of a thousand of family court judges that routinely "sentence" two or three dads each to deliberate dad alienation every work day. Remember this dad is a surgeon who had nearly unlimited access to legal fees over a period of a decade. Remember a team of a few family court judges in that county courthouse ignored deliberate interference in the dads access over that entire decade. Neither dad nor kids will get any of that time back. Judges still award full custody in the majority of cases to mothers who reject the option of true joint custody to get all the child support money, and all the control. The standard default of dad getting 4 days a month with HIS kids while mom's new stranger boyfriend gets 26 is court ordered parental (dad) alienation.

Submitted by sendergreen at 10:07 AM Saturday, January 24 2009

The Globe & Mail

ONTARIO COURTS

Judge removes children from mother's control

Girls sent to U.S. deprogramming centre

JUSTICE REPORTER

An Ontario judge has ordered that three girls be seized and sent to a parental alienation centre for deprogramming after their mother waged an unrelenting campaign to alienate them from their father.

The children - aged 14, 11 and 9 - were transported several days ago to the U.S.-based centre. After being treated, they will live in the sole custody of their father, a 56-year-old vascular surgeon.

"It is now time for his and the children's fates to be free from [the mother's] control," Madam Justice Faye McWatt of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said in her ruling. "She has shown that she cannot be entrusted with it."

The judge said the children had become so poisoned toward their father by the mother's "emotional abuse" that they had lost the capacity to make independent decisions about interacting with him.

Judge McWatt ordered the 42-year-old mother - a chiropodist identified only as K.D. - to turn over all the children's clothing, passports and possessions. K.D. was also ordered not to harass the children or go within 300 metres of them.

The judge also gave the father, A.L., the power to confiscate the children's cellphones, pagers, computers and BlackBerrys to prevent their mother from contacting them.

"Hopefully, this decision will send a message to other parents of like mind that, if they alienate children, there is a huge price that will be paid at the end of it all," the father's lawyer, Harold Niman, said in an interview last night.

"This order was child focused and designed very sensitively to ensure that children emerge from this process as healthy children," Mr. Niman said. "My client is a very decent guy who tried resolutely, under very difficult circumstances, to have a relationship with his children. Here, the system worked."

Soon after the couple met in 1993, K.D. became pregnant. K.D attempted to keep A.L. from seeing his first daughter, but nonetheless eventually agreed to marry him.

The relationship became more dysfunctional. K.D. closely regulated her husband's interactions with his child and accused him of sexually abusing the child. Judge McWatt said K.D. appeared to be dominated by her mother, a vindictive woman who had regularly beat her children when they were young.

K.D. and A.L. soon split up, but had two more children during brief periods of reunification.

Judge McWatt found that K.D. - whom the judge described as immature, evasive and completely lacking in credibility - on several occasions precipitated physical confrontations with her husband and berated him in front of the children.

K.D. also refused repeatedly to comply with court orders granting A.L. visitation rights, and invented excuses to thwart them.

Judge McWatt said a psychologist who assessed the family noted that K.D. was obsessive about observing the children when they were with their father, retained an unreasoning belief that he would harm them, and "overprotected the three children to the point of infantilizing all of them.

"Eventually, he was not allowed to see or speak to the children - but was left shouting good night to them through a door of K.D.'s home," Judge McWatt added. "Most times, he was not aware whether they were in the house. He did this for up to two years during this period."

The degenerative series of events ended in the children withdrawing from their father and refusing to see him.

14 comments:

sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DAD said...

I am in favour of what I read as I am going through a lot of the same difficulties connecting with my two beautiful children and have an ex-wife making them believe that I don't care and don't want to see them anymore. Three years have gone by not being able to be part of their lives like any other normal family. My wife alienates me from them, making them believe that I have a mental illness and causing me to break down several times because of all the grief and hurt inside of me thinking that life was over after marriage. But now, I'm finding a better, new door to open to in life and starting a new life for me and my children. Its about time that the children stop being abuse in these situations, even by the court system, who should be protecting them. I hope for more improvements to the system, instead of enriching the lawyers' wallets and being more focused in the best interest of the children and not encouraging thr deterioration of the relationship between both parents.

Good luck to all the fathers and children that are being abused by women using the legal system for their own agendas. It's about time the court system stopped turning their backs on all the innocent hard working, dedicated, loving, supportive fathers and husbands that cherish there families even during a divorce. Many woman do care deeply for their children while in a divorce situation, but there are those that will use their children as pawns just to get back at their husbands. The only people who suffer are the children and their loving fathers, while the only people who benefit are these women and the lawyers. It's about time someone made them stop the abuse!

Michael J. Murphy said...

Your description of what happens is consistent with many other fathers. In some cases the stories are so consistent you would think the female support industry was coaching these wives on what strategy to use to ensure us dads get screwed over in a major way.

It is an agonizingly long and slow torturous journey but small signs of progress are being made, at least for those with deep pockets, to fight it. We need to be patient let our children know we love them and want to stay in their lives as best we can given our mutual circumstances. If you are able to join an advocacy group like Fathers 4 Justice or other in your community I recommend you do it. There is strength in numbers.

Anonymous said...

For almost 5 years I have not been able to spend any time alone with my 2 children because my wife will not allow it. I stay in touch by phone almost every day, but even that contact is dependent on whether she chooses to answer the phone. Interestingly, she agreed to joint custody during the divorce then turned the kids against me so they didn't want to stay with or by me anymore (or so she claimed). I have a child from a new relationship who has never even seen his brother and sister in the almost 2 years he has been born. The 2 kids were not even allowed to come to his 1st birthday party because, to quote my ex, "I don't want them around HER" meaning my new companion. Not having the money to go to court, I have resorted to staying in touch the best I can and seeing them only with the ex being present to avoid putting the children through any drama. I have been faulted by many people for doing that, but I don't know what else to do -- I can't bring myself to show up with the police to collect my kids to enforce the custody rules. How's this story as an example of (non-aggressive) parental alienation? Meanwhile, when I am around, she behaves as though she's my best friend in front of the kids!!!

Michael J. Murphy said...

Some Mom's "use" the children as levers of power and control. (so do some custodial dads but is is much rarer) We often hear ex's talk about how controlling men are but they in fact use all the tools they can to do that very thing to us for as long as they can get away with it.

Sometimes they increase the control if a new partner arrives in the dads life. Getting the standard 14% every other weekends + the middle of the week will require a lawyer, a para legal or you can go to most family court houses to seek advice on the process and you could do it yourself. Call the court house and see what hours they have their court advisers available.

Don't wait too long, take the bull by the horns and exercise your rights as a loving dad. If your ex knows you want to seek some access through the courts she might deal with it voluntarily as it will cost her a fair bit of money to fight it and if there is no good reason why you should not have access the court will award you your costs if you win.

Try negotiating directly with her first and see where it goes. Get a court order eventually otherwise if she pulls them away from you no one can help.

The police can't even enforce a normal access order but they might try to persuade your ex. You can get the judge to put the police enforcement clause in the order if you think it will be required but discuss that with judge at the time you are in motions court.

Good luck and take one of the approaches I have suggested. At the very least you will have a paper trail to show your children you tried. Many alienators tell the kids we don't care about them.

Lisa from Winnipeg said...

This article gives me hope that justice can be served. I am a mother of 3 who is currently dealing with my children being alienated from me. It is the most difficult and painful thing I have ever had to deal with. Who would have ever thought that a mother must fight for the affections of her children. Parents who alienate their children from the other parent are abusers and they should have consequences similar to those who physically abuse their children. Scars from emotional abuse run just as deep as physical ones.

Michael J. Murphy said...

I wish you the best. Do not be passive about the alienation. Any parent who does this to a child deliberately has a likely personality disorder where their hatred runs deeper than their love for the children.

I have recovered the affections of my youngest, but she is still scarred, and it shows in her sometimes cautious behaviour and I see my now 14 year old periodically and she will attend for special events. That is a far cry from 4 years ago when they would publicly berate me without any sign of guilt.

I will continue to work on the issues with the children by providing love, persistence, strong parenting capability, moral guidance, availability 24/7, and keeping my ex aware the issue is still public and she may become a very infamous parent if she does not change her behaviour.

Lisa from Winnipeg said...

I have seen my children three evenings out of the last 7 weeks...I am currently living in a nightmare. I have joint custody and my ex continues to keep them from me. Children are not born with hatred in them...it is taught. I believe that parents who alienate their children from the other parent should be charged with child abuse. I am the only voice my children have and it is my duty as their mother to protect them. I will not rest until I am successful.

Michael J. Murphy said...

Lisa:

You have the right attitude. You must not rest and you must not be passive. Hatred of a parent is not something children learn naturally. It is taught, often by another parent with a personality disorder. Otherwise how could someone emotionally abuse children by teaching such vileness.

There are many resources out there, as you know, and groups in Yahoo that offer support. One is called PAPA http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ParentsAgainstParentalAlienation/ that has a wide membership. I also am a member of and contribute help to http://www.paawareness.org/

My assertive method does work. Like Sun Tzu I took an approach that was overwhelming and consistent keeping constant pressure on the alienator. This blog took it public and remains for her a constant reminder she is only a step away from becoming widely known as an abuser.

Some will tell you it creates more tension for the children but that is a canard. It is the alienating parent creating the problems, not you.

What is important for them is two loving parents in their lives on an equal basis. Your road is rough and incredibly heart breaking but the goal is worth it.

My children are damaged from the alienation, as i mentioned previously, but I have a good relationship with my 11 year old and although I seldom see my 14 year old it is night and day from the situation 3 years ago in terms of attitude. In the short and long term they will benefit.

Develop a strategy, refine it as necessary but keep fighting for them. We walk in your shoes and empathize greatly.

Lisa from Winnipeg said...

Micheal, I know first hand what my children are thinking and feeling. Their father controlled and manipulated me for many years. He was successful at alienating me from my own family for 3 years. I know that it is easier for my children to do what dad says than it is to do what is in their hearts, they are just trying to survive - unfortunately that means being mean to mom and to say that they don't want to go with mom etc, etc. Just like it was easier for me to survive the marriage if I stopped contacting my family. One day I had had enough and kicked him out, I was able to stand up for myself and not tolerate the abuse any longer. My children cannot do that for themselves, so as their mother I must do it for them.
Being the alienated parent is very difficult but I will not let it destroy me. I am all my children have and I must stand up and fight for them, even when I feel I have no fight left - I do it for them. Knowing first hand how sad they feel inside is more than enough motivation to fight. The negative words they say, are just that - words...regurgitated...not their true feelings - I know for a fact. I do not for one second ever take their words to heart.
I tell everyone that will listen what is happening to me and my children, the more people that know - the better. Before this began happening to me, I had never even heard of Parental Alienation. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about and more people need to stand up and speak out about it.

Michael J. Murphy said...

Lisa:

Its very tough and so heart wrenching. My first Christmas without them I cried like a baby but it made me stronger. My glass is always half full no matter how dark the horizon or tunnel looks.

The most valuable source of internal passion will come from your love of the children not the anger toward your ex. Let the former drive you. If you get opportunities to volunteer at school or in places they congregate so they can see you care try it. I let my girl's school know by letter who I was and I was available. I then went and met the Teachers and Principal discussed the alienation and told them if there was acting out perhaps this could be part of the reason. It helped me. Alienators love to use "mom/dad doesn't care about you" all the time so the less they see you the more it gets reinforced.

My youngest was glad I started to get involved at the school and gradually the alienation had less impact. We had a very strong bond from infancy. My then 11 year old was upset to see me at the school and I had to be sensitive to her concerns as she was her mom's chief supporter. But over time my persistence has slowly eroded her alienation and we are friends on facebook and communicate in a variety of ways regularly. It hasn't disappeared from both girls but patience is a must.

If you are on FaceBook let me know and we can link up. Many of my "friends" on there face similar problems and some are female. Amy Baker, PhD the research Psychologist on Adult Children of P. A. and author is among them. She is well respected and I had the privilege of meeting her in Toronto last March at a PAS conference. I can be found as Mike Murphy wearing the red top and ID'd at the bottom left as Father4Justice when you hold your mouse over the picture.

I also gave the school copies of the Parental Alienation brochure from the PAAwareness.org site. The school counselor could use it as an information base if they meet with the children.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Michael - the best advice is what you gave to Lisa: "The most valuable source of internal passion will come from your love of the children not the anger toward your ex." I learned that, and over the years, it has worked because the ex had nothing to respond to in anger as I wasn't dealing with her on any emotional level at all. Now, 5 years later, it took the death of her father to realise I wasn't such a bad guy after all, and I am now playing a much more significant role in the lives of the children, especially now that their grandfather -- who she saw as a "father replacement" for them in my enforced absence -- is gone. I think the reason this is happening is because I never focused on her but on the kids, so I never gave her any reason in 5 years to justify her hatred of me. Instead, I remained available for the kids at all times, in constant telephone contact, even in the face of serious alienation which sometimes lasted for months without me seeing them. As well, when her Dad died, I made sure I was there for her and the kids, in spite of all the hell she put me through. That has helped heal the relationship between her and I to a point (for now, anyway) and now she is happy to let me be with the kids whenever I choose (for now, as I am sure things will change and she'll resort to her old ways once the hurt over her loss diminishes). I wish Lisa the best, and I hope she learns how to shift her focus from the ex to the kids, as that is best for all concerned.

Michael J. Murphy said...

@ Anonymous Dec 2/09 I am so impressed with your internal discipline. I wish you the very best and I believe your children are very lucky to have a dad with your resolve.

sammyD said...

I am happy, no JOYFUL to actually read a SUCCESS story about an alienating parent getting the BOOT, and the children "saved" and given back to their healthy parent!!! thanks for posting this.


Like many of the other commenter's, I am dealing with similar circumstances. I believe that my kids need to be taken out of their mothers custody IMMEDIATELY for their own well-being, and above all SO THAT I CAN BE WITH THEM.

Their mother kidnapped them from my 2 years ago and has been trying to eliminate me from their lives ever since.
you can read about my story here if you want.. http://www.thegaystory.com

BEST WISHES TO ALL OF YOU WHO ARE DEALING WITH ANY UNFAIR CONSEQUENCES OF DIVORCE OR SEPARATION, INCLUDING PARENTAL ALIENATION!!! Be patient, and make it a goal of yours to seek justice and rightful custody of your kids.