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.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Parental Alienation on W5 - CTV Canada ~ Children on the frontlines of divorce


W5 investigates: Children on the frontlines of divorce

W5 Staff Updated: Sat. Nov. 7 2009 6:58 PM ET

The world of divorce is scary for any child. Even when spouses split amicably children can be forced to balance their love and time between two parents.

But when a divorce becomes especially toxic children can become the target of an unrelenting crusade by one parent to destroy the child's relationship with the other. Experts call it parental alienation, a persistent campaign by one parent to poison a child's relationship with the other parent.

Typical tactics include lying or making false allegations about the targeted parent, refusing to let the child see the other parent, even punishing the child for showing affection for the other parent. Experts claim, in its more extreme forms, it is child abuse.

Pamela Richardson

For almost 12 years, Pamela Richardson rarely saw her son Dash because of the campaign her ex-husband waged against her.

According to Richardson, after her marriage dissolved her ex-husband, who had custody of the then-four-year-old, did everything he could to alienate Dash from his mother - fabricating illness, booking activities for Dash to prevent visits; he even arranged to have Richardson banned from Dash's school.

"I wouldn't see Dash for, you know, a number of months and not without me trying, not without me doing all the classic things that alienated parents do -- cookies on the doorstop, faxes, phone calls, notes, trying to see him at friends' houses -- everything you possibly can to keep that thread of a relationship alive," said Richardson.

Despite a court order giving her regular visits with Dash, Richardson said her ex-husband did everything he could to keep them apart and to convince their son that she was a bad and uncaring mother.

"There was period of two years, and I added up the hours (with Dash) and it came to 24 - in two years," Richardson lamented.

Richardson said she wasn't the only one suffering as a result of the alienation - Dash was suffering too. Alienated from his mother, the once happy little boy turned into an isolated, depressed and angry teenager.

On January 1, 2001, Dash, then 16, jumped off Vancouver's Granville Street bridge, in the middle of the night, to his death. While Richardson blames her ex-husband, she also blames a court system that she insists did little to intervene and help.

"This is extreme and this was something that was in the courts many, many times...they had an opportunity to do something and they didn't," said Richardson.

Parental Alienation and the Courts

Courts are paying more attention. Family court judges are increasingly considering issues of parental alienation in deciding custody.

Justice Harvey Brownstone is a family court judge in Toronto and the author of a book on the bitter realities of divorce court.

"Parents who are on a campaign to destroy the child's relationship with the other parent could lose custody and, in extreme cases, courts have changed custody to the other parent," said Brownstone.

He encourages divorcing couples to focus on parenting together rather than using children as a tool of revenge, dragging them through protracted, bitter family feuds.

"While there may be some therapeutic benefits to coming to court and venting and telling a judge how much you were hurt by the other parent's infidelities or bad conduct, at the end of the day, we are looking at parenting capacity, parenting skills," he said. "We need to look at how couples are going to reinvent themselves from ex-partners to co-parents."


The concept of divorced parents co-parenting isn't new for psychologists Peggie Ward and Robin Deutsch. They bring bad-mouthing alienating parents, targeted parents, and their children to a camp in Vermont in an effort to help these broken families learn new ways to properly raise their children

Eight-year-old Tori Cercone knows first hand how it feels to be caught in the middle of a high conflict divorce. "What is so painful is that your mom and dad get separated and they don't like each other but you like both. And it's kind of like a contest who you like better"

Two years ago Tori's parents Fran Beecy and Chris Cercone couldn't stand to be in the same room after Beecy made abuse allegations against her ex-husband.

"Oh my God, he hated me," said Beecy. "I was like the big mother bear guarding the door, not letting my ex-husband near my kids...I just wanted to protect them, to keep them safe. And yet he, on the other hand, was just like 'these are my kids, I want to see them. I have every right to see them.'"

Divorce camp in Vermont changed everything. Today, they visit together, gather for family dinners, and get along.

As Cercone explained, "whichever side you're on, whether you're the alienated or the alienator, you've got to come to grips that it can't be about how I feel or getting back at the other one."

"I think I'm a better mom because I'm happier," said Beecy. "I'm not trying to create any wedges between my kids and their dad."

Email W5 directly about this story

© 2009 CTVglobemedia All Rights Reserved.


Law Times Canada ~ Judge reverses parental alienation ruling

I have followed this case for some time and it has always amazed me how dysfunctional child disputes with this form of emotional abuse (PA) can get. I have also always been curious where this dad seems to get the money for counsel if he is on welfare as has been reported in the media in the past? I have no doubt Parental Alienation exists and I have observed its impact on the children and target parent first hand. I have also observed the clear gender bias of Family Courts in Canada when it comes to physical custody whereby mom gets it in over 90% of cases. Judges and indeed lawyers for men, based on anecdotal stories by these men, seem predisposed to ensuring maternal custody takes place and it is usually only a dad of means who can afford the "experts" to obtain even a remote chance of obtaining custody or shared parenting at the least. These men report they are advised by their counsel that judges don't award dads custody so take what you can get and save some money.MJM Controversial trend continues because opposing parents lack funds: lawyer By Heather Capannelli | Publication Date: Monday, 09 November 2009 In another case underscoring the controversy over parental alienation workshops, Justice Thea Herman of the Ontario Superior Court struck down part of an arbitrator’s award earlier this year that would have removed two teenage boys from the custody of their father and sent them to Texas. The decision follows a series of judgments in which Ontario courts have ordered a change in custody and sent the custodial parent along with the children to participate in the workshop. In S.G.B. v. S.J.L., the court set aside part of an award concluding that the workshop was in the best interest of the boys because the arbitrator relied too heavily on an assessment of them prepared by Richard Warshak, who admitted he hadn’t met them personally. In his testimony and written evidence, the psychologist and author explicitly declined to make recommendations with respect to the children because he had never observed them before. Yet the arbitrator ordered that the remedy was “necessary for the children in this case and completely consonant with their best interests.” Herman, however, decided that in making such a finding, the arbitrator’s order amounted to a “fundamental error.” Another issue arose prior to the hearing when the father asked the arbitrator to order an assessment to determine the appropriateness of the workshop for the children. The arbitrator declined to do so, instead relying on his own experience as a custody and access assessor. But Herman rebuked that decision, saying “the arbitrator’s experience can only be brought to bear on the evidence. The arbitrator cannot create evidence.” In addition, Herman said the arbitrator failed to consider the psychological impact the workshop would have on the younger boy. He suffered from Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic disorder that, among other things, caused a language delay. The facts of the case were as follows. The applicant, the father, and the respondent mother entered into the arbitration to help resolve issues surrounding their two sons L.B. and J.B., aged 17 and 14 respectively. The parents had been divorced since May 1999 and since then, the mother experienced an estranged relationship with both of her children. After several attempts to resolve disputes about custody, access, and raising the children, both parents agreed to what turned out to be an unsuccessful arbitration in August 2007. The proceedings were due to continue on Nov. 20, 2007, but the father brought a pre-hearing motion to prevent the arbitrator from making an order that might result in the children leaving the province given that the mother had been in consultation with Warshak for several years despite the fact that he had never met the boys. The motion was denied. The arbitration took place in February and March 2008 and, based on Warshak’s report that the children were suffering irrational alienation towards their mother, the arbitrator awarded sole custody of both children to her and ordered that they participate in the workshop to help to restore their ties with her. Logistically, this meant no contact with their father for the three months that the boys were in the program. Once the workshop concluded, communications could resume as long as those in charge authorized them. The order also allowed the mother to use transporting agents to take her children to the workshop in Texas if they were unwilling to go on their own volition. “The work of Dr. Warshak has been submitted for peer review so it’s not as controversial as the media hype may lead some to believe,” says Jaret Moldaver, counsel for the mother. “Dr. Warshak has successfully worked with children who have been alienated, and in cases where conventional approaches don’t work, it’s the only viable option to save the child from abuse.” A larger issue, however, is that often these cases come down to a battle of costly expert evidence, says the father’s counsel, Jan Weir. “My concern is that in most of these cases, it appears that one parent has the financial means to retain high-end counsel and experts like Dr. Warshak, but the other parent seems to have modest means and never retains an expert, meaning that they can’t lead evidence against the findings or methodology of Dr. Warshak.” A week at the workshop costs about US$40,000. According to Warshak, parental alienation syndrome is “a child’s unjustified campaign of denigration against, or rejection of, one parent, due to the influence of the other parent combined with the child’s own contributions.” It is recognized as a form of emotional abuse that happens when parents get so caught up in their own problems that they lose sight of their children’s needs. In an interview in 2008 with Maclean’s magazine, Warshak said the workshop “teaches children how to stay out of the middle of adult conflicts and how to maintain a compassionate view toward each parent” and that it helps the child “recapture a major part of his identity. When the child no longer feels the need to pledge allegiance to one parent by rejecting the other, that’s enormously liberating.” But Weir says the test in law for admissibility of expert evidence is whether it’s generally accepted by the profession. That’s because courts don’t interpret the evidence of experts on their own. “Is this a method that’s generally accepted by the profession at large?” says Weir. “This kind of evidence is getting in because the parents who are on the receiving end just don’t have the funds to retain an expert to say that it’s not, that it’s untested.” http://www.lawtimesnews.com/200911095758/Headline-News/Judge-reverses-parental-alienation-ruling