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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is history in Shared Parenting being made in Florida?

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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

New law removes old custody labels


Visitation. Primary parent. Secondary parent. Legal terms like these will soon be eliminated from divorce and separation proceedings. That's because on Wednesday, Oct. 1, a new law goes into effect in Florida that removes those labels from the state statute and creates new terms. Previously, Florida courts identified a primary and secondary parent; children lived with the former and visited the latter. But next month custody will be called "shared parental responsibility" and visitation will be called "time sharing."

The new law is intended to promote co-parenting, said Greg Lewen, an attorney who handles divorce cases throughout the state, including in Sarasota. "These labels become very problematic for the children and the parents getting divorced, and this is a progressive step forward," Lewen said. "Visitation shows you don't really have a home at that other person's residence. Instead you take a toothbrush. . . . If you think about it, you come in as a visitor." "When you think about divorce and custody, somebody is going to own this child like they own a piece of property and that is destructive. What we've done is said . . . it takes two to parent."

Because labels will be stripped, something was needed to govern the relationships. So moms and dads will be required to craft parenting plans, which will designate parental responsibilities and put parents on an even playing field. Under the new law, they will submit a parenting plan to the court. If they can't agree, a judge will decide the time-sharing schedule. "I feel like my prayers have been answered." said Stephen Pere, of Sarasota, who has a temporary visitation schedule for his 2-year-old daughter. For two years, Pere — never married — spent two overnights a month with his daughter. Her mom gets her the rest of the time, he said. "I've been wanting shared parenting time with our child since her birth," said Pere. "Hopefully my prayers and that of many other parents will be answered." Robert Levine, of Sarasota, also welcomes the new law.

"I hope it gives me and other fathers who have shown they can parent more child time sharing than every other weekend and a Wednesday night," said Levine, whose wife filed for divorce and wants be the primary parent of their 7-year-old daughter. "I do not support that," said Levine, 55. "I'm a good father, I can flex my schedule. I would like to be considered for equal share." Expecting that the bill would pass, the custody and visitation guidelines committee of the Family Law Advisory Group of the 12th Judicial Circuit developed proposed parenting plans. The committee originally formed to revise already existing shared parental responsibility guidelines created in 2002. The four optional parenting plans — basic, long-distant, highly structured and safety focused — contain the detail and diversity contemplated by the state statute, said Michelle Artman-Smith, 12th Circuit family court manager.

As a supplement to each parenting plan, the circuit created "Instructions and Assessments for Your Parenting Plan" to assist parties in making the most appropriate selection, Artman-Smith said. The family law section of the Florida Bar is reviewing the local 12th Circuit's plans to determine if it wants the Florida Supreme Court to adopt them statewide, said Judge Diana Moreland, chair of the local custody and visitation guidelines committee. "We started 15 months ago with the idea of addressing the needs of our local visitation guidelines, only to have our parenting plan goals be the same as those mandated by recent legislature," Moreland said. "The flood of phone calls we get saying (other circuits) are incorporating our plans is a huge accomplishment. I know it is something our circuit can be proud of." Parenting plans, Pere said, are in the best interest of the child.

"These new plans, as opposed to what existed, spell out so many details . . . as far as holidays, pick up, drop off, so it will reduce any manipulation," said Pere. "I don't want to be a visiting dad — visiting is for grandparents, relatives and friends," Pere said. "I hope that I will be able to get substantial, equal time sharing with my daughter." The primary goal, Moreland said, is to assist those individuals representing themselves by fashioning a legally binding parenting plan that meets their particular needs. "In addition, we hope the variety of plans will assist all jurists faced with unrepresented litigants, focus the litigants' attention and create thoughtful parenting plans which will meet the specific needs of that family appearing in front of them," Moreland said.

Florida is the first state to change the language, said Elisha D. Roy, a West Palm Beach divorce attorney who conducted research for the new law. Currently, 27 states have proposed parenting plans to be used as guidelines, said Roy, who chaired the Florida Bar's Family Law Legislative Committee this past session. "This is a giant step into the future for Florida families in meeting the goal of a less adversarial process for dealing with the dissolution of not just marriage, but of the child's family," Roy said. Removing the previous labels, she said, will allow attorneys to focus their client's concentration on making decisions about what is best for their children and their families as opposed to fighting over meaningless labels.

In the end, parents might divorce, but the law reminds them they're not divorcing their kids, Roy said. Just because this law goes into effect this week doesn't mean parents who already have court-ordered parental designation — primary or secondary parent — and visitation guidelines can have them changed.

"People seeking modification would likely still have to show substantial change of circumstances affecting the best interest of the children," Moreland said. In the end, whether a person's previous court order warrants modification is up to the presiding family trial judge, Artman-Smith said. Lewen said some people may look at the new law and try to manipulate it.

"It will give them an opportunity to say I want more in the parenting plan," he said. "The safeguard is the statute still provides for a number of specific factors for the courts to use in determining how the parenting plan should be created for a particular family. Just because there is a parenting plan doesn't mean one parent can't get 99 percent of the time and other some parents get supervised visitation on a very short leash."

Debra Carter, a Bradenton psychologist who helped develop the 12th Circuit's proposed parenting plans, said five factors should be considered when developing parenting plans — minimizing loss, maximizing e relationships, ensuring security, avoiding interparental conflict and acknowledging age-related needs. Children, she said, benefit from having predictable, positive times with their parents.

"The needs they get met from a mother are different than the needs they get met from a father," Carter said. "But one is not more important than the other, they need both." In the end, Levine said the law might prove to be a little of an uphill battle.

"But if these fathers show they're capable . . . that the father and mother can show they're both focused on the child's needs as No. 1, it's going to work out," he said.

© 2008 Bradenton.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.bradenton.com

Parental Alienation Syndrome and the APA ~ By Les Veskrna, MD

Tuesday September 30, 2008 www.glennsacks.com
PAS and the APA By Les Veskrna, MD
The Public Affairs Office of the American Psychological Association has put out the following press release to answer questions generated by PBS’s recent documentary Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories regarding APA’s official position on Parental Alienation Syndrome:
“The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that all mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement officials and the courts must take any reports of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases seriously. An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Domestic Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called “parental alienation syndrome”, and raised concern about the term’s use. However, we have no official position on the purported syndrome.”
Highlighting the word “lack” and using the words “so-called” and “purported” in this press release seems to suggest the APA presumes PAS to be fallacious while, at the same time, uncommitted regarding its validity.
This official statement comes a few days after the APA’s Executive Director of Public and Member Communications, criticized Breaking the Silence for misrepresenting the APA’s position on PAS.
In spite of these puzzling pronouncements, it is apparent that the APA has, in fact, heretofore made a significant endorsement of the validity of PAS, which may be confirmed by simply searching the content of their website at www.apa.org.
The APA has well-known guidelines for child-custody evaluations in divorce proceedings. These are the guidelines the APA proposes examiners use when conducting such evaluations. The guidelines refer to three books of Dr. Gardner’s as “pertinent literature.” One book is completely devoted to the PAS and two make significant reference to the disorder:
  • Gardner, R.A. (1989), Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Gardner, R. A. (1992), The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Gardner, R. A. (1992), True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
Furthermore, the APA has provided a workshop for its member psychologists in recent years that has included a definition and identification of Parental Alienation Syndrome. In addition, the APA publishes a book (Divorce Wars: Interventions with Families in Conflict by Elizabeth Ellis, PhD, May, 2000) with a chapter specifically devoted to Parental Alienation Syndrome (Chapter 8: A New Challenge for Family Courts).
As we try to understand the motives of the APA and others, who discount the validity of PAS, we must realize that they often do so for reasons other than compelling scientific or empiric evidence.
Many discount the existence of PAS simply because it is not listed in the most current edition of the America Psychiatry Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. To understand why PAS is not in the most current edition of the DSM requires a little insight into the dynamics of how it is constructed. First of all, the DSM is an evolving document that reflects knowledge and perspectives at the time it is published. For example, at one time, the DSM listed homosexuality as a disorder. Homosexuality, as we all know, is no longer considered a “disorder,” and is no longer described as one in the current DSM. Conversely, Giles de la Tourette first produced a detailed account of several patients with Tourette’s Syndrome in 1885. But it was not included in the DSM until 1980. Inclusion of a disorder in the DSM is a very conservative process that requires a comprehensive review of the scientific literature regarding a particular diagnostic entity. The criteria and classification system of the DSM are based on a majority opinion of mental health specialists at the time it is published, and therefore does not reflect all valid opinion, and does not reflect all new knowledge and opinion. The last major update of the DSM was in 1994 (DSM-IV). The literature review for this edition actually ended in 1992. Since Dr. Gardner’s first description of Parental Alienation Syndrome was in 1985, there were too few peer-reviewed articles about PAS in the literature at that point in time to warrant submission of PAS to the DSM development workgroup for this (DSM-IV) edition. Time has now allowed for the proliferation of research and clinical experience with PAS. There now exists a substantial body of knowledge and understanding of this disorder, so that it’s very possible PAS will appear in DSM-V (which is not scheduled for publication until 2010, or later).
It is important to recognize that sometimes scientific concepts (like PAS) become “controversial” only when they are brought into the courtroom. This is because attorneys, due to the adversarial nature of our legal system, are required to take an opposite stand and create doubt and uncertainty where it may not otherwise exist as a strategy to win their case
Finally, dismissing the validity of PAS, by claiming there is a “lack of data” may reflect the influence of a very common informational fallacy: the notion that something must be true (or not true) because there is no evidence to the contrary. For how many years did we hear (and believe) the argument from tobacco companies that cigarette smoking was OK because there was no proof that smoking was harmful to health?And now, all cigarette packages carry health warnings. Absence of proof is not necessarily proof of absence.
The APA deserves significant criticism for only offering a 1996 APA report (Presidential Task Force Report on Domestic Violence and the Family), formed with an immature and incomplete knowledge base regarding PAS, as proof to justify their current position regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome.