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.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Passadena Weekly ~ Above the fray

From: Mike Murphy Date: 2009/4/2 Subject: Kids caught in the middle of separation need parents focusing on them, not undermining each other To: editor@pasadenaweekly.com Patti's column is thoughtful and helpful to a parent caught up in the mind boggling, neck twisting malady of Parental Alienation. It is usually conducted by a narcissistic individual with a personality disorder unable to control their emotions. I would only add the advice to the dad to document everything for future use and reference. Don't leave it to memory. An alienator can resort to false allegations of physical and sexual abuse if they feel the alienation tactics are not succeeding. Dad needs to ensure he has all the information at hand of his visits and activities with the children, particularly the number of times the mom calls while he has them in his care. The only reason for the calls is her emotional weakness in that she needs to ensure the children do not have a pleasurable visit with dad. The constant calling is another method of programming the children to ensure they don't enjoy the visit and think less of him as a parent. Thank you Patti for helping the father. As a target parent I can attest it is the worse nightmare a parent can have. Unlike a death in the family where the grieving subsides over time dealing with PA is an ongoing nightmare. Your children have been kidnapped emotionally and they themselves are going through certain hell. Mike Murphy cc Patti Carmalt-Vener Glenn Sacks

From the Pasadena Weekly

Kids caught in the middle of separation need parents focusing on them, not undermining each other

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 04/02/2009

Dear Patti,

After years of taking my wife’s abuse, I finally had enough the night she threw a cup of coffee at me. When she saw me pack and realized I was serious, she woke our children (ages 7 and 9) and told them I was leaving the family. I’ll never forget the memory of both of them in their bare feet and pajamas as they grabbed my pant legs, crying and begging me to stay. Their mother was shouting she’d never abandon them — even if I did. Although I told them I loved them and would be back soon, I regret I didn’t stay and put them back in bed. The look on their faces when I closed the front door still haunts me. It’s been nine months since I moved out, but no matter how much I try, my kids don’t want much to do with me. Their visits with me are constantly interrupted by their mother’s numerous phone calls. This makes my daughter cry for her mother and it breaks my heart. I believe my children and I could have gotten past that terrible night but their mother constantly bad-mouths me — it’s like they’re brainwashed. I’m seeing a therapist trained to work with dysfunctional families and my attorney is helping me fight for more time with my children. I want what’s best for Hannah and Jacob. They’ve already been through enough. — Brian

Dear Brian, What you’re describing sounds like Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). This usually occurs during a divorce when the attitudes and actions of one parent direct the children into thinking the other parent is corrupt, inferior or even the enemy. Examples of PAS behavior are (1) denigrating the other parent in front of the children, (2) revealing negative details about the marriage or divorce that blames the spouse for breaking up the family, (3) discouraging or withholding visitations, (4) asking the children to choose one parent over the other, and (5) reacting with hurt or sadness to their children’s affection for the other parent. Under these conditions, it’s not uncommon for children who were once affectionate and loving to become hostile or unreceptive.

Alienation is emotional abuse. It’s not your children’s fault. Although they’re helpless to fight for the relationship themselves, they need you to fight for them, even if they don’t realize it. In spite of their rejection, continue to enjoy their company, remain stable and even-tempered, take them on vacations and create healing experiences. Provide them a different point of view to reflect on through contact with friends and family who hold you in high regard and show love and affection to you in front of them. Demonstrate your trust, reliability and responsibility by never breaking your promises or violating court orders. Likewise, you need to refrain from discussing the divorce with them or talking badly about their mother.

Encourage them to talk freely about her and to have her picture in your house. Let them know you believe it’s important for them to be able to love both of you.

Spend quality time alone with each of them. (It’s easier for them to be alienated when they have each other’s support.) Encourage them to think for themselves. If, for instance, they report that their mother says you don’t really care about them, ask “What do you think?” Listen thoughtfully to their answers and show them you’re a good and honorable man who loves them. Make sure to evaluate your own behavior and take responsibility for actions that might be alienating in their own right.

Continue therapy, read and learn as much as possible about good parenting. For starters, I recommend “Divorce Poison” by Richard Warshak and “Between Parent and Child” by Hiam Ginott. Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or visit patticarmalt-vener.com.

In OZ ~ No bias to fathers, says Family Court

Caroline Overington | April 02, 2009

Article from: The Australian

CASES coming before the Family Court will be decided on merit and not on a formula designed to benefit fathers, Chief Justice Diana Bryant said yesterday.

Chief Justice Bryant said data released for the first time last week shows that the number of shared parenting decisions have more than doubled, meaning that fathers are getting more access to their children.

However, Chief Justice Bryant said that was to be expected after changes to the Family Law Act introduced by the Howard government in 2006.

Under the changes, the court must apply the presumption that shared, equal parenting is in the best interests of children, and that a child has a right to a relationship with both parents.

Chief Justice Bryant said that did not mean children would be forced into contact with violent fathers, or that mothers would routinely lose contact with their children.

The Australian has this week reported on the case known as Irish and Michelle (2009) in which judge Robert Benjamin ordered two children, aged nine and seven, be removed from their mother's home in Tasmania and sent to live with their father in Melbourne. The children had lived with their mother since the couple separated in 2005, and the older girl was starting to resist contact with her father.

The judge said she was at risk of psychological harm, if she was not permitted to have a relationship with her father.

Chief Justice Bryant yesterday directed The Australian to other recent cases, where fathers were denied significant contact with their children, saying the court was heading in no particular direction.

In one case, Handley and Dantes, decided on March 3, judge James Barry ordered that the mother, a French citizen, have sole parental responsibility for two girls, born in 1997 and 1999. The court heard that when the father had access to the girls, he had, among other things, dived fully clothed into a pond at Sea World, so he could swim with the dolphins.

The court heard he smoked marijuana in front of the girls. He had been banned by teachers from visiting their school.

Children ‘biggest losers’ in Family Court, Says Judge

By Joan Delaney Epoch Times Staff Apr 1, 2009
family court
Adversarial family court system exacerbates animosity between parents.
A contentious access battle playing out in family court made news last week when a B.C. Supreme Court judge made the highly unusual decision of barring a mother from seeing her daughter for one year. The ruling, which the father’s lawyer called “historic,” was made after the mother, known only as Ms. A, alleged that the father had subjected the teenager to severe emotional abuse which she said endangered the child’s safety. Citing Ms. A’s extreme parental alienation toward the father, Justice Donna Martinson said she was satisfied that Ms. A’s allegations were unfounded and that the mother “continued to undermine the relationship between M and her father and has acted in ways that are detrimental to M’s psychological healing.”
Classed as a syndrome, parental alienation occurs when divorcing parents use their children as pawns and attempt to turn them against the other parent. “When we get into parental alienation, really what is happening is that the child becomes a weapon,” says Justice Harvey Brownstone, a family court judge in Toronto. Warring parents tearing their children apart is something Brownstone sees all too regularly. Brownstone believes family court is “a terrible place” for parents to use to resolve their custody and access issues. “The whole justice system, including the family court system, is adversarial and is based on a win-lose mentality. But in family court there’s no winning, there’s only different degrees of losing, and the biggest losers are the children.” This adversarial approach is “designed to make war not peace” says Brownstone, and more often than not parents come out of the family court system “more angry with each other and more unhappy than they were when they started the court case.”
Justice Harvey Brownstone
Justice Harvey Brownstone
Brownstone authored a recently published book, the first of its kind for a sitting family court judge, aimed at educating separating couples about the pitfalls of fighting their battles in court. In Tug of War: A Judge's Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles, and the Bitter Realities of Family Court, Brownstone wants parents to understand that taking their fight to family court is not a decision that should be taken lightly—they should be prepared. “Family courts are clogged with people who watch Judge Judy. They see on Judge Judy how fast it is, how easy it looks, and they come running to court and then they find out that they’re in the middle of a real mess. It’s very stressful, it’s costly, it’s time consuming, and there are rules and procedures, and rules of evidence you don’t see on Judge Judy.” Brownstone says “immature” and “self absorbed” couples show up in his court to fight over issues as trivial as the length of the child’s hair, who gets to take the child trick-or-treating, or which summer camp the child should attend. This endless wrangling takes an immeasurable toll on the children. “There are very, very many couples who are so wrapped up in their own pain and their own need for vengeance that they completely lose sight of what they’re doing to their children,” he says. The enmity can go so deep that Brownstone has had parents tell him they’d rather see their children dead or in foster care than with the other parent. Edward Kruk, a University of British Columbia sociology professor and Canada’s foremost expert on custody issues, says family court’s emphasis on sole custody rather than equal shared parenting fosters animosity between parents. He says much controversy and disagreement exists in professional literature regarding the concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome. He questions the wisdom of removing Ms. A from her daughter’s life in the absence of proof of abuse or serious neglect. “For one parent having been the primary caregiver to be suddenly removed, and the child’s whole routine disrupted, just seems like a very harsh, very blunt instrument to say the least in dealing with a problem that is almost universal in child custody disputes because of the way the full custody system is set up.” Kruk says it’s common for both parents to engage in parental alienation, pushed into it by the knowledge that only one of them can get custody. “The court basically pits parents against each other … so they get into the pattern of denigrating each other while trying to prove to the court—and also dragging their children into it—that they are the superior parent; but more importantly that the other parent is untrustworthy, deficient, and incapable. The system is set up to promote that kind of behavior.” Kruk maintains equal shared parenting is the key to preventing parental alienation and “preserving the integrity of the child’s relationship with both parents.” He says the time has come to “get rid entirely of this dominant, full custody regime that we have where one parent is removed from the child’s life via a sole custody order.” It’s within this “winner take all custody regime” in which parents are threatened with the loss of their children that violence tends to occur, he says. “It’s a recipe for disaster.” Studies show that equal parenting is better and actually desired by children themselves. Proponents of equal parenting say it also reduces false allegations of assault and sexual abuse, a common occurrence that monopolizes the court system. Kruk says equal parenting can work for couples who remain in conflict through “parallel parenting,” in which arrangements are made where the parents don’t have direct contact with each other but can still co-parent independently. Brownstone believes that by constantly returning to family court to fight over petty issues, couples are using the system as a platform to perpetuate a relationship that they’re not ready to let go. Counseling and “parenting coaching”—provided free by the courts where needed—would go a long way in resolving this and helping feuding parents learn to get along, he says. “I think the courts need to provide mediation for free for people who can’t access it. And I think that the legal profession, the family law lawyers, have to be very sensitive to the damage that the court can do and steer their clients to the kind of information I’m giving them in the book,” he says.
Last Updated Apr 1, 2009

Mother of slain Laval girls arrested, father fugitive since 2006

This is a very tragic story. I note the headline states the Father is a fugitive. Is that germane to the story of a mom killing her kids. Does that mean she needed a man to properly raise her children. I know children need both parents in their lives equally but I'm uncertain if that is what the headline writer had in mind or was designed to deflect the blame away from the woman. I also note lots of excuse makers on the CBC comments site trying to find rationalization for a mother killing her children. In the USA and Australia moms are the greatest predators of our children killing and abusing them by a wide margin over dads. In Canada Stats Can will not break out the statistics between mom and her boyfriends, step dads etc. because of feminist bias and so we do not get a clear picture. Gender feminists are after equality and no gender roles. The Nanny state is not the logical parent or rather Big Brother of people who are supposedly equal. Those of you blaming the government are expecting way more than what should be reasonably available. If there are systemic problems such as exists in Family Law this ought to be followed up. Family Law is responsible for hundreds of suicides annually. Men and women are equal. Both genders should pay the same price for murdering someone. May the children rest in peace and the killer get her just rewards.MJM

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | 3:15 PM ET Comments131Recommend163

Police have arrested a woman after the bodies of her two children were found in the family home on Tuesday. They say the girls' father has been missing since a 2006 police roundup of dozens of organized crime suspects.

Adele Sorella, 43, was arrested after the bodies of her two daughters were found in their home on Tuesday afternoon. Adele Sorella, 43, was arrested after the bodies of her two daughters were found in their home on Tuesday afternoon. (Laval police handout/Canadian Press)

The bodies of the two girls, aged eight and nine, were discovered Tuesday afternoon at their home in the community northwest of Montreal.

Their mother, Adele Sorella, 43, was arrested in connection with the deaths and will undergo psychiatric tests, said a Laval police spokeswoman.

Police told CBC News the girls had been dead for several hours when their bodies were found by relatives.

"We tried to contact the mother," said Laval police Const. Nathalie Lorrain. When they couldn't find her, Lorrain said, police began to actively look for her "as an important witness."

Early Wednesday morning — just before 3 a.m. — the woman smashed her car into a street light pole not far from her home. She was not injured and was taken to hospital.

On Wednesday, police said the woman was under sedation and investigators may not be able to speak to her until Thursday.

Neighbours said the girls' mother had been suffering from depression.

"It's sad, it's tragic," neighbour Jessica Alessi said. "My mom called me, and I was freaking out."

Mother to undergo psychiatric tests

Lorrain said the mother was taken to hospital because she seemed confused and somewhat incoherent when detectives first met with her.

The police spokeswoman said investigators are trying to determine if the woman intentionally rammed her car into a hydro pole.

She said there was no sign of violence in the house.

Authorities have been seeking the girls' father, Giuseppe De Vito, for some time on a matter unrelated to the deaths of his daughters.

Lorrain said he is not considered a suspect in the homicides.

The father is being sought in connection with a major police operation that targeted mobsters in 2006 and Lorrain said the family hasn't seen him since the warrant was issued.

He's wanted by the RCMP on drug offences as part of Operation Coliseum, a police roundup of 90 people in Ontario and Quebec with suspected ties to organized crime.

With files from the Canadian Press

Mother guilty of feeding cocaine to toddler

It would appear to be another Family Law Court (FLAW) decision giving a mother sole custody and then limiting the dad's access has directly led to another tragedy. The story indicates the dad was involved in drugs but so obviously was the mother. What kind of assessment occurred I wonder to have a FLAW judge give sole custody.MJM

Mother guilty of feeding cocaine to toddler

Apr 02, 2009

Peter Small Courts Bureau


A 26-year-old mother has been convicted of steadily giving her toddler cocaine over 14 months, finally administering a near-lethal dose that left him brain-damaged.

"It's difficult to see what would motivate her to give him cocaine, possibly to stop his crying, or to get him to sleep, or to control him. Was it to punish him or to get back at the father?" Justice Tamarin Dunnet said yesterday.

The Scarborough woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her son, also intentionally fractured a number of her son's ribs over time and failed to take him to hospital for a broken forearm, the judge said.

Cocaine levels discovered in the 2-year-old in testing at Hospital for Sick Children were so high that if he were an adult, he would be in the top 5 per cent of users, an expert testified.

Now aged 6 and living with his father and grandmother in Scarborough, the boy is happy but has permanent brain impairment, family members said outside court.

Yesterday Dunnet convicted the mother of assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault, failing to provide the necessities of life and administering a noxious substance.

In September 2004, the woman split up with the boy's father – then a drug dealer – and became the sole caregiver.

In early 2005, she limited the father's access, and he became concerned when he noticed the boy had an arm injury and black marks under his eyes, court heard.

In the early hours of Aug. 1, 2005, the mother took the boy to Scarborough General Hospital, claiming that he had an unexplained seizure.

But she had actually given him a cocaine overdose that night and delayed getting help until "she realized he was dying in front of her eyes," the judge said.

She phoned the father from the hospital and said she feared the boy might die from ingesting cocaine she claimed he likely had picked up somewhere in her Midland Ave. apartment building.

Yet she never told doctors about the cocaine – knowledge that would have helped them treat her boy, who was transferred in a coma to the Hospital for Sick Children.

Doctors had to cut open his skull to relieve the swelling.

When a doctor told the mother at 10 that morning that her son had cocaine in her system, she expressed surprise, Dunnet said.

A children's aid worker who accompanied the mother to the hospital heard her say she hoped her son would be okay "because he is so cute. He's bad but he's cute."

In a police interview she covered her face as if crying, but shed no tears; next minute she was laughing, the judge said. "She expressed no concern about the child."

After the judgment, the mother brushed past reporters without comment. She remains on bail, at least until her sentencing hearing on May 8.

Her lawyer, Terry Kirichenko, said she is disappointed.

The father, 26, now reformed and attending university, said it hurts to think what his son went through. "I wasn't able to protect him." He said he believes that his former girlfriend is a psychopath, and that the only emotion she can express is anger.

In OZ ~ Fathers fight back

Caroline Overington | April 02, 2009

Article from: The Australian

IT was once widely assumed that children were better off with their mothers, especially after divorce. In part, that was because mothers did most of the child-rearing. They got pregnant, gave birth and did most of the heavy lifting - nappy changes, toilet-training and school pick-ups - as the children got older.

The role played by fathers, for many years, was assumed to be mainly financial: he was the breadwinner and often the person who provided the discipline.

Things have changed. This week, The Australian reported on an extraordinary Family Court decision - in the sense that it was completely out of the ordinary - to remove two children who had been living with their mother in Tasmania since their parents separated in 2005 and send them to live with their father and his girlfriend in Melbourne. There was no suggestion of physical abuse or neglect in the case known as Irish and Michelle (2009).

The facts are this: The couple separated in 2005; the father met a woman and moved to Melbourne to be with her in 2006; his children (a daughter, then aged six, and a son, then four) stayed with their mother in a Tasmanian country town. The mother - known in court documents as Ms Michelle - reorganised her working day so she could spend more time with the children. She had a limited income (less than $500 a week) but the father didn't earn much more (he works as a firefighter and makes about $50,000 a year, minus child support for two children).

The mother has a house with a front garden and a back yard for the children to play, and they live next door to their grandparents, who help out. Her father is a well-known, successful Tasmanian businessman.

The children's father - known in court documents as Mr Irish - works shifts: four days on, four days off, and often through the night. He has always had access to his children, but recently the change-overs had become difficult. He would turn up in Tasmania to take the children for holidays, and they would say: "I don't want to go" or "I don't have to go". On one occasion, witnessed by a child psychologist, the girl tried to climb out of his car window rather than go with him for a weekend. The father believed his relationship with the children was being eroded, that his daughter, now nine, was becoming estranged from him, and that their mother was responsible for these problems. He took the case to the Family Court and, to the utter shock and devastation of the mother, who has been the primary carer of the children all their lives, he won.

Justice Robert Benjamin accepted the court-appointed lawyer's evidence that "both children have consistently maintained that they wish to continue living with their mother".

"They have a close and intimate relationship with the mother and want to be with her," the psychologist said. "They identify their mother as their primary emotional support. As much as the children enjoy spending time with their father, both the children verbalised that they become distressed and miss their mother when they are separated from her."

But he also believed that the girl, in particular, did not understand how important it would be, in later life, to have a relationship with her father.

He said the child, known as B, was becoming emotionally estranged from her father and "either suffered, or was at risk of suffering, serious psychological damage if not psychiatric damage" if the mother didn't encourage her to have a relationship with her father.

There was nothing in the judgment to suggest the mother had denigrated the father, only that she hadn't encouraged a good relationship between the children and their father. The girl told her court counsellor that she didn't like that her father had left the family and now had a new girlfriend, whom she didn't like either.

But Benjamin made the decision to move the children with amendments to the Family Law Act in mind. These amendments, colloquially known as the "shared parenting" provisions, were introduced by the Howard government in 2006. They say that children "have the right to know and be cared for by both parents, regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never been married or have never lived together".

Children also have a "right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents".

The case of Irish and Michelle suggests that mothers must now encourage their children to have a good relationship with the father; they must facilitate access; and they aren't allowed to talk down the father. If they do, the children will be removed from their full-time care.

Wayne Butler, president of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, established in 2002 by fathers frustrated at the perceived bias of the Family Court, says the decision "has given us hope. There's a feeling now that if you want a substantial amount of contact with your children, you should wait and go to the Family Court because there is a good chance you'll get it. We strongly believe that children need a relationship with their father. There's a whole change in society's view of a father and that's being reflected in the Family Court."

That view isn't being encouraged by Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant, who told The Australian yesterday that Irish and Michelle shouldn't be read "as a marker for anything". "I've read the judgment closely and it seems to me that the judge took into account what the experts said, which is that the children, especially the girl, were at risk of psychological harm if they stayed with their mother. Some people won't agree with the decision." She noted that the mother could appeal within 30 days. Bryant promotes a view of the court as bias-free and transparent. She authorised the release of data on court orders made since the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parenting) Act came into force. The data isn't comparative - that is, it doesn't say whether fathers are now likelier to get access than they were before the amendments - but the Shared Parenting Council's Jim Carter says the data is nevertheless "encouraging for fathers and their children" because it shows that fathers are likelier to get substantial access to their children if they go to the Family Court than if they negotiate directly with their former wives.

"The situation since 2006 is that 17 per cent of fathers were granted primary care of their children and another 15 per cent were granted equal parenting time," Carter says. "That's a total of 32 per cent of fathers in litigated cases (getting substantial access)."

Mothers still get the bulk of the orders in their favour - 60 per cent get primary care of their children - but the Shared Parenting Council suggests that fathers who want "substantial access" to their children after divorce go to court because there is a reasonable chance they'll get it.

At a Senate estimates hearing on February 23, Family First senator Steve Fielding asked the chief executive of the Family Court, Richard Foster, about the amendments and he, too, was told there had been "a change in the orders that impact specifically on fathers".

Bryant says the data shows that fathers were given residence (or full-time custody) of the children in 19 per cent of litigated cases in 1999-2000, compared with 17 per cent of cases after 2006, "so that's actually gone down".

"We can speculate as to why. I think what's happened is that, rightly or wrongly, there was a prevailing view that orders were likely to favour mothers, and fathers would only litigate when they thought they had a good case," Bryant says. "It's possible that view has changed, so more (men) might litigate."

The number of orders for shared parenting is certainly up, from 6 per cent to 15 per cent, which means fathers get at least equal access in 32 per cent of the cases.

Women's groups are worried about the perceived new direction of the court. An online petition, started last month, has gathered 2300 signatures, and a coalition of women's groups will host rallies in all states next month, to highlight the plight of women whose children have been killed by their ex-partners on access visits. Victims of crime will speak, wearing red hoods over their faces, to circumvent laws that make it a crime to identify any party to a Family Court matter. Organiser Barbara Biggs says: "Our speakers have children who were killed after bad Family Court decisions. Some of them are very well known, with the cases all over the media already, but they can't be identified because that's a breach of the Family Law Act."

On publishing the Irish and Michelle story, The Australian received many calls from fathers who intend to try the Family Court system again. One such father, who hasn't seen his 12-year-old girl for two years, despite there being a Family Court order for access in place, says: "I'm supposed to see her this Easter but the orders were made in her absence. (The mother) doesn't show up for court. She doesn't acknowledge the orders. She has changed her telephone number so she can't be reached."

The couple separated when the child was five. "For a few years after that, I got good access. That changed when I got remarried. It dwindled away to nothing. When I read that case (Irish and Michelle) I thought: 'That's exactly what happened to me.' My daughter started to say: 'I don't want to see you' and 'I hate you', and of course that's not the case. We had a good relationship. I would try to speak to her on the phone and maybe I'd get her when her mother was in the shower, but she'd say: 'I can't talk to you. I've got to go."'

At the other extreme are women such as Kelly, a mother and a lawyer from Queensland, who was amazed when the court ordered a 50-50 custody arrangement with her ex-partner even though he'd been convicted of assaulting her.

"The lawyers kept saying: 'It has to be 50-50,"' she says. "He assaulted me when I was holding (the baby), but they say that's not the same as assaulting the baby, so the court says he isn't hurting the child. They said I had no choice under the new laws to hand the baby over one week on, one week off."