June 14, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In her article for the Huffington Post about which I’ve written the previous two days, Marisa Endicott treads uncertainly between the merely misleading and the outright false (Huffington Post, 6/9/17). Hers is the type of zeal we often see coming from those who would erect still more barriers between children and their fathers. Endicott’s taken up the cause of those who pretend that no parent ever alienates a child from another parent. That of course plumbs the depths of absurdity. The newspapers are chock full of obvious examples to the contrary.

One standard dodge by the anti-dad crowd is to elide the differences between PAS and PA. Endicott proves herself an adept student.

The American Psychological Association has no official position on PAS, but notes a lack of supportive data. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a guide used worldwide to diagnose disorders, does not recognize the syndrome, either, despite campaigns for it to do so.

Technically true, but of course Endicott neglects to mention what so many have noted – that the APA in fact included the concept of PA in the DSM – V, but not by that name. It now comes under the rubric of, for example “Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress” that specifically includes “disparagement” in its list of stress-inducing behaviors.

To her credit, Endicott briefly quotes Dr. Amy Baker:

“Frankly, alienation is a form of emotional abuse,” she said. “If you care about abused kids, you would care about whether they are being alienated, not just whether they’re being physically or sexually abused.”

But alas, she never comes to grips with what Baker said – that PA is abusive behavior. Baker could have been speaking directly to Endicott’s article when she said “if you care about abused kids…” Does she? It’s a fair question that Endicott neither asks nor answers.

However, the definition of parental alienation is broad, and many of the symptoms are similar to those of legitimate estrangement.

Again, that’s technically true, but at the same time a frank misrepresentation of PA. Perhaps the key symptom of PA is the child’s rejection of a parent without justification, i.e. the very opposite of “legitimate estrangement.” Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of alienation understands that most basic of facts. Endicott either failed to do fundamental research into her chosen topic or she’s deliberately misleading her readers. I think I know which it is.

There is a common perception that mothers are greatly favored in custody disputes, and fathers’ rights organizations have argued that parental alienation serves as a tool to balance the unequal playing field.

Utterly untrue on both counts. That mothers are greatly favored in custody disputes isn’t a “perception,” it’s a fact, as many datasets and studies demonstrate. Is Endicott aware of the data on child custody outcomes from the State of Nebraska? What about the Census Bureau? Has she read the surveys of family judges and lawyers that reveal frank anti-father bias?

And no, fathers rights organizations don’t argue in favor of recognizing alienation in order to “balance the unequal playing field.” The argument is invariably as Baker says – that PA is damaging to children and we should try to discourage doing so. Period. Too bad Endicott and the Huffington Post aren’t on board with that humanitarian effort.

When it comes to highly contested cases with abuse allegations, critics say, parental alienation is inherently biased against women, and an American Psychological Association task force found a reluctance in family courts to believe mothers’ abuse claims. Indeed, these claims often cast the mothers themselves as unstable, hostile or alienating.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Parental alienation isn’t biased against women. As every reliable source on parental alienation has said, fathers and mothers are equally capable of alienating behavior. The only reason most alienators are women is that PA is an opportunistic behavior, i.e. you can’t alienate a child if you don’t see him/her very often. Since mothers overwhelmingly get custody, they have the opportunity. If more dads were sole or primary caregivers, we’d see more of them hauled into family court as alienators.

That APA task force? Its report (a) is over 12 years old, (b) is among the most frankly misandric documents you’ll ever read, (c) is overtly false in that it assumes domestic violence to be a gendered phenomenon and by the way, (d) nowhere says what Endicott claims. To say that a “task force found” something strongly suggests that a group of people inquired into an issue and made findings of fact that indicate one thing or another. The APA group did no such thing. The very brief statement to which Endicott linked is literally nothing but a string of unsupported assertions, all of them anti-father and none of which admit that mothers are about twice as likely to commit child abuse as are fathers.

And, while claims of alienation do indeed sometimes cast the alienating parent as “unstable, hostile or alienating,” even a casual glance at alienation cases, demonstrates that’s exactly what many of them are. Read my pieces on, for example, Suzanne DeWalt and tell me if Endicott’s isn’t a precise description of her. There are countless others, but, needless to say, Endicott found none.

Jaclyn has experienced this first hand during her legal battle. Because she never pressed domestic violence charges, the abuse essentially didn’t exist in the court’s eyes.

Well, her never having raised the issue of DV with anyone prior to her custody case does call its veracity into question, doesn’t it? Any balanced, fair judge is bound to wonder why such an important topic went unmentioned until Mom wanted custody. But if Jaclyn had evidence of abuse, what was it? What did she put on the record in court to back up her claims? Anything? Again, Endicott gives readers nothing on which to base a belief in her narrative of an abused mother done wrong by heartless judges. Nothing.

Many point to a lack of abuse-specific training among judges, evaluators, mediators and experts in family court as the root of the problem.

Complete nonsense. Judges have been trained by domestic violence organizations (wrongly, but trained they are) for decades now and every state requires them to consider violence and abuse in making custody determinations. Endicott’s claim is pure fabrication.

In criminal court, everyone has the right to an attorney, because the government is involved, and freedom is at stake. But in family court, no representation is provided, because the proceedings involve disputes between private parties.

This is misleading. The anti-dad crowd has always claimed that fathers have an advantage in family court because they have more money than do their ex-wives. But the reality is that fathers are far less likely to hire an attorney than are mothers. Again, the Nebraska data bear this out as did Maccoby and Mnookin back in the early 90s.

The hope of those opposed to children maintaining real relationships with both parents post-divorce that they can further their campaign by attacking PA is a losing battle. Indeed, it’s already been lost. There’s far too much science on parental alienation, it’s been accepted as scientific fact in too many courts and it’s too familiar a phenomenon to family lawyers and judges for anyone to doubt its existence. That opponents like Endicott and Laurie Udesky stoop to the type of dishonesty they do stands as mute testimony to the weakness of their claims.

As ever, if they had real arguments to make, they’d make them. But they don’t.

 

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