June 27, 2006

Mom Accused Of Parental Alienation Syndrome Regains Custody After 13 Years

I am long familiar with Irene Jensen. Her regain of custody of her daughter is good news for both of them. It's also good to see PAS get another kick in the teeth.

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Mom termed 'parental alienator' wins rare vindication in courts

BY TROY ANDERSON, Staff Writer
Daily News
 
Former San Fernando resident Irene Jensen battled the family court and child protective systems for 13 years to save her daughter from an allegedly abusive father.
 
But the system turned the tables on her: Jensen found herself accused of making up the allegations and in the glare of the national spotlight when she was labeled a "parental alienator."
 
Her daughter, Tiffany-Ann Carver, now 17, spent years in the custody of her father, a Hawthorne city employee who denies Jensen's claims.
 
Tiffany eventually ran away and sought the assistance of the Alliance for Children's Rights, which helped place her in a foster home. Late last year, a Los Angeles judge returned Tiffany to the custody of her mother, court records show.
 
Experts said Jensen is believed to be the only mother accused of "parental alienation syndrome" who has regained custody of her child before age 18.
 
"It took half my life away from me," said Jensen, now 51. "I felt like a prisoner of war. I've never had anyone terrorize my daughter, an innocent child, myself and my family the way (my ex-husband) and Los Angeles County did."
 
Now, Tiffany and her mother said they feel free to tell their story.
 
"What I've gone through was hell," Tiffany said in a recent interview. "I went there and back again."
 
Rachel Allen, spokeswoman for the California National Organization for Women, said Tiffany's case illustrates flaws in California's family court system.
 
"We have hundreds of similar cases reported to us, with the majority of them going on for years and years, costing mothers hundreds of thousands of dollars ... and robbing them of their relationship with their children and their ability to protect their children," Allen said.
 
But Redondo Beach attorney James Crowell said his client, Richard Edwin Carver Jr., 43, denies ever abusing his daughter.
 
"I know Irene claims she was the victim, but there were two psychological evaluations done and both of them concluded the child should be with the father and that the mother was a parental alienator," Crowell said.
 
The controversial parental alienation syndrome, which arose in the family court system in the early 1990s, holds that a parent brainwashes children into believing that the other parent has abused them and makes false allegations to authorities in custody cases.
 
"All of the processes we went through concluded he did not abuse her," Crowell said. "There were allegations of abuse raised in Utah. But Utah basically rubber-stamped what the mom said and didn't check with anyone (in L.A. County)."
 
Crowell said Tiffany was happy for years with her father - a softball coach - and ran away because her father wouldn't let her stay out late and go to parties.
 
"It was a typical father-teenager battle," Crowell said. "(She) did not want to live under the discipline of her father."
Carver declined to be interviewed.
 
But Tiffany said she wasn't happy in her father's home.
 
"My father would blame the bruises and cuts on me on the sports," Tiffany said, adding that he threatened that if she told anyone about the abuse, he would prevent her from seeing her mother or sister.
 
"I knew I was going to continue to live my life in misery. I packed up my things one day when I was supposed to go to summer school and fled," she said. "I ran for eight months. I was safe with numerous different people in safe houses. I had to cope with a lot, but I was better off on my own."
 
Court records show incidents began to occur in June 1993, when Carver was arrested on suspicion of spousal battery. The charges were later dismissed.
 
The couple filed for divorce and Jensen was granted primary custody of Tiffany. The father was given monitored visitation.
 
A few months later, after a visit with her father, court records show Tiffany told her mother that her father had physically abused her. Jensen reported the incident to sheriff's officials, who found a "lack of sufficient evidence to prove a crime," according to records.
 
In March 1994, Jensen took her daughter to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, according to hospital records. At the doctor's office, Tiffany reported that her father had sexually abused her, according to court records.
 
The medical examination report did not rule out sexual abuse and recommended further investigation.
 
Three months later, Crowell wrote in court documents that Jensen was alienating her daughter from her father by telling her daughter that he had abused her and by making repeated reports of abuse to child protection and law enforcement officials.
 
Nearly a year later, Crowell asked the court to give physical custody to Carver, noting that two psychological court evaluators had found Jensen was a parental alienator and would continue to make unfounded allegations against Carver.
 
Tiffany wrote to the judge, saying that she wanted to live with her mother, and doctors filed reports of suspected child abuse, but a court commissioner granted Carver physical custody of the girl in 1995.
 
While child protection workers in Utah substantiated Tiffany's allegations of physical and sexual abuse in 1996, during a visit by Tiffany to her mother's home in that state, Los Angeles County child protective and law enforcement officials ruled that more than 100 reports of abuse were unfounded.
 
Despite efforts by judges and the California Judicial Council to eradicate the use of parental alienation syndrome in custody cases, it's still cited in family courts. Now, however, it's simply described as alienating behavior, experts say.
 
"Basically, it recast the abuser as the victim," said Syrus Devers, an attorney and former consultant to Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored legislation to address problems created by use of the legal tactic.
 
"To everyone's shock, it was extraordinarily successful in litigation," Devers said. "It all begins with the original finding that the person raising these allegations is for some reason not credible. As it works its waythrough the system over the years, it becomes an invincible opinion that is never reversed."
 
Many legal experts say the syndrome is merely a theory by psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner, who wrote a book about it before he committed suicide in 2003. The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize it as a mental disorder, according to court records.
 
In 1999, Los Angeles Superior Court Supervising Judge Paul Gutman wrote that the syndrome is "largely considered by authorities as scientifically unsupportable."
 
David L. Levy, chief executive officer of the Children's Rights Council, an international father's rights organization in Hyattsville, Md., disagreed that the syndrome is not real and said he "tends to believe" Tiffany's story.
 
"Parental alienation is as bogus as child abuse," Levy said. "They both exist, whether you want to call it a syndrome or not."
 
Now that she's living with her mother, 9-year-old sister and stepfather in Utah, Tiffany says she is much happier.
 
"(She) seems to be doing really well now," said Natasha Frost, a staff attorney at the Alliance for Children's Rights. "She seems to be healthy and happy and excelling in school."
 
Tiffany recently graduated from high school and said she plans to go to college this fall.
 
"I'm going to be studying criminal justice in college so I can help shape the future. I want to teach other girls and women what I went through and what they can do in situations like mine. I see the day coming when no child is in fear to speak the truth."

Posted on June 27, 2006 at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Another New Article That Discredits Parental Alienation Syndrome

I've just ordered my own copy of "Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judges Guide", published by The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. It includes information that discredits Parental Alienation Syndrome.

To quote the colleague who had informed me of this new publication: "The first publication said that PAS should be inadmissable in Court under both standards of Frye and Daubert. This revised work repeats this and goes much further. On pp. 24 and 25 ,, and I qoute, "The discredited 'diagnosis' of 'PAS'...." and comments about the harm it can cause in court. It also explains custody evaluator's using this erroneous concept and then making the observations fit their theory, or, as the authors put it, "confirmatory bias." Considering the publisher of this work, the authors, the advisory committee members and consultants, all of whom are named, I consider this to be the most powerful ammunition we have in all of our efforts to combat the use and effects of PAS."

I plan to cite this document in an article I'm planning to write about Parental Alienation Syndrome in the near future. I'm busy finishing off a few articles now, so I'll get to that one in a couple of weeks.

It's such good news that garbage like PAS is being shown up for the junk science that it is.

Posted on June 27, 2006 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Another Article On The Discredited Parental Alienation Syndrome

This article cites the new Jennifer Hoult article about PAS and it described Fathers4Justice for its harassing tactics that led to it disbanning a few months ago

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Rev. Anne Grant: The discredited 'Parental Alienation Syndrome'

01:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, June 27, 2006

TUCKED INTO a Rhode Island alleged-murder story in the May 9 Journal is a disquieting detail: The alleged killer's two children, ages 7 and 9, were in the apartment during the alleged fight to the death. The divorced father had left his children with a sitter to go out drinking; in the middle of the night he brought home the man who would die in his West Warwick kitchen.

The court computer spits out an 18-page rap sheet on Raymond C. Potter, charged with first-degree murder in the death of James Martin. It dates back to his first arrest, for domestic assault, seven years ago. The Journal reports that he also stands "accused of violating probation from a 2004 felony domestic-assault case, in which he was given a four-year suspended sentence."

So how did such a father get the children? It goes back 45 years, to an astounding proposition.
In an all-night final session on June 2, 1961, Rhode Island's sleep-deprived General Assembly unanimously approved dozens of laws, including one that set up Family Court. Gov. John Notte immediately named a chief judge and four associate justices. Pumped with patronage, the court ballooned. Today, its 13 judges and 8 magistrates impose sweeping decisions, with judicial immunity. Rhode Island is the only state that gives judges lifetime tenure without review.

Many of the lawmakers who established Family Court were lawyers -- directing a river of revenue to their profession. Did anyone really believe that adversarial litigation could help troubled families? This combative protocol has produced irresolvable wars of attrition, benefiting no one but profiteers. Lawyers, intent on causing collateral damage, bring in mental-health "experts" and send volleys whizzing back and forth.

In 1975, Rhode Island legislators approved "irreconcilable differences" as a ground for divorce. This eliminated any mention of "distasteful details of personal conduct." Though state law requires domestic violence to be considered when awarding child custody, the court routinely presumes no fault and awards joint custody. Even when there is a record of domestic violence, judges issue bizarre orders requiring the abuser and the abused to agree on important decisions in their children's lives.

Abusers with money or other forms of influence, skilled at terrorizing their families, easily gain the upper hand. Their children, suffering nightmares and stomach ailments, refuse to visit them. The abusive parent charges the protective parent with "brainwashing" the children, and wins sole custody.

The so-called Parental Alienation Syndrome, touted by many in the Rhode Island Family Court, has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and, recently, by both the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Children's Legal Rights Journal. For more than a decade, I have witnessed the devastating effects of this strategy in Rhode Island courtrooms and families.

Abusers often pride themselves on a no-nonsense parenting style that may appeal to judges. They typically show little concern for their children. Some pursue the children to torment their ex-partner or to avoid paying child support. Some force the children to deliver intelligence on the ex-partner, for protracted litigation against the protective parent. Threatened by a brutal, angry, demanding parent, the children frequently suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and worse.

A North Providence nine-year-old, diagnosed with PTSD, feared that his father would kidnap him and kill his mother, so he refused to attend school after his father returned from military duty in Iraq. On April 11, 2005, while the mother's lawyer was away on court assignment, the father's lawyer brought an emergency motion with a court-ordered guardian; the obliging judge ordered the father to enter the mother's home and "pick up" his truant son.

Mayhem ensued when the father appeared with two police officers. He literally picked up his screaming son and took him out over his shoulder, past the boy's weeping mother, grandmother, and therapist. The damage of this shock-and-awe approach is not easily undone.

Today, the boy must refer to his stepmother as "Bonus Mom," and he sees his real mother one hour a week, under intense court supervision.

In another case, last month, after a lengthy series touting the Family Court program that helps recovering addicts keep their babies, The Journal held an online interview with the chief judge. Outside, a teenager stood in pouring rain and handed out fliers with a photo of herself as a baby in her mother's arms.

Her father, a Johnston policeman charged twice by the Department of Human Services with failure to pay child support, had accused his former wife of drug addiction. Repeated tests proved him wrong, but the chief judge inexplicably gave him the baby.

"All my life," read the teen's flier, "my father told me and everyone else that I had a druggie for a mother. Three years ago I figured out he was lying. I finally left my father's violence and returned to my mother."

Since then her father has not let her talk to her half-sisters. Tormented with rage, she has sought help from psychotherapy.

The problem is not limited to Rhode Island or the United States.

In England, a group called Fathers4Justice asserted that "judges are denying fathers access to their children on little more than the say-so of vindictive ex-wives." Those fathers lost credibility this year after their plot to kidnap the prime minister's child became public. The Guardian noted ("Sins of the Fathers," May 8): "The little-known but astonishing truth about the family justice system is that it routinely grants contact orders to men who have been violent towards their partner and children. In the past decade, family courts [in England] have ordered 11 children to have contact with fathers who subsequently murdered them."

A year ago, the Rhode Island Senate established a commission to study Child Safety in Custody and Visitation. It never met.

Legislators seem too busy to care who, if anyone, is watching the children.

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The Rev. Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of the Women's Center of Rhode Island, is writing a book on domestic-violence child-custody cases.

Posted on June 27, 2006 at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Article Denounces Parental Alienation Syndrome

There is a wonderful new article by Jennifer Hoult at the Leadership Council's web site. It describes all of the problems with Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation. It's an acrobat file.

Here are the details about the article. Here are the details about the article. Scroll down the page until you get to the PAS section to find it.

Jennifer Hoult. The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy, 26 Children's Legal Rights Journal 1 (2006).

Abstract: Since 1985, in jurisdictions all over the United States, fathers have been awarded sole custody of their children based on claims that mothers alienated these children due to a pathological medical syndrome called Parental Alienation Syndrome ("PAS").  Given that some such cases have involved stark outcomes, including murder and suicide, PAS' admissibility in U.S. courts deserves scrutiny.

This article presents the first comprehensive analysis of the science, law, and policy issues involved in PAS' evidentiary admissibility.  As a novel scientific theory, PAS' admissibility is governed by a variety of evidentiary gatekeeping standards that seek to protect legal fora from the influence of pseudo-science.  This article analyzes every precedent-bearing decision and law review article referencing PAS in the past twenty years, finding that precedent holds PAS inadmissible and the majority of legal scholarship views it negatively.  The article further analyzes PAS' admissibility under the standards defined in Frye v. United States, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Kumho Tire Company v. Carmichael, and Rules 702 and 704(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, including analysis of PAS' scientific validity and reliability; concluding that PAS remains an ipse dixit and inadmissible under these standards. 

The article also analyzes the writings of PAS' originator, child psychiatrist Richard Gardner - including twenty-three peer-reviewed articles and fifty legal decisions he cited in support of his claim that PAS is scientifically valid and legally admissible - finding that these materials support neither PAS' existence, nor its legal admissibility.  Finally, the article examines the policy issues raised by PAS' admissibility through an analysis of PAS' roots in Gardner 's theory of human sexuality, a theory that views adult-child sexual contact as benign and beneficial to the reproduction of the species.

The article concludes that science, law, and policy all support PAS inadmissability.

(Note: The Children's Legal Rights Journal is published by the American Bar Association, Center on Children and the Law, and Loyola University Chicago School of Law)

Posted on June 27, 2006 at 08:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 11, 2005

Scientific And Professional Rejections Of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

SCIENTIFIC and PROFESSIONAL REJECTIONS OF PAS

Compiled by Professor Joan S. Meier, Esq., November 9, 2005

"Although there are no data to support the phenomenon called parental alienation syndrome, in which mothers are blamed for interfering with their children's attachment to their fathers, the term is still used by some evaluators and courts to discount children's fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations."
- APA Task Force Rpt, 40

"Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women's responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as "parental alienation" may be used to blame the women for the children's reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent father"
- APA Task Force Report, p. 100

"PAS as a scientific theory has been excoriated by legitimate researchers across the nation. Judged solely on his merits, Dr. Gardner should be a rather pathetic footnote or an example of poor scientific standards."
- Dr. Paul J. Fink, past President of the American Psychiatric Association

Gardner's Sexual Abuse Legitimacy Scale ("SALS"), which PAS draws heavily upon, is "[p]robably the most unscientific piece of garbage I've seen in the field in all my time. To base social policy on something as flimsy as this is exceedingly dangerous"
- Professor Jon Conte, a leading expert on child sexual abuse

The American Psychiatric Association has refused to include PAS in the DSM – the diagnostic directory for psychiatric disorders - despite concerted campaigns by Gardner and his followers to have it included, presumably because it is not an actual proven syndrome.
- National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse

"Richard Gardner's theory positing the existence of ‘parental alienation syndrome' or "PAS" has been discredited by the scientific community."
- NCJFCJ Custody Evaluation Guidelines, p. 19

"Although PAS may be hailed as a "syndrome" . . . in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner's own practice. . . PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research.
- National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse/American Prosecutors
Research Institute/National District Attorneys Association

"PAS is not recognized by any professional associations, including the American Psychiatric Association."
- Id.

"PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children."
- Id.

Posted on November 11, 2005 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

The Truth About Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

THE TRUTH ABOUT PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME AND
THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

Statement by Professor Joan S. Meier, Esq. (November 9, 2005)

Father's rights commentator Glenn Sacks and others are touting the American Psychological Association's (APA's) recent statement that they have not taken any "official position" on parental alienation syndrome (PAS), and are claiming that the APA has stated that Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories, and Professor Joan Meier, a Professor of Clinical Law at George Washington University Law School, are "incorrect" in stating that the APA has "discredited" and "thoroughly debunked" (respectively) PAS.

In fact, the only official APA statement that has been released on this subject is the following:

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 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.

APA Office of Public Affairs, October 28, 2005, available at
www.apa.org/releases/passyndrome.html.

Far from supporting Sacks' claims, the APA's statement is consistent with the film's criticism of the mis-use of PAS in custody litigation.

Moreover, the following should also be noted:

APA does not adopt "official positions" on matters such as this. Leading members of the APA have noted that the APA Board and Council never take an "official position" on a diagnosis. PAS is considered a diagnosis and therefore would never be the subject of an official vote of that sort. The APA's statement that it takes no "official position" on PAS means nothing more than that it takes no official position on any diagnosis.

APA's authoritative Report on Violence in the Family pointedly criticizes the misuse of PAS in domestic violence cases and unequivocally finds that there is no scientific evidence of such a "syndrome." In 1996 a leading task force of the APA published a widely disseminated and relied-upon report: Titled "Violence and the Family," written by the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, and published by the American Psychological Association, it is based on a comprehensive review of the literature and research on violence in the family.

The Report states, among other things:

"When children reject their abusive fathers, it is common for the batterer and others to blame the mother for alienating the children. They often do not understand the legitimate fears of the child. Although there are no data to support the phenomenon called parental alienation syndrome, in which mothers are blamed for interfering with their children's attachment to their fathers, the term is still used by some evaluators and courts to discount children's fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations."
(page 40)

The Report further states:

"Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. In this context, the nonviolent parent may be at a disadvantage . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women's responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as "parental alienation" may be used to blame the women for the children's reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent father." (page 100)

The Task Force Report, like other APA Reports, is correctly viewed as a statement of "the APA."The copyright statement for the Report states "[t]his material may be reproduced in whole or in part without fees or permission, provided that acknowledgment is made to the American Psychological Association."

The Task Force Report was produced by the leading experts in the APA under the auspices of the APA. This authoritative Report is routinely cited for these propositions (and many others) throughout the fields of law, social sciences, and others, as a statement of the American Psychological Association. The Task Force Report will undoubtedly continue to be cited and relied upon by thousands of researchers for the many informative and objective analyses of family violence it contains. This Report is the sole authoritative statement on this subject issued by the APA.

The APA has also discussed the mis-use of PAS in domestic violence cases in a more recent "APA Online" document. "Issues and Dilemmas in Family Violence," http://www.apa.org/pi/pii/issues/homepage.html, in Issue 5, contains a substantial discussion that is relevant in its entirety to this issue, but is too long to reproduce here. Suffice it to say that it includes the following:

"Family courts frequently minimize the harmful impact of children's witnessing violence between their parents and sometimes are reluctant to believe mothers. If the court ignores the history of violence as the context for the mother's behavior in a custody evaluation, she may appear hostile, uncooperative, or mentally unstable. . . Psychological evaluators who minimize the importance of violence against the mother, or pathologize her responses to it, may accuse her of alienating the children from the father and may recommend giving the father custody in spite of his history of violence."

This document too speaks for the APA. The Introduction to this document makes clear that it too, reflects a position of the APA: "Psychology provides a unique perspective for understanding and stopping family abuse and violence, and the APA joins a host of other professional groups expressing grave concerns about the magnitude and the effects of family violence."

The use of the word "syndrome" and the reliance on expert witnesses to present this evidence in court makes clear that PAS is propounded and applied as a scientific concept. Both the scientific basis and the validity of its use in cases concerning abuse have been "thoroughly debunked" by both the APA and numerous other expert sources. See attached Authorities Providing Scientific Critiques of PAS.

The statement in the film, that the majority of litigated custody cases involve a history of domestic violence, is based on numerous empirical studies. Of course statistics do not tell us what is true in any particular case. See attached Authorities Addressing history of violence in contested custody litigation.

Posted on November 11, 2005 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 03, 2005

Bridget Marks Regains Custody

[My readers may already know of this case. This was a Parental Alienation case. The married father, a wealthy casino owner, had an affair with Marks and won custody because the court thought she had been poisoning the children against their father. His wife was raising his mistress's love child. How sick is that?]

TUG-O'-LOVE TWIST

By DAREH GREGORIAN

April 1, 2005 -- An "overwhelmed" Bridget Marks won the fight of her life yesterday when an appeals court gave her back custody of her two little girls.

"This is a wonderful, wonderful day," an ecstatic Marks told The Post shortly after learning the state Appellate Division had restored custody of her twin 5-year-olds, Amber and Scarlett.

"My prayers have been answered."

Her lawyer, Tom Shanahan, said Marks and her girls "got their lives back today."

The unanimous four-judge decision overturned a controversial ruling by Manhattan Family Court Judge Arlene Goldberg giving custody of the twins to their father, casino king John Aylsworth.

The father had impregnated the former Playboy model while cheating on his wife, and then barely saw the children until they were 3. But he was awarded custody last year after Goldberg found Marks had been turning the kids against him.

The ruling resulted in an ugly public spectacle last June, when a sobbing Marks handed the hysterical girls over to her ex-lover and his wife in a gut-wrenching scene that was caught on camera on East 72nd Street.

Shanahan quickly filed an appeal and said Marks has been calling him in tears every Tuesday and Thursday — the days the Appellate Division issues its decisions.

The custody switch takes effect as soon as Marks, 39, returns from a ski trip she'd ironically taken to escape from the stress of losing the girls. "I could hardly breathe," she said of learning the good news. "I was just overwhelmed."

Aylsworth's lawyer didn't return a call for comment.

Goldberg's decision to strip Marks of custody was largely based on the report of a court-appointed evaluator, who found the mom had made up claims that Aylsworth had touched the children inappropriately.

The Appellate Division judges agreed that Marks likely made up the allegations, which was "abhorrent."

But the judges note that even the evaluator who recommended Marks lose custody conceded she was a "good mother."

The judges also found Aylsworth's claim that he "will parent the children '24/7' rings hollow," because he's often away for work, and the bulk of the kids' time would be spent with Aylsworth's wife or paid caretakers.

One appeals judge, David Saxe, said Goldberg's ruling was more of "a punishment to the mother for her misconduct than an appropriate custody award in the children's best interests."

Posted on April 3, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

February 16, 2005

Upping The Ante To Get A Bogus Syndrome Recognized

Fathers' rights activists have launched themselves into the Lohstroh case to get Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) recognized by the American Psychological Association as a valid syndrome. PAS is junk science that has no place in a doctor's office or court room.

As a reminder to readers, Rick Lohstroh was murdered by his 10-year-old son during a visitation exchange. PAS pushers have attached themselves to this case in order to achieve their goal of getting PAS into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). PAS is not in the DSM, and it is not recognized as a valid medical syndrome. I've written about the Lohstroh case and the PAS push here.

Now, the PAS pushers have gone as far as to erect billboards promoting the junk science. The billboards have the slogan "Don't turn your kids against their mommy or daddy." The problem is that PAS and the more generic forms of alienation focus nearly exclusively on mothers. Moms are punished for trying to protect themselves and their children from abusive and controlling fathers when alienation and PAS are used against them in court.

I hope this billboard campaign backfires on the PAS pushers. PAS has long been recognized for the junk science that it is, and one case of a father being murdered by his 10-year-old son won't change that.

Posted on February 16, 2005 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 11, 2005

Getting Around the PAS As Syndrome Label

Fathers' rights activists are currently trying to get the bogus Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) due to a case in which a 10 year old boy shot and killed his father during a visitation exchange. The boy's mother had claimed that her ex-husband had been abusing him. Men's and fathers' rights activists have attached themselves to this case as "proof" that PAS is a real syndrome, and they are lobbying heavily to get it included in the next issue of the DSM.

I've noticed for the past few years that when PAS is introduced in a court room, the court throws it out when it sees it for the junk science it really is. Dr. Richard Gardner, who coined PAS, stated that 90% of his PAS caseload was mothers. He doesn't have much credibility in the court room. In 1988, researcher and author Jon Conte wrote that Gardner's Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale is "probably the most unscientific piece of garbage I've seen in the field in all my time. To base social policy on something as flimsy as this is exceedingly dangerous."

The American Psychological has already pointed out that psychologists pathologize mothers' behavior when they try to protect their children from abuse. One of the ways mother are pathologized is by citing the bogus PAS.

Family courts frequently minimize the harmful impact of children's witnessing violence between their parents and sometimes are reluctant to believe mothers. If the court ignores the history of violence as the context for the mother's behavior in a custody evaluation, she may appear hostile, uncooperative, or mentally unstable. For example, she may refuse to disclose her address, or may resist unsupervised visitation, especially if she thinks her child is in danger. Psychological evaluators who minimize the importance of violence against the mother, or pathologize her responses to it, may accuse her of alienating the children from the father and may recommend giving the father custody in spite of his history of violence.

Since introducing PAS as a syndrome has failed so often in court, men's and fathers' rights activists have tried to find ways of getting around it. I recall in the late '90s one activist recommending that a legal approach of "estrangement" be used to get around the PAS problem. Other psychologists such as Kelly and Johnston have rewritten PAS to a more generalized approach because Gardner's syndrome has such a bad reputation. "Friendly parent" provisions operate from the same point-of-view: when the mother does not "cooperate" and bend to dad's demands for visitation, even when visitation may be harmful for the children, she is accused of interfering with the father-child relationship. This is not about real harm to the child. It's a biased judgement of mother's behavior that fathers overall do not experience. The allegations she makes are automatically viewed as suspect, and they are not investigated properly. The guys cook up all kinds of unsavory methods to punish mothers in court.

I've been made aware of similar suggestions to get around the "PAS as syndrome" problem that came from a fathers' rights mailing list.

First of all, folks, until you've conducted a global read of PA(S), which includes the most recent Kelly & Johnston reformulation, I suggest you refer to PAS as PA (Parental Alienation), only. By and large, most attorneys, and especially pro-se'ers, get clobbered in court when naming this disorder a syndrome. So, my advice to you, whether you're trying to admit the Parental Alienation Theory in court at pre-trial at a Daubert or Frye Hearing, or at trial, even if the child victims are participating in the alienators campaign of denigration against the targeted parent, is to use the words, Parental Alienation (PA), only.

This poster admits that people get "clobbered in court" when citing PAS as a syndrome. As they should, since PAS is junk science. This use of the words "parental alienation only" is a subterfuge to introduce a bogus syndrome into the court room. Junk science that demonizes women has no place in court. PAS has no business being admitted as a valid syndrome in the DSM, and a case involving a 10 year old who shot his father should not be used to get it there.

Posted on February 11, 2005 at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

August 27, 2004

Still More Regulations of Women's Behavior

I recently posted a link to a story about a mom who was jailed for smoking near her children. Here is another example of the trend of punishing mom's behavior by removing custody of her children from her.

It seems that the trend to punish divorced moms who "badmouth" dad by taking custody away from them is on the rise. This trend began with the introduction of Dr. Richard Gardner's junk science Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) into the courtroom. Mothers who tried to protect their children from abusive fathers were viewed as "alienating" the children from dad. The "cure" for this junk "disorder" was to remove the children from mom's care, give custody to dad, force mom into "therapy" with a PAS-supportive psychologist, and not allow her any access to the kids until she learned to "cooperate." That mean ignoring the abuse and not "badmouthing" dad to the kids.

PAS has never been accepted as a legitimate medical syndrome by the American Medical Association. It is not in the DSM-IV, the "Bible" of psychological disorders. It is junk science. Without a valid diagnosis, doctors cannot recommend treatment, but that hasn't stopped PAS proponents from punishing moms who "brainwash" the kids against dad. Due to valid criticisms of Gardner's bogus theory that kept it from passing muster in many court cases, PAS proponents such as Douglas Darnall have moved on to a more generalized version of "parental alienation" that sees just about every form of behavior by mom that dad, his lawyer, and any court-appointed psychologist does not approve of as "alienation" on her part - and she must be punished. Another recent trend that is on the rise is "friendly" parent theory, which holds that parents need to "get along" for the sake of the children. If one parent, most often mom, balks at seeing her established parental authority and primary caregiving role stepped on by dad, she is viewed as "unfriendly" and "uncooperative." She risks losing custody. In abuse cases, this is even more horrendous.

Fathers are not placed under such scrutiny. When mom is emotional and reactive to a cold, vindictive, controlling, manipulative ex-spouse/ex-boyfriend who is a master at disguising his true nature in court, her behavior is the one placed under the microscope, not his. Even if there are restraining orders against him or there have been other documented problems, he stands a good chance of getting custody due to "alienation" and "friendly parent" theory.

These are very harmful trends that are on the rise. They are affecting countless custodial mothers across the country.

Posted on August 27, 2004 at 06:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)