Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was first identified in the 1980s by the late forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Gardner, co-author or "The International Handbook of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Conceptual, Clinical, Legal Considerations." Gardner used this term to describe the result of one parent trying to program a child against the other parent in combination with the child's own denigration of the target parent. The alienating parent employs harsh criticism to destroy the child's affection for the targeted parent. To overcome parental alienation in a child-custody battle, you need to remain calm, cool and collected under the emotional cross fire of a painful divorce. You must use appropriate legal knowledge and strategy to obtain a court order that the custody of your child be changed.
Consult a forensic evaluator who is a mental health professional, i.e., a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, the majority of whom have previously studied PAS and can identify it. The evaluator can recommend to the judge that Parental Alienation Syndrome is occurring and that a series of psychological tests should be administered to both parents in conjunction with a detailed case history including observations.
Use the evaluator's written report to build a legally strong case in custody court documenting parental alienation and asserting that there be a change in custody because your child's current environment is unhealthy and psychologically damaging. Parental alienation is considered a form of child abuse, according to the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization.
Take a comprehensive parenting course to develop the confidence, skills and legal terminology to prepare you for your custody evaluation. This is crucial because a negative evaluation can result in limited supervised visitation with the child instead of full custody.
Create a legally acceptable "comprehensive parenting plan" in which you provide a detailed statement of how you intend to care for your children. This will give the judge and any skilled family professionals involved in your custody case confidence in your ability and integrity as a capable parent. Parenting plans that are not comprehensive enough can result in costly extended court time and/or a loss of custody.
Keep a diary of key events throughout your custody case documenting what happened and when. This can be considered admissible evidence in court at a later time.
During this emotionally volatile time, be the parent who sets a good example by staying positive in the role of peace-keeper, maintaining all scheduled visits with your children and paying all child support on time, regardless of the attitude and actions of the accusing spouse. Establish yourself as a rational, reliable and responsible parent. Don't discuss the case in front of your kids. Avoid criticizing the other parent. Keep sensitive documents, court orders and conversations private as these communications will only further traumatize your children. Remember that your attitude and actions are being observed and judged. Focus on enjoying the time you have with your children instead of what your former spouse is doing.
- Take the high road and do not respond negatively or violently even if provoked because your behavior will be judged in the final custody evaluation. Emotionally, don't take the bait.
- Taking a comprehensive parenting class can give you the knowledge to represent yourself in court which can save you a considerable amount of money in legal fees.