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Parental Alienation at the Intersection of Family Law, Social Science and Lived Experience

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Presentation on Parental Alienation assessment and intervention given to the Australian Family Law Pathways Network (FLPN) in May 2018. This presentation was attended by family law practitioners, independent children's lawyers (ICL) and family consultants (custody evaluators).

The scope of the presentation covered definitions of parental alienation, how parental alienation is situated in family law and family violence, evaluation, assessment and evidence-based intervention to remediate parent-child relationships.

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Parental Alienation at the Intersection of Family Law, Social Science and Lived Experience

  1. 1. FLPN 23 MAY 2018 PARENTAL ALIENATION At the intersection of family law, social science and lived experience ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 1
  2. 2. AT THE INTERSECTION • “…It is a sad fact in family law that a determination which is most consistent with the best interests of the children can appear to reward bad behaviour,” • “…As undesirable as it may be from the father’s perspective, the potential for the children to continue to suffer emotional abuse by the mother in this manner diminishes if the children do not spend any time with the father” . • Wang & Dennison (No. 2) [2009] FamCA 1251 (18 December 2009).©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 2
  3. 3. AT THE INTERSECTION • “Indeed it is hard to think of a single category of parenting cases that potentially throws up as many legal consideration as cases where a child rejects a parent or resists contact. Moreover these are often some of the most high conflict cases in Family law Court of Australia” • Altobelli, T 2011 P. 1 • AFCC 2018 conference theme on PA-August 2018 • EMMM/UTAS inaugural conference on PA-October 2018 ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 3
  4. 4. FAMILY LAW: A FUNCTIONAL DESCRIPTION OF PA • Section 4AB Family Law Act, 1975: Definition of family violence etc. (1) For the purposes of this Act, family violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person's family (the family member ), or causes the family member to be fearful. • (2) Examples of behaviour that may constitute family violence include (but are not limited to): • (i) preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 4
  5. 5. FAMILY LAW CONSIDERATIONS OF PA • Discussion about whether PA and/or PAS are diagnosable or classifiable (DSM 5, ICD-11) not relevant to how family law responds to PA • Gendered perspectives on PA do not inform family law’s perspectives on children’s best interests • ‘Family law is prepared to discount children’s views if family consultants/single experts can advise sufficient presentation of PA. • Australian family law prefers a model of alienation that “focuses attention on the child shifted away from the parent” (Altobelli, T 2011) ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 5
  6. 6. HOW PA FOOLS THE EXPERTS • Research shows that alienated children’s accounts are unreliable under alienation conditions • Bernet, W, Verrocchio, MC & Korosi, S 2015. • Addressing PA by ‘prescribing the symptom’ (the rejected parent) is counter intuitive • Conventional therapeutic approaches are contraindicated-delusional, triangulated system • Confusion over the REAL target and the PROXY target/focus of PA ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 6
  7. 7. ALIENATED PARENTS DILEMMA • Alienated parents cannot defend themselves or their children without seeming to incriminate themselves. • Family law may not consider reunification/remediation as a default prime goal • Validating ‘bad’ (alienating) parenting in the best interests of the child • Alienated parents must expose alienating behaviour as causative to their children’s rejection BUT must inevitably focus upon their ex-partners to do this.©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 7
  8. 8. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? • “[PA] is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification” • (Gardener, 1985). • [Alienated child] “Who expresses freely persistently, unreasonable negative feelings and beliefs (such as anger, hatred, rejection and/or fear) towards a parent that are disproportionate to the child's actual experience with that parent. Entrenched alienated children are marked by an un- ambivalent, strident rejection of the parent with no apparent guilt or conflict” • (Johnston, 2005) ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 8
  9. 9. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? • “A disturbance in which children, usually in the context of sharing a parents negative attitudes, suffer unreasonable aversion to a person, or persons, with whom they formally enjoyed normal relations or with whom they would normally develop affectionate relations” • (Warshak, 2006). • “A parentally induced suppression of a child’s attachment bonding motivations towards a normal-range and affectionately available parent” • (Childress, C.A 2015). ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 9
  10. 10. CLASSES OF PARENTAL ALIENATION • ‘Classical’ parental alienation • Psycho-pathological-an intra-psychic, inter-personal disorder (e.g. PA and PAS)-A disorder in the individual (child) • Manifests in the child as a result of ONE parent’s intent, action, behaviour where the targeted parent’s behaviour and parenting are inconsequential. • Seminal definition based upon 8 criteria • (Gardner 1998a, p. 311,Gardner 2002a, p. 95) ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 10
  11. 11. A SPECTRUM OF AFFILIATION TO ALIENATION ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 11 Alienated Estranged Aligned Affiliated Non-ambivalent relationship Child estranged from one parent Reaction against IPA or abuse targeting the child Reaction against family situation hostile or indifferent to the child Protective parenting may be involved Pathological alienation-Child abuse Child influenced by alienating parent Unreasonable, distorted SUPERVENING and DOMINANT PROCESS-subsumes all other processes Positive relationship Affiliated with both parents Neither parent unduly influencing the child Ambivalent relationship Aligned with one parent but accepting of the other Aligned parent not involved against non-aligned parent Adapted from Kelly, JB & Johnson, JR 2001
  12. 12. ENTERING THE INTERSECTION-CHECKING THE SIGNS ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 12Drozd, LM & Olesen, NW 2004
  13. 13. NAVIGATING THE INTERSECTION-TRIAGE ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 13Lee, SM & Olesen, NW 2001
  14. 14. Multi-Factor Case Formulation & Assessment (Baker, AJ, Bone, JM & Ludmer, B 2014). Factor 1- Intentional misrepresentation of TP Factor 2-Prior history of a positive/loving relationship with the children Factor 3-Absence of abuse, neglect, FV/DV by TP Factor 4- FP engages in PA behaviours Factor 5-Child exhibits PA behaviours ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 14
  15. 15. MARKERS OF PA-DIFFERENTIATING ESTRANGEMENT • Loss of ambivalence-idealised favoured parent-demonised targeted parent • PARQ validated instrument to differentiate alienation and estrangement: • Bernet, W, Gregory, N, Reay, KM & Rohner, RP 2017. • Propagation of alienation to targeted parent’s extended family • Alienated child calls targeted parent by first name • Signs of extreme dissociation characteristic of PA-not reliably associated with of realistic estrangement. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 15
  16. 16. ASSESSING OR DIAGNOSING PA BY BEHAVIOR BAKER AND DARNALL (2006) Alienating strategy • (1) Badmouthing • (2) Limiting/interfering with parenting time • (3) Limiting/interfering with contact Example • Targeted parent portrayed as dangerous, mean, abandoning; using the targeted parent’s first name with the child instead of “Mum or “Dad”. • Moving away, arranging activities during scheduled time with rejected parent, calling during contact; giving child “choice” about whether to have contact, etc. • Mail or phone contact (blocking, intercepting, or monitoring calls and mail, etc. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 16
  17. 17. ASSESSING OR DIAGNOSING PA? BAKER AND DARNALL (2006) Alienating strategy • (4) Limiting/interfering with symbolic contact • (5) Interfering with information Example • Limiting mentioning, no photographs, having child call someone else “Mum” or “Dad”; changing child’s name, etc. • Refusing to communicate, using child as messenger not giving important school and medical information, etc.©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 17
  18. 18. ASSESSING OR DIAGNOSING PA? BAKER AND DARNALL (2006) Alienating strategy • (6) Emotional manipulation • (7) Unhealthy alliance • (8) Miscellaneous Example • Withdrawing love, inducing guild, interrogating child, forcing child to choose/express loyalty or reject, rewarding for rejection, etc. • Fostering dependency (enmeshment), child having to spy, keep secrets, etc • Badmouthing to friends, teachers, doctors, interfering with child’s counselling, creating conflict between child and rejected parent, etc. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 18
  19. 19. PA INTERVENTION GOALS AND OUTCOMES • Reunification with targeted parent-can remediation NOT be in the child’s best interest? • A re-formed relationship between child and favoured/alienating parent • Court ordered reportable specialised intervention for parental alienation-as soon as parental alienation is identified (Johnston and Goldman, 2010). • Noncompliance with court orders needs to be sanctioned. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 19
  20. 20. BEST PRACTICE PRINCIPLES FOR PA INTERVENTION • Awarding primary parental responsibility to the targeted parent when parental alienation is severe is critical to child’s best interests. • Removing the targeted child from the care of their favoured parent does NOT harm the child (Dunne and Hedrick, 1994; Gardner, 2001)-distress if present is transient. • Removing the targeted child from the alienating parent protects the child from further harm • Conventional family therapy is ineffective (in cases of severe alienation) and may cause further harm (Reay, 2015; Warshak, ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 20
  21. 21. PA INTERVENTION DECISION MATRIX ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 21 Alienating Parent Mild Naive Moderate Active Severe ObsessiveTargetedParent Positive Competen t Traumatis ed Reactive Abusive Negligent Supervised time with targeted parent Trauma counselling/education Modified family therapy Time with targeted parent Trauma counselling & education Modified family therapy No time with rejected parent Aligned not alienated Trauma counselling/education Change of residence, parental responsibili ty Psycho- social reunificatio n program
  22. 22. SEVERE PA-INTERVENTION PROGRAMS IN AUSTRALIA • FBAC Family Bridges for Alienated Children (USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia), Warshak.R, Rand.R • Legal mandate • Mandatory exclusion period between alienated child and favoured parent • Since 2005-most researched • Trained facilitators in Australia • Intervention (Australia) • Court ordered reportable therapy-alienated child often remains with favoured/alienating parent ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 22
  23. 23. HOW EFFECTIVE IS FBAC? • 2010 US Study • 22 of 23 (96%) Successful reunifications, Positive relationship restored. • 82% 18 of 22 retained a positive relationship after long term follow up. • Relapses due to premature contact with favoured/alienating parent • Warshak, R.A. (2010). • 2014 US Study • 95% recovered a positive relationship with rejected parent • 82% (47 of 57) retained a positive relationship after long term follow up • Relapses due to premature contact with favoured/alienating parent ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 23
  24. 24. REFERENCES • Altobelli, T 2011, 'When a Child Rejects a Parent : Why Children Resist Contact', Australian Journal of Family Law, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 185-209. • Baker, AJL 2006, 'Patterns of Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Qualitative Study of Adults Who Were Alienated from a Parent as a Child', American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 63-78. • Baker, AJL & Darnall, D 2006, 'Behaviors and Strategies Employed in Parental Alienation', Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, vol. 45, no. 1-2, pp. 97-124. • Baker, J. A. Dr. In ASSOCIATION OF FAMILY AND CONCILIATION COURTS, NEW YORK CHAPTER (AFCC - NY) The Spectrum of Parental Alienation and Estrangement: Challenges for Mental Health Professionals, Attorneys & the Court, 14 June 2014 • Baker, AJ 2014, 'Parental Alienation as a Form of Psychological Maltreatment: Review of Theory and Research', MALTRATTAMENTO E ABUSO ALL’INFANZIA. • Baker, J. A. Dr. In ASSOCIATION OF FAMILY AND CONCILIATION COURTS, NEW YORK CHAPTER (AFCC - NY) The Spectrum of Parental Alienation and Estrangement: Challenges for Mental Health Professionals, Attorneys & the Court, 14 June 2014 • Baker, AJ, Bone, JM & Ludmer, B 2014, 'Documenting Your Case for Your Attorney', in The High-Conflict Custody Battle: Protect Yourself and Your Kids from a Toxic Divorce, False Accusations, and Parental Alienation, New Harbinger Publications, pp. 91-122. • Bernet, W, Verrocchio, MC & Korosi, S 2015, 'Yes, children are susceptible to manipulation: Commentary on article by Clemente and Padilla-Racero', Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 56, pp. 135-8.©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 24
  25. 25. REFERENCES • Baker, AJL & Eichler, A 2016, 'The Linkage between Parental Alienation Behaviors and Child Alienation', Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, vol. 57, no. 7, pp. 475-84. • Bernet, W, Gregory, N, Reay, KM & Rohner, RP 2017, 'An Objective Measure of Splitting in Parental Alienation: The Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire', Journal of Forensic Sciences. • Bernet, W, Wamboldt, MZ & Narrow, WE 2016, 'Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress', J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, vol. 55, no. 7, pp. 571-9. • Childress, CA 2015, An Attachment Based Model of Parental Alienation, Oaksong Press, Claremont, California. • Darnall, D. (1998). Divorce casualties: Protecting your children from parental alienation. Lanham, MD: Taylor Publishing Co. • Drozd, LM & Olesen, NW 2004, 'Is It Abuse, Alienation, and/or Estrangement?: A Decision Tree', Journal of Child Custody, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 65-106. • Drozd, L, Saini, M & Olesen, N 2016, 'Empirical Studies of Alienation', in Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for the Family Court, 2 edn, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 374-430, <http://www.lesliedrozd.com/lectures/Kuehnle_Drozd_AFCC-FL_WA_Spring_2012.pdf>. • Drozd, L, Saini, M & Olesen, N 2016, Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for the Family Court, 2 edn, Oxford University Press, New York. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 25
  26. 26. REFERENCES • Fidler, BJ & Bala, N 2010, 'Children Resisting Postseparation Contact with a Parent: Concepts, Controversies, and Conundrums', Family Court Review, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 10-47. • Friedlander, S & Walters, MG 2010, 'When a Child Rejects a Parent: Tailoring the Intervention to Fit the Problem', Family Court Review, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 98-111. • Gardner, RA 'Parental Alienation (Pa) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (Pas)', American Journal of Forensic Psychology, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 39 - 64. • —— 1985, 'Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigations', Academy Forum, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 3-7. • —— 1998a, 'Letter to the Editor', Child Maltreatment, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 309-12. • —— 1998b, 'The Parental Alienation Syndrome. 2nd', Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics. • —— 1998c, 'Recommendations for Dealing with Parents Who Induce a Parental Alienation Syndrome in Their Children', Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, vol. 28, no. 3-4, pp. 1-23. • —— 1999, 'Differentiating between Parental Alienation Syndrome and Bone Fide Abuse-Neglect', The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 97 - 107. • —— 2001, 'The Parental Alienation Syndrome: Sixteen Years Later', Academy Forum, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 10-2. • —— 2002a, 'Parental Alienation Syndrome Vs. Parental Alienation: Which Diagnosis Should Evaluators Use in Child-Custody Disputes?', American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 93-115. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 26
  27. 27. REFERENCES • —— 2002b, 'Rebuttal to Kelly and Johnson's Article. Children Speak out for Children', The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 5-10. • Gottlieb, LK 2012a, 'The Alienated Parent', in The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration, Charles Thomas Publishers USA Springfield Illinois, p. 117. • —— 2012b, The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration, Springfield : Charles C Thomas, Springfield. • —— 2012c, 'Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Form of Child Abuse and More', in The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration, Charles C Thomas, Publisher, Ltd., Springfield, Illinois, p. 209. • Kelly, JB & Johnson, JR 2001, 'The Alienated Child: A Reformulation of Parental Alienation Syndrome', Family Court Review, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 249-66. • Kopetski, L. M. (2006). Commentary: Parental alienation syndrome. In R. A. Gardner, S. R. Sauber, & D.Lorandos (Eds.), The international handbook of parental alienation syndrome: Conceptual, clinical and legal considerations (pp. 378–390). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. • Kruk, E 2016a, 'Parental Alienation and the Bystander Effect', Psychology Today, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201605/parental-alienation-and-the-bystander- effect>. • —— 2016b, 'Professional Misunderstanding of Parental Alienation', Psychology Today, ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 27
  28. 28. REFERENCES • Lee, SM & Olesen, NW 2001, 'Assessing for Alienation in Child Custody and Access Evaluations', Family Court Review, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 282-98. • Rathus, Z 2017, 'Mapping the Use of Social Science in Australian Courts: The Example of Family Law Children’s Cases', Griffith Law Review, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 352-82. • Reay, K. (2015). Family Reflections: A Promising Therapeutic Program Designed to Treat Severely Alienated Children and Their Family System. American Journal of Family Therapy, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp. 1-12, 2015 • Templer, K, Matthewson, M, Haines, J & Cox, G 2016, 'Recommendations for Best Practice in Response to Parental Alienation: Findings from a Systematic Review', Journal of Family Therapy. • Vassiliou, D & Cartwright, G 2001, 'The Lost Parents' Perspective on Parental Alienation Syndrome', The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 181-91. • Warshak, R.A. (2010). Family Bridges: Using Insights From Social Science to Reconnect Parents and Alienated Children. Family Court Review. Volume 38. No 1. January 2010. Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. • Warshak, R.A (2014). Parental Alienation: What it is; How to Manage it. University of Texas School of Law. American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (Texas Chapter). Innovations ;Breaking Boundaries in Custody Litigation. 12-13 June 2014. Dallas, Texas. USA. • Warshak, RA 2015, 'Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies That Compromise Decisions in Court and in Therapy', Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 235-49. • Weigel, DJ & Donovan, KA 2006, 'Parental Alienation Syndrome: Diagnostic and Triadic Perspectives', The Family Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 274-82. ©Dialogue In Growth Pty. Ltd. 2018 Reproduction and distribution restricted 28

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