Parental Alientation

Child Custody cases may raise issues of parental alienation in Annapolis, Maryland family law cases.

The term parental alienation is used to describe a condition in which a child feels an unjustified animosity or resentment towards one parent that appears to have been deliberately caused by one parent in order to frustrate or deny the other parent custody or access.  In layman’s terms, the theory behind PAS is that one parent has “programmed” or “brainwashed” the child into having a negative view or attitude about the other parent such that the child refuses to have any interactions or dealings with the alienated parent.  Critics of PAS dismiss the syndrome as “junk science” and point to the fact that the American Psychiatric Association has not recognized PAS in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the manual that specifies uniform criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.

Maryland courts have not squarely addressed the admissibility of evidence concerning PAS.  Nevertheless, Maryland family law attorneys see a range of behaviors that clearly suggest that children are being manipulated by parents in hotly contested custody battles with devastating consequences for children.

When we suspect that a client’s child is exhibiting signs of PAS we will discuss with the client the efficacy of getting a counselor involved to get to the root cause of the child’s alienation and offer strategies for how to overcome the problem.  Perhaps nothing is worse for a parent to be fighting desperately to hold on to a meaningful place in his/her child’s life only for the child to reject that parent based on some false negative impression of that parent that was deliberately fostered by the other parent.

I know that there is an expression that all is fair in love and war, but I think the deployment of parental alienation as a tactic has no place in a custody dispute.