The Dangers to Children During Nasty Divorces
When divorces involve custody disputes, the stakes are high – ABC News discusses how one wrong decision and a child can end up in the hands of an abuser, or an otherwise loving and responsible parent can be seen as an unfit and delinquent provider. It is therefore up to the family court judge to decide what is best for the child and the divorcing parents – these judges essentially have childrens’ fate in their hands.
“Parental alienation” is the notion that one parent can plant a child with ideas that would then make the child turn away from the other parent, even if said ideas are untrue or uncalled for. According to Fort Worth child custody attorneys of The Maynard Law Firm, these behaviors are often seen in high-conflict marriages, or in divorcing or separating parents.
Dr. Richard Warshak, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center clinical professor of psychiatry and author of the book titled Divorce Poison, said this can cause irreparable damage to the bond and relationship of the child and the other parent, with “hear[ing] a steady drumbeat about a parent’s flaws and lies that portray the parent as unloving and unworthy of love”.
The acceptance of parental alienation in some family law courts has received criticism and outrage in some sectors.
Washington, D.C.-based George Washington University law professor Joan Meiers said that with the prevalence of parental alienation instances, some judges are not inclined to believe that a child has been abused, instead believing that the child was coerced by one parent to lie about the other parent.
The medical community is also interested in this topic, with New York City, New York-based Columbia University professor of psychiatry Paul Appelbaum, who is also an American Psychiatric Association former president, saying, “We ought to be careful about throwing around terms [like parental alienation] that carry such strong pejorative connotations, especially when the consequences can change a child’s life forever.”