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PAS And Child Custody Cases

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Once known as “maternal brainwashing,” parental alienation syndrome is a still-controversial condition which affects many divorced families in the Treasure Coast area.

All PAS situations essentially involve an emotional triangle between the alienating parent (who is usually the mother), the targeted parent (generally the father), and the children. In extreme cases, the alienating parent secretes the children away from the targeted parent or creates such a toxic emotional atmosphere that it essentially severs the bond between the targeted parent and the children. Typically, however, PAS is much more subtle.

Signs of PAS

In fact, sometimes the dynamics are so subtle that the targeted parent has no idea what is going on and the alienating parent is not intentionally trying to wreck the relationship between the children and the other parent. Some typical scenarios include:

  • Schedule Conflicts: Commonly, Mother agrees to let Daughter attend a sleepover either knowing that it conflicts with Father’s weekend or not caring if there is a problem. Unless Father forbids Daughter from attending the sleepover, he will probably lose that weekend’s visitation, because typically, the promised “make-up visitation” never takes place.
  • Emotional Jabs: Most divorce orders address emotional body blows (g. blaming the other party for the divorce in front of the children), but these orders do not address emotional jabs, such as “I guess Mom is too busy with her new boyfriend to come to your piano recital.”
  • Lax Rules: Some parents extend curfews and grant other special privileges, which they know that the other parent denies. Whether the parent’s intent is to hurt the other party or endear himself/herself to the children, the effect is the same, because such behavior drives an emotional wedge between the children and the targeted parent.

Isolated incidents are usually not indicative of a problem, but if there is a pattern of conduct, the targeted parent probably needs to take immediate action to avoid permanent emotional damage to the children.

What to Do

That action could take many forms, and when a child’s emotional well-being is at stake and the alienating parent is potentially hostile, it is usually best to start delicately.

An experienced family law attorney can help targeted parents come up with some non-threatening talking points to share with the alienating parent. “I think it would be good for Jimmy if he had the same bedtime at both houses” might work better than “I know you let Jimmy stay up later so he won’t want to come visit me.”

The subtle approach doesn’t always work and isn’t even always advisable. In many cases, a letter from an attorney citing PAS concerns is a better idea.

If there is no progress, a motion to modify needs to follow shortly thereafter. Judges usually order social studies in contested modification cases, and social workers are trained to spot PAS signs. Perhaps more importantly, they are fully aware of the devastating potential effects. Even if the judge does not grant extensive parenting plan changes, the judge will most likely “lay down the law” to the alienating parent, and that may have roughly the same effect.

Contact Savvy Lawyers

Parental alienation syndrome can destroy the relationship between a parent and child. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.



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