Recently, a parent I know spent three years and approximately $100,000 trying to prove parental alienation. The money was spent on counselors, therapists, and parenting evaluators. Most of whom were ordered by the courts. This also includes money the parent paid for a parental alienation assessment, experts to counter some reports and support others ordered by the courts etc. Then there were, of course, all of the attorneys, motions, court dates, trials etc. Not including the money, time and energy spent in the prior 7 years on court dates and another army of resources and attorneys ~ 26 in all.
That doesn’t include the cost of the treatment itself. Another $35,000 at least. And they aren’t done. They still have more court dates ahead of them after the first of the year with a new judge. The prior judge retired. This family has been in the system so long now that four judges have retired since they first started on the East Coast and are now on the West Coast. Essentially they are starting all over again with a new judge. So much of the testimony leading up to the new court dates is lost. Even after all this money, all this time, all these powerful resources and experts on all sides, the outcome is still in question.
One of the girls was only 14 when the process started again three years ago. They are now 17. In the eyes of the court children of this age are written off as being too old to influence. This despite the fact that we know it takes only 4 days on average to turn around an alienated child and reestablish the relationship with the alienated parent. So technically up until four or five days before a child turns eighteen the court still has jurisdiction and could still order a child into therapy ~ with a successful outcome. Please note not all treatment programs are created equal and a parent must choose carefully.
Parental alienation is the most difficult, most expensive and least successful argument in Family Law. And it will likely remain that way for some time to come. Despite all the progress being made in research, organizations, agencies, and professionals at every level, local, state and federal. But we are still a very long way from where we need to be to help children and families and the court system itself.
But all of this or nearly all of it could be avoided or stopped by just one or two sentences by one single individual. No matter where in the process it was said. In all my years as a law enforcement officer and all my years of dealing with Family Law, I can count on one hand the number of times it has been said to my knowledge. And it has never failed to work. Not once.
Granted because it has been said so few times some could argue that is not enough to gauge the response. I would argue otherwise. We could instead of the current process return to families their children’s future, their inheritance. Save lives along with freeing families from the many years of court dates, frustration and emotional damage caused by lack of enforcement of court orders. After all, it is only a few sentences and it would take only two minutes. Isn’t two minutes in the best interest of the child worth our trying to confirm yes or no this works?
So who is this person who holds all this power? The same person who has always had the power. The same person who did not intend to participate, support or escalate the violation of court orders. But who in fact supports the withholding and blocking of custody or a relationship with both parents by the children. As well as all the other issues in Family Law. Not that this was ever their intention. But it is the result none the less. Because when it comes down to it parents only do what they are allowed to do by the courts! So it only reasons that the individual with all the power is the judge.
If judges would only enforce court orders and say this short and simple statement it could change everything in Family Law. Not just parental alienation. The statement; I am going to change custody to the other parent if you do not ensure that the children go with the other parent every time they are to have custody and stays in their custody. I also have it in my power this one time to temporarily suspend custody or increase custody time for the other parent too this time. If that doesn’t work or if there are still problems and you continue to violate the court orders you are going to go to jail or both. It is your choice. And it all starts now!
Another action we could take to address issues is to tie child support to access to the children. No access ~ no child support. Certainly, if both sentences were used in combination we could address a child’s access to both parents without further intervention of therapists, counselors, assessments, psych evaluations or the costs paid for these resources. I just read where a 4-year-old child is to undergo a psych evaluation because they don’t want to see the other parent. Ridiculous. Please note I am not addressing the scenario in which a parent chooses not to exercise custody or custody is denied by the courts for safety reasons of the child. That is another issue entirely.
I am aware of all the reasons court has to date not ruled to enforce court orders such as “The parent doesn’t have the money to pay fines.” “We don’t want to put parents in jail.” “If we punish the parents, we are punishing the child. And we don’t want to punish the child.” I am currently limited by space and time to just two or three examples which I will address in part two of this post.