Father? What Father?
By Chaim Steinberger
Part One Preface
“[A] twelve-year study commissioned by the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association of over 1,000 divorces found that ‘parental alienation,’ the programming of a child against the other parent, occurs regularly, sixty percent (60%) of the time, and sporadically another twenty percent.”
There is no doubt that every child needs “frequent and regular” contact with both parents to develop in a psychologically healthy manner.2 A custodial parent is, therefore, obligated by law to ensure the continued relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.3 The Appellate Division, Second Department, explained why frequent contact is needed between them: Only [with frequent contact] may a non-custodial parent provide his child with the guidance and counsel youngsters require in their formative years. Only then may he be an available source of comfort and solace in times of his child’s need. Only then may he share in the joy of watching his offspring grow to maturity and adulthood. . . .
Indeed, so jealously do the courts guard the relationship between a non-custodial parent and his child that any interference with it by the custodial parent has been said to be “an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the children as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the [offending party] is unfit to act as custodial parent.” . . . The decision to bear children, [moreover], entails serious obligations and among them is the duty to protect the child’s relationship with both parents even in the event of a divorce. Hence, a custodial parent may be properly called upon to make certain sacrifices to ensure the right of the child to the benefits of visitation with the noncustodial parent. The search, therefore, is for a reasonable accommodation of the rights and needs of all concerned, with appropriate consideration given to the good faith of the parties in respecting each other’s parental rights.4
Nevertheless, a twelve-year study commissioned by the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association of over 1,000 divorces found that “parental alienation,” the programming of a child against the other parent, occurs regularly, sixty percent (60%) of the time, and sporadically another twenty percent.5 New York courts have in the past “zealously protected” the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights against interference by the custodial parent.6 Custodial parents seeking to exclude the other parent have, therefore, taken to socially and psychologically turning the child away from the other parent so that the child, and not the custodial parent, refuses the visitation.
This type of “alienation” has been characterized by the Second Department as a “subtle and insidious” form of visitation interference that may cause even “greater and more permanent damage to the emotional psyche of a child” than the garden variety visitation interference.7 This article will summarize the leading literature in the field of alienation. Part One will review the different techniques employed by alienating parents to marginalize and exclude the other parent from their children’s lives. It will set out the most common symptoms of alienation so that the reader will be more attuned to recognize and deal with potential alienation, and counsel clients who are effected by it.
Finally, it will describe the profound and enduring devastating psychological, emotional and social consequences alienation has on its primary victims—the children. Part Two of the article will appear in a subsequent issue and describe the effective treatments for alienation, and how New York courts have traditionally and recently dealt with the issue. Because alienation has such profound inter-generational consequences, judges and lawyers must be ever-vigilant to detect and deal with alienation, no matter the guise by which it is concealed. 10 NYSBA Family Law Review | Spring 2006 | Vol. 38 | No. 1
Labels: Adversarial process, Child abuse, Equal Shared Parenting, Family law, Florida, Human rights, Joint Custody, Parental Alienation, Parental alienation syndrome, Parents' rights movement, Shared parenting
"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." (Tecumseh).
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
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