Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (“PAS”) occurs when a child of a custody dispute wages an unjustified or exaggerated “hate” campaign against one of his or her parents. This is so despite the fact that prior to the parents’ separation, the child got along with both parents, and there was no abuse or neglect of the child.

In cases of parental alienation syndrome, the child becomes a willing participant in the discrediting of the targeted parent. It is as though the child has been brainwashed. The child becomes preoccupied with destroying his or her relationship with the targeted parent and continuously unjustly criticizes the targeted parent.

In essence, the child with the syndrome becomes the “spokesperson” for the alienating parent whom the child feels was treated badly by the other parent. This thinking makes it easier to take up the cause of the alienating parent and side with him or her against the alienated parent. The child then sees himself or herself as the defender of the alienating parent.

The child is normally unaware that he or she has been manipulated by a parent. Normally a child who is a victim of parental alienation syndrome will state that the decision was their own. This is often emphasized by the alienating parent, who will ask the child to “tell the truth” about the situation.

Why is parental alienation syndrome becoming more common? It is directly due to the increase in child custody litigation. If a child has been successfully alienated, the alienating parent has in essence successfully obtained custody of the child. One of the significant factors in determining custody is the child’s wishes. Further, if the alienation has gone far enough, the child may be completely unwilling to visit the target parent, even if there is a court order to do so.

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