26 Child. Legal Rts. J. 1 (2006)
The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy

handle is hein.journals/clrj26 and id is 3 raw text is: The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental
Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy
Jennifer Hoult, J.D. *
I. Introduction

Since 1985, in jurisdictions all over the United
States, fathers have been awarded sole custody of
their children based on claims that mothers
alienated these children due to a pathological
medical syndrome      called  Parental Alienation
Syndrome (PAS). Given that some such cases
have involved stark outcomes, including murder
and suicide, PAS's admissibility in U.S. courts
deserves scrutiny.
This article presents the first comprehensive
analysis of the science, law, and policy issues
involved in PAS's evidentiary admissibility. As a
novel scientific theory, PAS's admissibility is
governed by a variety of evidentiary gatekeeping
standards that seek to protect legal fora from the
influence of pseudo-science. This article analyzes
every precedent-bearing decision and law review
article referencing PAS in the past twenty years,
finding that precedent holds PAS inadmissible
and the majority of legal scholarship views it
negatively. The article further analyzes PAS's
admissibility under the standards defined in Frye
v. United States, Dauhert v. Merrell Dow Pharma-
ceuticals, Kumho Tire Company v. Carmichael, and
Rules 702 and 704(b) of the Federal Rules of
Evidence, including analysis of PAS's scientific
validity and reliability; concluding that PAS
remains an ipse dixit and inadmissible under these
standards. The article also analyzes the writings of
PAS's   originator,  child   psychiatrist  Richard
Gardner-including     twenty-three   peer-reviewed
articles and fifty legal decisions he cited in support
of his claim that PAS is scientifically valid and
legally admissible-finding that these materials
support neither PAS's existence, nor its legal
admissibility. Finally, the article examines the
policy issues raised by PAS's admissibility through
an analysis of PAS's roots in Gardner's theory of
human sexuality, a theory that views adult-child
sexual contact as benign and beneficial to the
reproduction of the species.
The article concludes that science, law, and
policy all support PAS's present and future inad-
Children's Legal Rights Journal

In jurisdictions throughout the United States,
courts have severed maternal contact with chidren
based on expert testimony diagnosing mothers
with   a  novel psychological syndrome       called
Parental Alienation     Syndrome    (PAS)   that
purportedly results in the alienation of children
from their fathers.' Such cases have led to
disturbing outcomes for women and children.2 A
Maryland man shot and killed his ex-wife,
blaming PAS.3 A Pennsylvania teenager hung
himself after a court ordered him into PAS treat-
ment.4 A North Carolina court incarcerated a
teenager who refused to visit her father.' A New
Jersey court ordered an eight-year-old to visit his
wife-battering father, ignoring the child's fear.6 An
Indiana court, based on the testimony of an
expert who    testified  to  this father's fitness,
granted sole custody to a father whose emotional
problems [were] so severe [that] he [was] totally
disabled and unable to work (despite the fact
that this expert never met the father and based his
testimony primarily upon notes made by another
therapist who also never met the father).7 A New
York court granted a father sole custody and
suspended the mother's contact with their two
children despite that court's recognition that the
decision would cause foreseeable emotional upset
and possible trauma to the children.8 In each
instance, PAS played a central role despite the
syndrome's dubious scientific basis and lack of
evidentiary legitimacy.
First described in 1985 by child psychiatrist
Richard   Gardner, PAS      has  had   widespread
influence in family and criminal courts. Given its
link to such stark outcomes, its evidentiary ad-
missibility deserves close examination. This article
provides the first comprehensive analysis of PAS's
evidentiary   admissibility  under   the   leading
standards for the evidentiary admission of novel
psychological theories.
Part I defines Parental Alienation (PA) and
presents Gardner's definition of Parental Aliena-
tion Syndrome (PAS).9
Part II analyzes all precedent-setting Amer-
ican case law and law review coverage referencing

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