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48 Fam. Ct. Rev. 1 (2010)

handle is hein.journals/fmlcr48 and id is 1 raw text is: 





EDITORIAL NOTES


                                   JANUARY 2010



            ALIENATED CHILDREN IN DIVORCE AND SEPARATION

   Volume  48 begins  with a renewed focus on the alienated child in divorce and separation.
Serving  the best interests of alienated children poses a  severe test for the family court
system.  Children alienated from  a parent  challenge the ideal that a child should have  a
relationship with  both parents  following divorce  and separation. It also challenges  the
capacity of courts and mental health interventions to influence profoundly negative behav-
iors by parents that often seem to stem from very deep-rooted  causes. The very concept  of
the alienated child also raises critical issues about when children can and should have the
right to make their own decisions about  their relationships and best interests and to set the
objectives for those who  represent them  in court.
   FCR   last comprehensively  addressed the subject of the alienated child in July 2001 in
Volume   39 in a landmark special issue guest-edited by Joan Kelly and Jan Johnston. In my
editorial notes to that issue I wrote:

   Before this [2001] Special Issue family courts looked at the problem of child alienation in an
   adversarial framework. Their focus was on the parents' behavior, not the child's reactions to it.
   If a Parental Alienation Syndrome label could be attached to a parent's behavior, the rejected
   parent potentially won a great victory-a shift of custody to him or her.
     This adversarial formulation of the problem of a child's alienation has potentially tragic
   consequences. Parental Alienation Syndrome has become  a kind of nuclear weapon in the
   custody wars. A custody shift to the rejected parent, regardless of the child's feelings or other
   best interests factors, was sometimes seen by family courts as a kind of necessary shock
   therapy for the child. In rare cases, children were threatened with contempt and jail when they
   would not obey such orders. Injecting PAS into a case also became an occasion for embittered
   parents to hire mental health experts to testify that it existed. Such testimony was sometimes
   based on clinical observations in a few cases rather than systematic empirical research and was
   without interviewing all members of the family. These expert opinions influenced judges in
   some  cases to make a finding PAS  existed based on a questionable 'scientific' rationale.
   Controversy over such judicial decision discredited mental health experts in custody cases as
   unscientific and hired guns. Whether these perceptions were accurate or not, they troubled the
   courts who relied on them and the entire family law community. . . .
     The  fundamental achievement of this Special Issue is to reject the PAS adversarial frame-
   work. The authors treat child alienation as a very real and very tragic consequence of divorce
   and separation for some children. Indeed, the harm to a child of irrationally rejecting a parent
   is almost self-evident. This Special Issue recognizes that a child who rejects a parent may be
   the victim of profound and real abuse or neglect by the rejected parent or the victim of
   profound and real emotional cruelty by the alienating parent.

Correspondence: Andrew.I.Schepard@hofstra.edu


FAMILY COURT  REVIEW, Vol. 48 No. 1, January 2010 1-5
c 2010 Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

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