December 15, 2014

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Children of Divorce, Illinois family law attorney

About 75 percent of missing children were abducted by a noncustodial parent. These tragic incidents are extreme examples of Parental Alienation Syndrome, a condition which is very common in divided families.

Also known as “parental brainwashing” and even “malicious mother syndrome,” Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS affects about one in five children. It comes in many forms, and parents who are going through a divorce should be on the lookout for all of them, because PAS can significantly damage the relationship between a noncustodial parent and a child, and also serve as evidence that a caregiver may not be an effective co-parent.

Symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome can sometimes be quite direct. Although most judges typically issue orders for a parent to not berate the other parent in the presence or hearing of the children, many parents ignore this warning. They may say things like “your father abandoned you” or “your mother does not love you” or “your father only cares about his new girlfriend.”

Indirect PAS is even worse. Often times, the parents do not even realize that they are, in effect, brainwashing their own children. For example, a parent may use a child as an emotional confidant. Such behavior places an undue burden on the child, because kids really cannot handle that kind of pressure. Other parents may give children special privileges, like a later bedtime, a lax curfew, or a private bedroom. Such perks may drive a wedge between a child and a noncustodial parent.

What to Do

It is rare for a judge to intervene in these situations, because PAS is very difficult to prove in court. Even if you have adult witnesses who are seemingly neutral, such as teachers or coaches, the proceeding can quickly degenerate into a “he said, she said” exchange. It is rather common, however, for a social investigator to take action. Family therapists are familiar with PAS in all its forms, and they are more appreciative of the danger it can cause.

If Parental Alienation Syndrome is an issue in your relationship with your children, talk to your lawyer and then, if the two of you think it is appropriate, bring it up with the social worker assigned to your case.

Divided partners must be effective co-parents. If you have any concerns in this area, speak with the experienced Glen Ellyn family law attorneys at Mulyk Laho Law, LLC. Our attorneys have over 50 years of combined legal experience.