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Dec 08, 2023, 02:08:03 AM

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You Don't Have To Prove PAS

Here at SPARC, we are frequently asked "How do I prove that my children are victims of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)." The best answer we have come up with is "Don't try to prove PAS."
Currently, PAS is extremely controversial, and you're more likely to get caught up in a battle over the diagnosis than over your own situation. Also keep in mind that unless you are a qualified mental health professional, you cannot diagnose PAS. PAS is an illness, not a set of circumstances.

Although you cannot diagnose PAS, you can state that you believe there "is alienation occurring", and you can document the emotional and psychological abuse associated with PAS, as well as its effect on the child, without labeling it PAS.

The following is from a second letter I recently sent to an evaluator in another state who had, supposedly, recognized the alienating behavior of a parent but allowed her to keep custody anyway. In her response to my first letter, she expressed skepticism about the existence of PAS:

"I couldn’t agree more that there needs to be more scientific research on parental alienation..., but I’m not talking here about PAS. Dr. Gardner emphasizes that PAS is only present when the child contributes to the alienation and actively vilifies the alienated parent. I’m just talking about parents whose alienating BEHAVIOR has been documented. This behavior is a form of emotional and psychological abuse, and it does leave permanent scars on many children affected. This type of behavior can, and often does, lead to parental alienation syndrome, but it can be demonstrated as a form of child abuse without having to prove or disprove the existence of PAS.

"The literature is very light on the effects of parental alienating behaviors on the children, but I have found some very specific items that I tell parents to look at to help show the effects of this behavior. The first thing I tell people to look at is the child’s school records. Look for a history of absenteeism, failure to complete homework assignments, and overall poor performance. It is remarkable how often this turns out to be a problem for children under the influence of an alienating parent. If possible, this should be compared to performance at least a year before the separation, looking for a sharp drop in performance. Alienating parents often try to blame the other parent for this drop in performance, but the records clearly show that the drop occurred after the other parent was removed from the picture.

"I also instruct parents trying to document the effects of alienating behavior to look for behavior problems in the child, including discipline problems at school and/or arrest records. The alienating parents I have been acquainted with tend to be so enmeshed with their children that they cannot discipline them properly, and they will help the child make excuses for failures instead of encouraging the child to succeed. These parents will sometimes be involved in disputes with the teachers or school administrators over discipline, taking the side of the child and refusing to allow anyone else to try and correct the child’s behavior.

"The next thing I encourage parents to look for is evidence of neglect. Look for failure to get adequate dental care for the child. Look for medical records showing injuries that occurred while the child was home alone or inadequately supervised. Watch the child during visits, see if they are inordinately fearful if they drop or spill something, expecting some sort of lashing out in response to an accident. Watch older siblings and see if they are unusually concerned about the welfare of their younger siblings, acting more like a parent than a child. This can be an indication that the older child has become the primary caregiver of the children, filling in for a frequently absent or neglectful parent.

"The patterns I see are very real and frighteningly common. My goal, in pointing these out, is to help people to recognize how the children are being affected by the actions of their parents. Alienating parents do hurt their children. The damage is real and measurable. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize this until it has gotten so bad that permanent emotional and psychological damage has occurred.

"In their book, Caught in the Middle, Protecting the Children of High Conflict Divorce, Carla B. Garrity and Mitchell A. Baris point out that alienating behaviors are common immediately after divorce, but if the hostilities continue for more than a couple of years we should look for a mental or emotional imbalance in one or both of the parties involved. It takes two to get along, but it only takes one to make cooperation impossible. I firmly believe that the parent who refuses to cooperate generally does not have the best interests of the child at heart, and should be controlled."

So, in summary, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT recommend that you try to prove that your child is a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome. You may, at some point, want to use that as a defense to a child's false or grossly exaggerated accusations, to help explain their behavior, but it is essential that you first establish how the child is affected by the behavior of the other parent.

You will find a lot of resources at this website that will help you with that. Start with Tips For Getting Started and the articles linked there. Then go to the Articles page and browse among the many other articles available here. You should also check out the Frequently Asked Questions page and the Message Boards. You will likely find that most of your questions are not as unique as you thought.

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