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During divorce, emotions fly high, conversations become heated and threats are often made. One parent alleges abuse by the other parent. Yet, the other parent counters with claims of parental alienation (brainwashing). So, which is it — abuse or brainwashing? The courts must examine the facts and decide which it is.
Following a bitter divorce in Minnesota, ABC News reported about a case with claims of abuse and parental alienation in 2016. After the father was awarded custody, his two teenage sisters disappeared for almost three years.
Parental alienation involves one parent feeding lies to the children about the other parent who is portrayed as bad and unloving. The alienating parent hammers on the other parent’s flaws until the children completely withdraw and may even pull away from the whole extended family. Often in these cases, the alienated parent is accused of being abusive.
The court has the job of determining whether abuse actually exists or whether the parent claiming abuse is simply alienating the children.
According to George Washington University law professor Joan Meier, judges often assume children were brainwashed to lie instead of believing that abuse actually occurred. She says that child abuse cases must be substantiated by strong evidence or you will lose custody because the court will assume parental alienation occurred. She did a pilot study where 80 percent of parental alienation cases involving mothers alleging child abuse against the father ended up with the mother losing either primary or joint custody of the kids.
In the Minnesota case, the mother lost child custody after alleging abuse, and when her girls disappeared she faced felony charges for hiding the girls and was put in jail with bail set at $1 million. The girls were discovered nearly three years later, living at a farm less than three hours from their home. When they disappeared, no Amber Alert was issued, no police press conferences were held and no manhunt was undertaken to find them.
Slowly, the truth came to light in this case after the girls were found. On July 28, a jury found the mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, guilty of six felony charges for hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years.
It is important to seek legal help early on in a divorce case so your attorney can gather necessary evidence to prepare a strong case on your behalf or effectively negotiate an acceptable settlement. Attorney Chris Palermo offers compassionate legal help an can help you protect their rights.
Parental alienation syndrome is a psychological term that means one parent is turning the children against the other parent, usually due to a divorce or child custody dispute. The syndrome manifests as the child’s denigration of the other parent, but there is no real justification for it. It results from the other parent’s indoctrination of the child and the child’s own contribution to vilifying the targeted parent.
On March 25, 2015, the New York appellate court ruled in the appeal of Halioris v. Haloris , where the father sought sole custody based on the mother’s parental alienation. The mother had appealed the lower court’s decision and requested that the appellate court review the case.
In rendering its decision, the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision to grant the father sole custody. The court referenced several other cases, quoting previous findings that influenced the court’s decision. This statement in particular was pivotal in the case:
‘Parental alienation of a child from the other parent is “an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the children as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the [offending parent] is unfit to act as custodial parent.” ‘
Clearly, divorce is an emotional matter for many parents, and they can lose a proper perspective when fighting for custody of their children. Even so, there are important legal guidelines to keep in mind. Parental alienation is one of them, and no matter how justified a parental may feel in alienating the child from the other parent, this type of behavior often backfires.
If you have questions about divorce or child custody issues, Chris Palermo is glad to provide you with answers and legal advice. As a Long Island divorce lawyer he is committed to protecting your rights and helping you achieve the best outcome possible.