Parental alienation is a growing problem faced by the courts — a problem which deserves a better remedy than currently exists. Parental alienation (PA), insofar as this paper is concerned, is defined as the unreasonable or irrational rejection of a parent by a child primarily due to the “negative influence of the other parent.”1 In a previous article, this author discussed the balancing interests of the fundamental constitutional protection of the right of a parent to raise a child as s/he sees fit, and the failure of Courts to protect the interests of an unreasonably rejected parent.2 To summarize, in those cases where the rejected parent has intentionally injured the child or the primary custodian of the child, then the rejection of the injuring parent by the child is rational and should be supported by the courts. However, in those cases where one parent is unreasonably rejected by a child and where the other parent has subtly or otherwise caused the rejection, then the court must do more to protect the relationship between the child and the wrongfully rejected parent — and to deter the alienating parent from engaging in the behavior which caused the rift between the child and the rejected parent. Further, where the rejection has been so absolute as to destroy, perhaps for all time, the relationship between the rejected parent and the child, the court must allow the tortious recovery for the devastation caused by what is often calculated and blatant manipulation of the child’s affection.
1*Associate Professor of Law, Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law. The author teaches Family Law and Torts, has been practicing family law for seventeen years and is Board Certified as a Family Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The author would like to thank Dr. Wayne Sneath of Davenport University for his constant encouragement, and Dean Gordon Russell and Professor Katherine Marsh for their invaluable assistance.
Richard A. Warshak, Bringing Sense to Parental Alienation: A Look at the Disputes and the Evidence, 37 Fam. L.Q. 273, 273, 280 (2003) (citing Richard A. Gardner, The Parental Alienation Syndrome (2d ed. 1998)). Warshak notes that there are:
three essential elements in this definition: (1) rejection or denigration of a parent that reaches the level of campaign (i.e., it is persistent and not merely an occasional episode); (2) the rejection is irrational (i.e., the alienation is not a reasonable response to the alienated parent’s behavior); and (3) it is a partial result of the non-alienated parent’s influence. If any element is absent, the term PAS is not applicable. Properly understood, a clinician using the term PAS does not automatically assume that the favored parent has influenced a child’s alienation from the other parent. Rather, the term PAS is used only when there is evidence for all three elements.
Id. at 280.
2 Bruce L. Beverly, A Remedy to Fit the Crime: A Call for the Unreasonable Rejection of a Parent by a Child as Tort, 15(1) J.L. & Fam. Stud. 153 (2013).
Trends in the Efficacy of Parental Alienation Allegations
in Child Custody Cases and Their Implications for Tortious Action
Bruce L. Beverly*