Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
Southern England Psychological Services
The article delineates what is frequently lacking in the literature. This being, the treatment of alienators making them more amenable to the absent parent having contact with a formerly loved and cared for child. In some cases the implacable hostility is not as implacable as in other cases and hence some parents may consider that it is in the best interest of their children for the now absent parent to have contact with the child/children. Such parents consider what is best for children rather than considering first and foremost their hostility towards the now absent parent.
Vital Steps in Treating the Implacable Hostility of the Alienator
As stated by numerous investigators there are three kinds or degrees of alienation carried out by mothers or fathers to prevent good parents from having good regular contact with a child. There is mild, moderate and severe (pathological alienation). The vital steps about to be described vary in the rate of success achieved with each degree of alienation.
Marriages or non marital relationships do not always end with rancor. One or both parties are likely to be aggrieved, feeling that they have been let down by a partner. This feeling is likely to affect how the custodial partner of the child will deal with future contact with the child and the now absent parent. If there is little or no hostility as the relationship between the partners ends there is a likelihood that alienation will not take place against a former partner. Here all parties are blessed with a good sense and everyone benefits, most especially the child and the potentially alienated parent.
Alienation of one parent, based on the implacable hostility of such a parent (usually the custodial parent and most often the mother, of the child or children) leads to such long term problems. Psychologists faced with the problem of an alienator preventing good and regular contact between the absent parent and a child needs to assess the resistance of the alienator. The procedure is as follows:
Step 1. The mild alienator (usually the mother who has custody) can learn to see reason and what is in the best interest of the child. This is to share in the parenting process with the parents who have been given custody. Here experts such as psychologists or social workers rarely need to play a part in improving a situation of a parent having contact with a child
Step 2. Where there is resistance by the alienator and the alienated parent seeks help through the courts, a psychologist may need to be appointed by the court. It is the job of the psychologist to use his expertise to convince the alienating parent of the importance of encouraging a child to seek and have good shared contact with a child. In moderate cases of alienation success can be achieved where the now absent parent continues to have effective contact. When this fails and this is reported as such to the court the next step (step three) is needed to be taken.
Before turning to the most drastic solution it might be sensible to illustrate point 2 by an actual case in court having been experienced by the current psychologist. Over the years the current psychologist has gained some kind of reputation as a person of principle in seeking justice for those denied it in the case of parental alienation. Mr X, a wealthy business man, requested me to act for him in court in the case of contact with his children whom he loved dearly. He had great difficulty in obtaining any contact with them. There was always some reason why his ex-wife, through her tactics, prevented him from having contact. The psychologist’s website on parental alienation came to his attention and as a result he contacted the psychologist for advice (www.parental-alienation.info)
Some members of the Judiciary considered the views of the psychologist in seeking justice for alienating parents to be extreme. The psychologist had never regarded himself as such but rather as one who deeply believed that both caring parents had an important role to play in their children’s lives, providing they were indeed good parents. The psychologist regarded the alienator very much as a “bully” who took advantage of a position of dominance or power due to the fact that they had custody of the child. In the extreme, they suffered from a severe pathological condition not so different from a mental illness.
The woman in this case was a “bully” according to the description provided by the alienated father, rather than suffering from a severe mental illness. I therefore accepted the request of the father to appear in court on his behalf, having firstly assessed him psychologically as a good and caring parent.
I suggested to the father that he aim for custody of the children rather than mere regular good contact as I felt that his former wife could well renege on any agreement such as contact arrangements as she had done in the past. He indicated that he did not wish for full custody, but passed the information that I had given him to his Solicitor and Barrister. The latter in turn passed this information on to the mother’s legal team.
The result was that the mother, fearing that she might lose custody of the children reluctantly, agreed without further ado to her husband having regular contact with his children. The psychologist’s reputation of being unwavering in his conviction that failing to provide good contact opportunities was equivalent to emotional abuse. His views had preceded him and he therefore was not required to appear in court as the wife had capitulated that she would acceed to allow her former husband to have regular good contact with their children. She had therefore learned that the “bullying” tactics had been ineffective and the psychologist had been regarded as being a “big gun” to frighten her against continuing with her alienation. The case was therefore won without a shot having to be fired. Justice for the alienated father had been achieved by pressure or threats alone.
Step 3. This step involves the court agreeing to respond firmly to the advice provided by the psychologist. This advice is to the effect that if the alienator, having been given the chance to voluntarily insist the child have good contact with the father, and refusing this, they should then lose custody of the child/children involved. The children should be removed from the mother’s care and placed in a neutral environment i.e. s children’s home. Here they could be treated for the emotional abuse they have endured, the father could then have access to his children and be given the opportunity of re-establishing a good relationship he had in the past with his children. In the meantime, the alienating mother should receive treatment for her emotionally abusing behaviour. When and if, such treatment is successful, then mother could be considered to resume her contact with the child/children with father retaining custody. In order for true, meaningful, and hopefully permanent justice to be achieved, there needs to be the full agreement between the judiciary and the expert advice provided by the psychologist. Only in this way can true justice, and what is in the best interest of the child/children be achieved.
It is hoped that family courts will recognize what needs to be done in court in order for the reputation of that court to be regarded as both just and fair. There are custodial parents whose hostility is so great that they will do anything to prevent their children having contact with a formerly loved and caring parent. Where such implacable hostility is almost pathological such parents should lose custody of their children and be treated for their problems. During that time the now absent parent should be given the custody of the child after a period of treatment of the child in an independent centre.