Parental Alienation and Parental Kidnap infringe upon the rights of the child to know of its parentage and also exposes the child to potential emotional difficulties in later life, if the child is ever reconciled with the truth. Parental Alienation and Parental Kidnap serves only the emotional desires and wishes [not needs] of the custodial spouse, over the rights, needs and well-being of both the child and of the absent spouse and so, this is not prioritising the protection and the well-being of the child and is therefore in our opinion, a direct form of legalised child abuse.
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Parental Alienation Syndrome: Frye v Gardner in the Family Courts (Part 2)
by Jerome H. Poliacoff, Ph.D., P.A., Cynthia L. Greene, Esq., and Laura Smith, Esq
[Second of Two Parts: Click here for Part 1]
The Expert’s ObligationFor better or worse there is an inherent conflict between the goals of lawyers and the goals of ethical experts: the legal system is adversarial, science is not. Attorneys need partisan experts to persuade the trier of fact, be it judge or jury. Lawyers, according to Champagne and his colleagues (FN13) “seemingly want articulate, partisan experts with integrity“.
Sales and Shuman (FN14) argue that “to the extent that ethics governs all scientific and professional behavior – which it does – it is only appropriate that it become the first metric against which to judge the expert witnessing of scientists and professionals“.
Sales and Shuman point out that the most obvious case of the applicability of the ethics code to expert witnessing is the obligation to be competent (FN15).
By becoming familiar with the applicable ethical standards governing the professional behavior of psychologists and psychiatrists a more reasoned judgement can be made about the admissibility of PAS in the courtroom. While we rely primarily on the ethical standards for psychologists (FN16) in the following discussion it should be apparent to the reader that these standards speak to expected ethical professional behavior of any designation when one agrees to appear as a mental health expert before the courts.
Section 1.06 Basis for Scientific and Professional Judgements calls for psychologists to “rely on scientifically and professionally derived knowledge when making scientific or professional judgements“. Not having met the standards inherent in Daubert and in Fryerenders PAS unable to pass muster under this brief, but indispensable, ethical dictum.
Rotgers and Barrett (Id) have made an effort to guide psychologists in their considerations concerning serving as an expert witness. They point out four standards of professional conduct that appear to be clearly applicable to psychologists’ expert testimony that are specifically reinforced by the Daubert decision. These include, in addition to Standard 1.06, the following:
- Standard 2.02 “Competence and Appropriate Use of Assessments and Interventions” requires psychologists to select assessment instruments on the basis of research indicating the appropriateness of the instruments for the specific issue at hand and further enjoins psychologists from misusing those instruments.
- Standard 2.04 “Use of Assessment in General and With Special Populations” requires familiarity with the psychometric properties and limitations of assessment instruments used in the practice of psychology.
- Standard 2.05 “Interpreting Assessment Results” requires psychologists to directly state reservations they may have about the accuracy and limitations of their assessments.
As has been noted in the section above, PAS does not meet the courts’ threshold requirement to qualify as scientific. Clearly then, the offering of PAS to the courts as an explanatory construct, let alone a basis for making recommendation about the future of children’s lives, does not meet the minimal set of ethical standards incumbent on experts appearing before the court.
Dr. Douglas Darnall in his book Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation, describes three categories of PA:
The mild category he calls the naïve alienators. They are ignorant of what they are doing and are willing to be educated and change.
The moderate category is the active alienators. When they are triggered, they lose control of appropriate boundaries. They go ballistic. When they calm down, they don’t want to admit that they were out of control.
In the severe category are the obsessed alienators or those who are involved in PAS. They operate from a delusional system where every cell of their body is committed to destroying the other parent’s relationship with the child.
In the latter case, he notes that we don’t have an effective protocol for treating an obsessed alienator other than removing the child from their influence.
An important point is that in PAS there is no true parental abuse and/or neglect on the part of the alienated parent. If this were the case, the child’s animosity would be justified. Also, it is not PAS if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent, even though one parent is attempting to alienate the child from him or her.