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Proving PAS in court?

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

Ok I'll try to keep this brief, but would like some advice. 

Up until this point, BM has been relatively low conflict. Minor disagreements here and there over the years and a mediation stint to revise the outdated parenting plan. Aside from that, general pleasantness and the standoffish approach of no one really interferes with the other household. 

Up until recently, that is. 

My SD is a very emotionally stunted child. She's very needy, always has been since she was born. She's EXTREMELY sensitive, and very childlike despite her age (7-9 year old age range here). We have always had a decent relationship, nothing over the top as my DH does the lionshare of the work and parenting when it comes to her. 

The past year has been rough. SD has been acting out more, pushing limits and boundaries, having some emotional outbursts if things aren't going her way, etc. 

BM and DH have had differences of opinions on parenting her during this time. BM likes to give in to every whim and tantrum, coddle her and in general not put any real rules in place. 

DH, by contrast, has turned into the only parent that disciplines or enforces rules. And by "rules" I mean pretty age appropriate and common sense things: take your own showers and do your hygiene routine without supervision and dawdling, clean your plate off when done eating and place in the sink, pick up after yourself, homework needs to be done before dinner, no tv on during dinner and we eat as a family. Stuff like that. 

Well, BM and DH recently came into a big disagreement over the use of electronic devices. We have screen time limits and she gets the privilege taken away of using it if she gets in trouble. BM claims we are being unfair, and that because on this gaming system (connected to WiFi, obviously), BM can tell if SD is online and chat with her that it's a matter of safety for us to allow SD to be able to contact BM whenever she wants when it's our parenting time is in session. DH says he disagrees, doesn't WANT SD to have unfettered access to BM or the internet for that matter and has since removed the gaming console altogether. 

BM got very angry and ever since (this was several months ago) has been badmouthing DH to SD basically at every turn. It's all "small" things, like grilling her on what we ate for dinner and the next time it's our parenting time, SD lets us know that mommy said to tell us to make sure to give her healthier options. Or "mommy said that I need to do x, y or z and call her if you don't let me"


In doing this, the relationship between SD, DH, our bio kid and the whole family dynamic has suffered. SD is clearly now being manipulated and puppeted by BM . She seems depressed and sullen while with us, often really withdrawn and just wanting "mommy" where before she was very excited to be with us. Every week she has a new message to us from mommy that she's supposed to pass along. It's exhausting and unfair to our household that BM is using SD as a pawn to "get back" at DH. BM has always taken the approach that she's the primary parent and her rules (lol) trump ours, and that DH should defer to her on all things parenting. Maybe when SD was a baby this was the case, but as the years have gone on-- DH has developed his own parenting style outside of BM. In fact, SD was so young when they divorced that she had no recollection of them ever together and they've now been divorced longer than they were ever married. So, suffice it to say, she doesn't know what goes in our house or be able to take the stance anymore that she's lead parent, here. 

All to say, DH and I have been discussing PAS and reading up on it. Is this something he should confront BM on? If so, how? What makes the most sense if this goes to court eventually? They do have clauses in the parenting plan warning against speaking ill of the other parent. Should we start with counseling as a family (not BM, just SD) and try that first to see if her sullen state is linked to BM and go from there? 

Harry's picture

You make dinner, SD can eat it or not. PB&J is the next health option for her.  It's up to DH to parent his child.  If she doesn't like dinner DH can make her something.  If DH loves cooking that much it's his job from now on to cook dinner. 

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

Understood. We have the same philosophy and thought pattern. It's more an issue of BM demanding reports from SD and then using her as the messenger to tell DH something and in turn, we've noticed a major attitude shift in SD and are wondering how best to document and go about this. 

justmakingthebest's picture

It is very hard to prove in court, your best bet would be to start with counseling. If BM won't agree outside of the courts ask for a mediation hearing. 

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

This is what I'm thinking. I don't know that we'll involve BM at all in the counseling and just do it during our time with the counselor of our choice. I'm not sure, maybe we SHOULD include her or extend the offer just to show we're willing to work here but, we're at a loss on what good next steps are. Counseling? Chat with BM to knock it off? Go straight to our lawyer and see what is suggested?

justmakingthebest's picture

Start with a counselor that has experience with parental alienation. You and your DH go and feel them out. Try a few- not all are a good fit. Once you find a good one, bring in SD. If the counselor suggests bringing in BM - Invite her. If she refuses, use it against her in court. 
I wouldn't say anything to BM until after you talk to your trusted counselor. I wouldn't bother with a lawyer yet either. 

tog redux's picture

This does sound like alienation on BM's part, and 9-15 is when kids are most likely to succumb to alienation.  DH can start by trying to talk to BM, but it's not likely he'll get anywhere. Therapy can be harmful if you find a therapist who will believe BM and side with her - so be careful in that area, make sure it's someone who really will work with both of SD's parents and value them equally.  So don't go in there trying to keep the therapist only on "your side", BM needs to be included, too. 

I will say - it's hard to be the stricter parent in the alienation equation. What kid wouldn't prefer the home of the parent who allows them more privileges? This worked well for BM in our situation, in alienating my SS (now 20) from DH for over 3 years. Sometimes the train can't be stopped, but sometimes it can be, if you find a therapist who can help BM see how damaging this is to SD, and help SD work on her own sense of self.

Good luck - in my experience, courts don't get it at all. 

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

That's a really good point re the therapist. 

Our initial line of thought was just to get SD in to speak to someone about some of the life changes (new siblings), and get SD to open up about having to essentially bear the mental load BM is putting on her and see if SD really is depressed? Just, let it happen organically and see if talking to a neutral 3rd party could help SD understand  that both parents and homes love her? 

I agree though, it's an uphill battle. We don't WANT to be the strict house, we're just asking for common sense stuff to happen. But it often times ends in lots of tears and breakdowns. Just the other day she told DH she couldn't remember how to turn the light switch off and she wanted him to go upstairs and turn the light off in her room. When he told her no, that she could do it, she cried and sulked the rest of the night. Over the simplest little request! It seems like her outbursts are disproportionate to the request. 

tog redux's picture

I am in the child mental health field, and I urge people I supervise not to see kids with one parent, when their complaint is about the other parent - both need to be included in the process.

My DH's rules were common sense - but when one parent allows you to play video games all night at 15 on school nights, and the other doesn't - it's kind of a no-brainer for a kid. One makes you do homework, one doesn't.  And BM took him on special trips and bought him all kinds of stuff, and spent lots of time filling his head with scary lies about DH. 

Anyway - I wish I could help, but ultimately SS was alienated from us for over 3 years, and though he's back now, he's damaged.  The US courts don't get alienation and fighting in court actually makes it worse. Most therapists don't understand it either.  There aren't good answers right now. 

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

Thanks for that, it helps. I don't want to spin our wheels for nothing, we do enough of that already I'm sure. I don't think BM would even agree to therapy because she doesn't see anything wrong with the situation. Sigh. 

Did you ever or do you recommend DH reaching out to BM to knock it off?

tog redux's picture

BM here denied ever doing anything, and got SS to lie for her in court. It was pointless to talk to her about anything. It just all became about how much SS hated his father and was afraid of him, and DH needed to stop blaming her and own that he caused it, yada yada.

People who harm their kids this way aren't generally reasonable, rational people.

Thisisnotus's picture

same thing happened in my house with SD12 when she was 9. BM started all of that. It's been hellish.....DH decided it wasn't worth doing anything about it b/c in the end SD would always choose poor poor victimized mommy. I think confronting a BM who is doing a recipe for DISASTER.

So I just ignore her BS....if she wants to mope around so be it...not my problem.

I like the harder approach of ignoring it.....and not acknowledging the tantrums or fits....send her to her room to stay until she can't like a normal person....or send her back to BM.

I am very thankful (I wasn't at the time) that SD12 is PAS' makes me life easier.

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

I truly know what you mean. Pissed off, sulky SD that sits in the corner really is easier for me personally to deal with. DH is more worried and unnerved by the behavior and I'm trying to be a support to him, but I wouldn't cry too hard if SD ignored me. I've got my own bio kids with DH that take up a lot of time, attention and that I enjoy being around more. 

tog redux's picture

Yes, the time of SS becoming alienated was horrific - a year after he left, we had peace and were thriving.  DH missed him, but we no longer had to deal with his attitude or with BM. 

CLove's picture

I love her dearly, and she is normally a REALL super sweet kid. But she has her "meltdowns". The key is that she is more of a people-pleaser than her sister was. And in the beginning of the separation then divorce, there was a lot of bickering between the bio parents leading into some forms of alienation.

I am chalking it up to teen angst and emotional roller coaster, although Im beginning to suspect her coping mechanisms are weak. Like, if we tell her "no" on something, she sulks. Or ask for help doing something, most times shes good, but now and then she will scowl-and-pout...

We just go the ignore it route. Eventually, hopefully they will come back around.

Thumper's picture

Not all things are "Parental Alienation".

Google Dr. Craig Childress  

For the record it is not PAS, PA or  "Parental Alienation".The correct term is Pathogenic Parenting. It is attached based trauma.

**not all things are "Parental Alienation"**

Edit to add, you can also find him on FB



tog redux's picture

Craig Childress is only one theorist among many researching this issue. And it's only a theory.

OP, look up others as well.  That's his term for it, but he doesn't have the corner on truth and none of these theories are widely accepted.

Pregnantwithquestions's picture

Thanks everyone. We talked last night and there's really no good option here so I think we're just going to ignore for now and not give BM the satisfaction of reacting and just try to focus on our own home, stay consistent and ride it out a little. 

Thumper's picture

Oh goodness Tog,  it seems as though you are not a fan of Dr. Childress.

Hope OP can find some peace.



Rags's picture

We went with the confront the toxic and keep the Skid abreast of the facts regarding his manipulative toxic SpermClan and their shallow and polluted gene pool.

Facts are neither good nor bad, they are merely facts.  Keep the kid abreast of the facts regarding the toxic BM.  That will prepare the Skid to protect themselves from her toxic crap as the Skid  grows up and more importantly, once they become an adult.  These people never or at lease very rarely change their spots and will victimize adult children as much or more than they will minor children.  Unless those adult children will smack them in the nose with a roled up copy of the facts.

strugglingSM's picture

It is alienation and BM has no right to control what goes on in your home. It's okay for a child to have different sets of rules in each house and it's up to the parent in each household to enforce those rules in their own home as they see fit. It's not required for BM to have complete contact with SD while she is with you. When she is with you, your DH is in charge of her "safety". If BM feels the child is "unsafe" that's different, but nothing you've said indicates SD is being put at risk in your home. 

However, it's very difficult to prove any of this in court. Children want to make their parents, particularly their mothers, happy, so children are not above lying if mom tells them they need to or that gives them reason to believe she will be "sad" if they don't lie. If you get a good lawyer, they can amend the plan to allow BM to have selective contact with SD while she is with you, but not 24-7 access. At your SD's age, she should not be playing online games. She should only play in a closed network. How could she tell if it was BM messaging her or someone else pretending to be BM? 

However, good lawyers are difficult to come by. Courts don't typically like to get involved in internal squabbles and mediations are useless. The BM in my life pitched a fit about having "complete access" to her children when they were with us. They are teens, but she wants to be able to text them constantly when they are with us, which has been completely disruptive and is alienation because she is constantly asking them if they are okay and conspiring with them to undermine DH. BM refused to budge, even when DH offered her one phone call a day and offered proof that he allowed the children to contact her once a day (they are with us for 48 hours and really, she is probably in more contact with them over those 48 hours EOWE than she is in the entire two weeks leading up to the EOWE visitations). The mediator wasn't going to weigh in, so they were left at an impasse and now BM is able to contact SSs as much as she wants. It causes drama EOWE, which is also what she really wants. 

My view is that the courts are of no help to parents in these situations and typically mom is the more sympathetic figure, so unless she is physically abusing the kids, she will win 99% of the time. Society views parental alienation as "just a mom protecting her children", so until that changes. Divorced dads, particularly NCP divorced dads, are at the mercy of divorced moms. 

RisingtheWave80's picture

Our BM loves to speak for her daughter and state "She is afraid of you" "She doesn't feel safe" "Don't make drama"(that one always makes me chuckle because my DH is the least drama creating person I have ever met) or "Don't pressure her". She has made it common practice that SD can get out of trouble by stating she "feels unsafe" Its so hard to prove what is happening even when we know what is happening. SD has slowly came back into our lives, we see the "good version" of her and she lies to our face each time but we are trying to be patient with her but BM has broken her and I hope all the therapy and direct care she is receiving will make things better for her


Maxwell09's picture

Proving parental alienation is extremely difficult because most courts refuse to recognize it. And it's not just judges, it's attorneys and GALs too. The best way to combat alienation is to learn all you can about it and confront it. I think the biggest way to lose the battle is to ignore it or just let the child believe whatever the other parents says without doing anything to stop it. There's a movie called "Come back Pluto" for alienates children to watch. There's some YouTube videos made by a guy who discusses parental alienation as a child and how he made it through. I'm not sure his name but he's famous for it so it'll come up if you look it up I'm sure.

Our best method of fighting off BMs alienating tactics, which are geared more towards me than DH, is to ask SS questions that make him replay the event accurately. There was one time at a EC practice BM took SS off the field before it ended bc "her" time ended mid practice. We brought clothes for him to change into and I walked over to swap him out. She wanted to take him to the parking lot to change instead of the bathroom so she yanked him from me. I told her she was being ridiculous and she cursed and threatened me. Whatever we ignore, changed him and sent him on his way with her (later found out she was dropping him off to a babysitter) anywho when SS came back he asked me why I was being mean to his mommy. I knew she would do it so I was ready. I asked him questions like: "SS what does it mean to to be "mean" to someone." He defines "mean"; I continue "okay, did you see me yell at your mommy?" (no) "ah. Okay, did you hear me say anything that would hurt her feelings?" (No) "okay, did I say I was going to hurt her or anything like that?" (Again, no) "sooo was I mean to your mommy?" He responded no and said "well mommy said she hit you in the face...." me: "yes, I know. I heard her...."  And I let the convo end there for his little brain to catalog because they damn sure record everything. 

it's happened a couple other times and I've always repeated the process with questions that deliberately define what I'm accused of, make him recall my actions and let him decide if I fit. Usually I don't. He's quicker to notice BM lying as he's aged through this. 

Rags's picture

Aren't facts wonderful things to introduce PAS'd Skids to so that they recognize a POS parent when they have one?   The kids learn to protect themselves from the PASing and manipulation.

Well played Max, well played.

Golf clap!!!!