What Can the Courts Do About Parental Alienation?
Copyright 1998 by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.
Prevention of Parental Alienation is the most important step for
both parents and professionals. We must confront alienation where it is
found and ensure treatment begins, initiate preventative measures, and educate
parents about the symptoms and causes of alienation. As a central area
involved in settling matters of custody, support and shared parenting
(visitation matters), the courts are in a position to do all of these things,
through these steps:
Recognize early the symptoms of alienation, and help educate parents and
attorneys of these symptoms.
Identify high-risk cases.
- Intervene quickly.
- Donít let attorneys use delay tactics like continuances, especially in
cases with a high-risk for alienation.
- Order parents into therapy (family systems and cognitive behavioral
therapy), hopefully before they come to an agreement on a Shared Parenting Plan.
- Order a Guardian Ad Litem to monitor compliance and report to the court.
- Donít withhold visits unless there is a question about the childís safety. There is always the risk that withholding visits will reinforce alienation and increase the risk that the child will believe there is something wrong with the targeted parent.
- Give the parents an opportunity to speak before the court.
- Order therapy for the child if their general level of functioning (school grades, socialization, interests, etc) deteriorates.
- If the child is already alienated, order therapy for the parents with a therapist who understands parental alienation and works with high conflict families.
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