Parental Alienation; hostile-aggressive parenting; enmeshment (getting it Wrong in Child Custody)

Parental Alienation Syndrome; hostile-aggressive parenting; enmeshment

NOTE: The LIZNOTES index page contains links to recommended off-site locations as well as the on-site articles. Also see Section onPSYCHOLOGY, because the entertaining of alienation theory (by whatever name **) has become integral to the plying of the therapeutic jurisprudence trades in the family courts. It is a primary creator of the relationship engineering industries, and spawns work for "experts" opining pro and con, as well as GALs, supervised visitation centers, court-ordered therapists, custody evaluators, parenting coordinators, and all of their respective lawyers. [** hostile-aggressive parenting, enmeshment, intrusive parenting, intractable hostilities, high conflict, etc.]

  • Index: LIZNOTES Table of Contents

  • Battered Mothers' Testimony Project Report by AZCADV PDF SCHOLAR

  • Breaking the Silence: PBS documentary aftermath, issues by Dominic Lasseur and Joan Meier

    with additional comments by liz

  • But I've Seen It! (No, you haven't) by liz

  • Compulsive Tree-Planting Syndrome (liz to Gardner) by liz

    Responds to Gardner's 1998 "Misperceptions" article in response to liz's "But I've Seen It!" (above)

  • Criticism of Divorce Poison by Richard Warshak by Cheryl Metellus

  • Cross-Referral relationships of PAS purveyors, Joe Goldberg etc. by liz

  • Custody Switch by Jill Kramer Pac.Sun 10/01 PDF

  • Disciplining Divorcing Parents: Social Construction of Parental Alienation by F. Besset PDF SCHOLAR

  • Domestic Violence by Proxy by Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D. (Leadership Council) SCHOLAR

  • Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome by Jennifer Hoult PDF SCHOLAR

  • Fairness and Accuracy in Evaluations of DV and Abuse by Smith and Coukos PDF SCHOLAR

  • Friendly Parent Concept: A Flawed Factor by Margaret Dore PDF SCHOLAR

  • Fetid Fathering Syndrome satire by liz in response to Turkat's "Malicious Mother Syndrome"

    with complete text of Malicious Mother Syndrome by Ira Turkat CITATIONS TO RESEARCH

  • Lack of Empirical Data, Research or Scientific Basis by Justice for Children DOC CITATIONS TO RESEARCH

  • Letter to Richard Gardner satire by Karen Anderson

  • NCJFCJ Judges' Guide to Custody Evaluations in Cases of Abuse (it's not PAS) PDF SCHOLAR

  • Overblowing the Child Suggestibility Research by liz CITATIONS TO RESEARCH AND NEWS

  • PAS and Alienated Children -- getting it wrong in child custody cases by Carol S. Bruch PDF SCHOLAR

  • Parental Alienation Syndrome: Getting It Wrong in Child Custody Cases Carol S. Bruch PDF SCHOLAR

  • See Prof. Bruch's articles at Index: Carol S. Bruch

  • Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Dangerous Aura of Reliability by Cheri L. Wood TXT SCHOLAR

  • Parental Alienation Syndrome by Antonio Escudero RTF SPANISH SCHOLAR

  • Parental Alienation Syndrome: Frye v. Gardner in the Family Courts by Jerome Poliacoff PRACT

  • Parental Alienation Syndrome: Proponents Bear the Burden of Proof Robert E. Emery, Ph.D. off-site PDF SCHOLAR

  • PAS and Parental Alienation: Research Reviews by Joan S. Meier PDF SCHOLAR

  • Retaliation Against Professionals Who Report Child Abuse by Katherine Hine SCHOLAR

  • Richard Gardner and "Parental Alienation Syndrome" by Trish Wilson

  • Richard Gardner: A Self-Made Man by Judith M. Simon

  • Richard A. Gardner pedophilia quotes orig. compiled by Stephanie J. Dallam

  • Sound Research or Wishful Thinking in Custody Cases? by Carol S. Bruch PDF SCHOLAR

  • What is "PAS" and Why Is It So Often Used Against Mothers? by John E. B. Myers SCHOLAR

    with Richard Gardner and "Parental Alienation Syndrome" by Trish Wilson

  • Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide (NCJFCJ JUDGES' GUIDE) A MIXED AND DANGEROUS TOOL

    Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide (NCJFCJ JUDGES' GUIDE)


    By Joan Zorza, Esq.
    Font and paragraphing in this article have been modified for easier web viewing.
    To download an original .doc file of this article, click here.

    By far the most troublesome custody cases are those involving domestic violence (DV) and incest. For this reason SAR is reviewing a new tool recently issued for judges on these issues which is designed to help courts utilize custody evaluations.

    We wish we could overwhelmingly support the tool, which has some exemplary aspects, but the tool also definitely has some dangerous aspects that can be used against battered women and children who are victims of child sexual abuse (CSA), particularly when molested by their fathers.

    This article is based on a speech delivered on Jan. 8, 2005 at the Second Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference, Siena College, Loudonville, NY.

    Overview of the Tool

    The Family Violence Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) is funded as the Resource Center on Domestic Violence Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody. Many custody cases that involve DV also arise in cases where there is sexual assault (SA), e.g., where a parent commits incest, when one sibling sexually abuses another, or when a parent rapes or sexually assaults the other parent. Because of the overlap, it is really disappointing to see that a project of the NCJFCJ will be used to assist many abusive fathers in obtaining custody, prevent protective mothers from protecting their children, endanger sexually abused children, and further confuse judges in these cases.

    The project, a bench guide for judges on custody evaluations in cases where there is domestic violence, is entitled Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide and is available from the NCJFCJ (1-800-527-3223 or email fvdresource@ncjfcj.org) or can be viewed or downloaded for free from its web site at www.ncjfcj.org/dept/fvd/publications. The tool consists of a 27-page guide or manual followed by several cards for use as quick guides and reminders for judges.

    Despite its dubious and dangerous weaknesses, the guide has some very helpful and praiseworthy aspects. The tool's primary strengths lie in its design, its clarity about how DV perpetrators behave and the safety needs of DV victims, and some of the limitations of psychologists, anger management therapy, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and psychological testing. Its primary weaknesses arise from recasting PAS as parental alienation (PA) and its legitimating the family dynamic perspective in cases of domestic violence. The family dynamic perspective sees all problems as caused by the couple dynamic and poor communication in particular, a perspective that results in either obfuscating or minimizing the abuse within the family.

    The tool is written to validate both the domestic violence proponents and family systems proponents. As a result, most DV advocates will not realize how dangerous the tool is to victims of abuse, just as most custody evaluators and others schooled in the family system dynamic will see it as validating their views (that downplay DV allegations and look to whether mothers alleging abuse do so to deny father access of their children).

    Although the "final" version of the guide was officially released and put up on the NCJFCJ's Web site, it is likely that a few changes may be made, particularly toning down the implication that virtually every custody case involving DV needs a custody evaluation. I did not see a copy of the guide until after it was finalized, but now strongly urge this and other changes. NCJFCJ may feel it is too late to make anything but minor changes, and as a result the tool, though somewhat improved, will not keep victims safe and will promulgate faulty theories that will be used to denigrate abuse allegations and give abusive fathers custody or unsupervised access to their children. This article will discuss both the encouraging and discouraging aspects of the guide.

    Helpful Aspects of New Guide

    Batterer Characteristics. The tool gives a quick summary of how batterers behave, noting, for example, the following:

  • Most batterers deny and minimize their abusive behavior (p. 8);
  • Batterers may be inattentive to their children's needs (p.12);
  • Batterers commonly undermine their partners' parental authority and sabotage their relationships with the children (p. 19);
  • Lethal violence is highest during and after the couple separates which often affects the children (p. 9); and
  • Batterers often accuse their partners of alienating the children (pp. 12 & 19).
  • The tool also lists some of the risk factors for battering (p. 13) and warns that some children may feel safer identifying with the abuser than with the victimized parent (p. 19).

    Legal Requirements. The guide correctly notes that virtually every state requires judges to consider domestic violence in custody cases (p. 9). However, as will later be discussed, the guide applies the most limited definition of DV used in any of the states, so that many DV and SA cases are not included. It also correctly notes that all states permit custody evaluations of children in custody cases.

    The tool also encourages custody evaluators to consider whether domestic violence is the motivation when relocation is raised (p. 13), although it gives little other guidance on the topic.

    Limitations of Psychology. The guide wisely warns that a little training on DV does not make a mental health professional or custody evaluator an expert (p. 16), and that anger management therapy is inappropriate and ineffective in treating DV (p. 23).

    The guide is very helpful in clearly stating (pp. 18-19) what psychological tests can and cannot do, noting they cannot test for whether someone is a victim or perpetrator of DV as "[t]here is no single profile of a victim or a perpetrator." It also tells readers that "[t]he standard psychological tests measuring personality, psychopathology, intelligence or achievement, including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (PAI), Rorschach Inkblot Test, Children's Apperception Test (CAT), Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-III), and Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-3), do not directly address the psycho-legal issues relevant to most child custody cases," including issues about the parents' relationships with children, or their child-rearing attitudes or capacities.

    "A standard test may offer information [in a particular case] that is related to parent-child interactions, parent functioning or child functioning: but that information should be included in the evaluation only if the examiner makes clear the connection between the test results and the issue that is legally relevant in the custody context and only if the test results are backed up by and integrated with other data about real-life behavior" (emphasis in original).

    The guide notes that newer tests developed to address the issues most relevant in custody cases have not "been evaluated with enough rigor to establish their validity or reliability," tests such as the Bricklin Perceptual Scales (BPS), Perception of Relationship Test (PORT), Ackerman-Schoendorf Scales for Parent Evaluation and Custody Test (ASPECT), and Parent Awareness Skills Survey (PASS) tests. These tests at best provide hypotheses that must be validated or invalidated in other explorations. Furthermore, many of the psychological tests commonly used in custody evaluations "also measure and confuse psychological distress or dysfunction induced by exposure to domestic violence with personality disorder or psychopathology," making it important not to prematurely label the abused parent whose functioning may dramatically improve once she is safe.

    The tool observes that evaluations based on "he said/she said" should be considered unreliable, and further warns that anger management treatment in "inappropriate and inadequate" for batterers. But perhaps the most helpful information in the guide is that Parental Alienation Syndrome is not recognized within the scientific community and does not meet either the Frye or Dalbert standard, the two tests used for admissibility of scientific evidence in the vast majority of state and federal courts in the U.S. (p. 19).

    Safety Concerns. The guide warns that when there is DV, victims are endangered by meetings with their perpetrators, and that courts should not have them do so, reminding courts and evaluators to keep the safety of the victim as the primary consideration. Furthermore, the guide advises postponing visitation until the vulnerable parent and the children have healed and are safe from the abuse. It reminds readers that separation often increases the violence to both the vulnerable parent and the children.

    All of the above-noted helpful information should aid attorneys representing abused parents or the children in custody cases involving DV and SA in selecting custody evaluators, obtaining useful orders from judges, crafting cross examination of evaluators once they have written their reports to the court, and seeking the protection their clients need. However, as the remainder of this article will discuss, the guide has information that will be used to seriously harm victims and children in these cases.

    Problematic Aspects of Guide

    Definition of Domestic Violence. The guide defines domestic violence (DV) within the context of a relationship, a way of looking at the problem that will keep many family system proponents focused on the family and not on the abuser, who chooses to perpetrate crimes against his intimate partner (and possibly children).

    In describing DV as "a dynamic between parents" (p. 8), and making statements such as when "parents are entangled in an abusive relationship" (p. 12), "when there is violence at home" (p. 8), and "violence or abuse in the parents' relationship" (p.9), rather than discussing abusers who batter their partners, most mental health professionals doing custody evaluations, mediation or otherwise involved in custody disputes, who have been schooled in the family systems dynamic, will continue to see the problem as involving the dysfunction of both parents.

    They will likely blame the victimized or non-abusive parent as much as, or even more than, the perpetrator for the abuse. Rather than noting that batterers are typically inattentive to their children, the tool says that both parents may be inattentive (p. 12), blaming the mother equally and failing to note that much of the research finds that most abused mothers still attend to their children's needs. Likewise, the discussion of "[l]ethal violence between partners" (p. 9) falsely implies that battered women become homicidal after separation, something blatantly false.

    Fails to Debunk the Family Dynamic Approach. The discussion about "one partner seek[ing] to control the other through the use of abusive patterns or behaviors that operate at a variety of levels-emotional, psychological, and physical" (p. 8) will lead the DV community to focusing on the coercive control aspects, while not noticing the more dangerous family dynamic approach on which most mental health professionals will focus.

    Family dynamic proponents believe that any abuse problems are caused by the couple's dynamic, particularly their poor communication, and hence they are very likely to deny or trivialize the power, control and abuse issues, about which the guide seeks to educate.

    Minimizing the DV or child abuse allegations, the family dynamic proponents are likely to blame mothers for exaggerating their abuse allegations, not emphasize the anger that victims feel (indeed, they treat it as a weakness and possibly an indication of instability and poor parenting), and assume that mothers raise abuse allegations to alienate their children from their other parent. Rather than protecting the victim, they are more likely to assume that therapy is needed to improve the couple's communication skills to solve the couple's problems. If the couple is sent to a therapist, the therapist is likely to share the same family systems dynamic perspective. The result is the abuser will never have to confront his wrongdoing, impeding or preventing the healing of the abuser, the victim and each of the other family members, and further endangering the victim and children, as well as others exposed to the abuser in the future.

    Nothing in the guide explicitly states that under the laws of every state DV and CSA, even within the family (incest), are crimes, and need to be regarded as such by the courts, even the family court. While the guide does mention the seriousness of DV and the overlap between DV and child abuse (CA), it is strangely silent (and hence implicitly complicit) in suggesting that CSA allegations are particularly difficult to investigate and problematic in custody disputes.

    It never mentions that the research has found that men who abuse their partners are 6.5 to 19 times more likely than other men to commit incest with their children (Lundy Bancroft & Margaret Miller, "The Batterer as Incest Perpetrator," 85, in Lundy Bancroft & Jay G. Silverman, The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics, 2002), and, thus, dual allegations of DV and incest are more likely to be true and involve far more dangerous abusers.

    Fails to Mention Sexual Violence. Although it lists "emotional, psychological, and physical" violence as among the types of battering (p. 8), the tool never explicitly mentions sexual violence, and never discusses the implications of a child born of a marital or intimate partner rape or even stranger rape. The rapist may have no entitlement under statutory or case law to be recognized as the child's father, or it may not be in the child's best interest for paternity to ever be determined.

    When the guide talks of "any children shared by the adult parties" (p. 8) it minimizes that some children are unfortunately products of rape, and that such children should never be considered as "shared" between the mother and her rapist.

    Fails to Consider Violence Outside the Immediate Family. In addition, the limited definition of DV (i.e., something happening only between the parents) will mean that readers, particularly those already less sympathetic to DV and CA, will see abuse within the family as irrelevant and ignore abuse outside of the family. This is true even though the statutes of many states look more broadly at an abusers' history of violence, even when it involves his other partners, children or even unrelated people.

    The guide never suggests that custody evaluators look at the broader family, e.g., incest or physical abuse of a step-child, or DV or SA of a mother-in-law or disabled relative, or SA of one sibling by another. That a father is a pedophile or rapist, or physically or sexually abused his own mother or disabled sibling or his girlfriend is also relevant to his fitness for custody or unsupervised visitation.

    Though never mentioned in the guide, the laws of many states explicitly make such abuse relevant. But the guide assumes abuse is only relevant when the abuser has abused this particular partner and the children from this relationship. As to the effect of abuse on children, even though most states presume it is relevant, evaluators are still encouraged to discount abuse unless it is shown to harm the children. That the abuse may harm the children if it continues and escalates is all but ignored.

    Risk Factors. Consistent with this narrow definition of DV, the guide mentions certain risk factors for batterers without noting that batterers can abuse even if they have no known risk factors. The guide also fails to mention that most people with the noted risk factors are not batterers. The guide also implies that it is these risk factors, particularly the batterer's unemployment, "the most significant socio-demographic risk factor" for battering (p. 13), that causes his abusive behavior, rather than also noting failing to work can be part of his abusive tactics.

    Similarly the discussion of the role of alcohol and drugs as risk factors of DV (pp. 12 & 13) is somewhat misleading. Some of the amphetamines are probably the only drugs that have been shown to actually cause violent behavior (Richard J. Gelles & Mary M. Cavanaugh, "Association Is Not Causation: Alcohol and Other Drugs Do Not Cause Violence, 175-205, in Donileen R. Loseke, Richard J. Gelles & Mary M. Cavanaugh, Current Controversies on Family Violence, 2nd Edition, 2005).

    While alcohol and most drugs do not cause DV, there are many abusers who use them (or falsely claim to use them as an excuse for the battering), so that the claim that they do not increase the risk may be too simplistic. But the statement that drug use does increase the risk is again too simplistic. The tool is quite correct, however, in telling its readers that abusers with a substance abuse problem need treatment before their children should be subjected to them without adequate supervision.

    On page 12 in discussing mental illness, the tool states that "[m]ental illness can produce violence." Even this claim is debatable, as revealed by the observation of many conscientious objectors during the Vietnam era assigned to work in New Jersey's state mental hospitals at a time they first started using mace to calm violent patients. The conscientious objectors found that no hospital needed to use mace more than once; all violence directed at staff ended once the inmates knew staff really were carrying mace and were willing to use it.

    Even the most severely insane patients were able to subdue their violent tendencies to avoid serious pain. Furthermore, the tool does nor mention that states differ in whether mental illness effectively excuses DV or might prevent an order of protection from issuing. This determination usually depends on whether DV is defined under that state's laws in terms of violating specific criminal statutes (and thus requiring criminal intent), or more in terms akin to a tort that causes harm to another.

    Implies That Women's Abuse Is as Dangerous as Men's. Nowhere does the tool mention that much of what has been discovered about DV applies to male batterers only; little is actually known about female batterers or their male victims. The gender neutral language is correct in terms of the law, but is not correct as to research findings, which generally show women to be considerably less dangerous than men, more likely to act in self-defense, and less likely to recidivate (see, e.g., Lois A Ventura & Gabrielle Davis, "Domestic Violence: Court Case Conviction and Recidivism," 11 Violence Against Women, 266, 272 (2005)).

    "Real" Abuse and Reinventing "Parental Alienation". A dangerous implication of the guide is that only documented cases of abuse can be real. As already noted, the tool never mentions that the vast majority of DV and SA cases, particularly those involving CSA, are not documented, and that lack of proof is not inconsistent with the abuse. Nor does it mention that men who abuse their intimate partners are many times more likely than other men to commit incest with their daughters (Bancroft & Silverman, above). Rather, the tool will suggest to family dynamic proponents that unproven abuse allegations were likely invented to prevent the abuser from having access to his children.

    Not only are undocumented cases deemed inherently suspect, but the guide encourages custody evaluators and judges to ignore even res judicata and issue preclusion in reopening prior abuse determinations to see if the allegations were made falsely for tactical gain.

    In a subsection entitled, "When Victims Have a History of Physical Violence," the guide instructs that such abuse cases, and especially those with "a history of police or criminal justice system involvement-almost always warrant a [custody] evaluation" to subject the history "to careful review and to supplementation." The rationalization is to "sufficiently distinguish between the primary perpetrator of violence� and a partner who may be using violence defensively. In the civil restraining/protection order and criminal contexts, the focus is on specific acts of violence. The family court system has both the luxury and the obligation to look more broadly at the dynamics within the family."

    Where there have been mutual allegations or findings of abuse, readers of the tool are told that "[a] careful examination may reveal that � only one of the parents poses any ongoing risk to the children or the other parent, or that the parent with a record of violence is actually the victimized partner � rather than the abuser." Many order of protection court forms include a section for the history of abuse between the parties, and some state statutes and case law explicitly allow courts hearing civil orders of protection to consider not just the specific triggering event, but all abuse that has happened in the past between the parties, and in some states, abuse that the alleged perpetrator has committed against others as well.

    Hence the assumption that the family court should be reopening the case to look at the full picture may well be relitigating that which has already been decided. Furthermore, unless specifically permitted by court rules and state law, our laws do not allow ignoring res judicata or issue preclusion to reopen settled court cases, and arguably the UCCJEA and the full faith and credit provisions of VAWA (18 U.S.C. §§ 2265-2266) may supersede other state rules and laws.

    The real purpose which many family systems proponents will infer from the recommendation to reinvestigate old cases will become clear when the tool goes on to reinvent PAS as Parental Alienation (PA). Both custody evaluators and judges are urged to reinterpret all abuse as PA, and many attorneys for fathers as well as fathers' rights groups will push abusers to recast all abuse allegations against them as PA.

    As the gender bias studies so well documented in the last 30 years, women's behavior is held to a much higher standard, so that any alienation by fathers tends to get overlooked or trivialized, just as so much of men's physical or sexual abuse is trivialized by recasting it as PA or women's vindictiveness.And the tool only hints that making PA allegations is itself alienating behavior, and that every abuser has a tactical interest in doing so.

    Fails to Consider Alienating Behaviors of Fathers. Furthermore, the very alienating behaviors of non-custodial parents are not even considered within the definition of what constitutes alienating behavior. The most obvious unique behavior is of non-custodial parents is not paying child support on time (or paying it late), which has foreseeable and economically devastating consequences to the family, yet no courts allow for such damages and most bend over backwards to give fathers many opportunities to pay the support in small amounts months, if not years, later.

    Probably the most alienating behavior short of killing the child's other parent, is not legitimating her immigration status when they could do so. This is often done by non-custodial fathers. Not only is this not seen as alienating (although it often results in the undocumented parent being deported and never seeing her children again), but it is often recast as reprehensible conduct by alien mothers sufficient to constitute immigration fraud and be grounds for an annulment of the marriage.

    While admitting that PAS is not accepted within the scientific community, the tool not only reinvents it as PA, but it also tells custody evaluators and judges how to make evidence of alienation admissible and to get around the evidentiary laws and cases making it inadmissible.

    Citing an article by Leslie Drozd (one of the tool's three co-authors) and Nancy Olesen (who is on the tool's advisory board), the guide pushes the PA agenda of fathers' rights advocates. Dr. Linda S. Barrnard calls PA indistinguishable from PAS except in name (e-mail communication of Jan. 3, 2005). Peter Jaffe notes that the concept of PA is found only in the literature of custody evaluators and not any other recognized social science (Peter Jaffe, "Conflict or Violence? Children, Their Parents, and the Court," Family Violence and the Courts: 10th Anniversary Conference, San Francisco, Sept. 9, 2004).

    Inflated Need for Evaluations. Currently the guide urges judges to appoint custody evaluators in virtually all cases involving DV or CA allegations, even when there is a conviction (p. 11), implying that custody evaluators are best suited to investigate these cases.

    Page 11 currently admits, "[i]n the most egregious cases, it may not even be necessary to order an evaluation" yet in "other cases involving a limited record of domestic violence� one of the parties will contest the legitimacy of that record, or its relevance to custody and visitation determinations. And there will be cases involving allegations, and perhaps counter-allegations, of domestic violence in which there are no public records to serve as substantiation. These cases will always benefit from careful investigation and evaluation."

    The next paragraph adds, "[a] history of physical violence in the parents' relationship-and especially a history of police or criminal justice system involvement-almost always warrants an evaluation, if resources are available" and that "it is crucial that the history be subject to careful review and to supplementation, as appropriate." Card I in the guide appears to support this, and while it discusses that DV knowledge is needed when a custody evaluation is ordered, most readers will assume that the custody evaluation is virtually always needed, missing that the emphasis is on the need for DV expertise. It is encouraging that the NCJFCJ may tone down the language suggesting that evaluations are always needed.

    Not only does the guide urge evaluations when they are not needed, but it suggests that observing the child with each parent and alone is likely to be helpful (p. 11). According to many psychologists, this tells us nothing about parenting ability since batterers are experts in looking good in such situations (email communication of 1/03/05 with Dr. Linda S. Barnard).

    Custody Evaluators Are Often Incompetent. In addition to the fact that the custody court generally has no business reopening cases where there are convictions, judicial findings or admissions, the assumption is also wrong that most custody evaluators have any expertise in making determinations about abuse.

    Few custody evaluators are adequately trained in DV and CA issues. The Institute of Medicine, the medical branch of the National Academy of Sciences, recently found that 40% of mental health practitioners have had absolutely no training in DV at any point in their professional careers (Felicia Cohn, Marla E. Salmon, & John D. Stobo, Confronting Chronic Neglect: The Education and Training of Health Professionals on Family Violence, 50 (National Academy Press, 2002)).

    And, based upon information discussed at the press conference when the report was released, the vast majority of those who had some DV training received fewer than two hours, hardly enough to make them experts or even minimally competent in the area, something hinted at in the judicial tool (but without any real suggestion of what would make someone an expert). As the guide also admits, most tests used by custody evaluators are unsuited for investigating DV or CA and cannot determine whether someone is a perpetrator or a victim. Nor can the "he said/she said" information that most evaluators hear result in reliable determinations.

    But even the tool's plea for using custody evaluators with DV expertise is problematic, since no guidelines are issued as to what constitutes an expert, and the vast majority of custody evaluators have little insight into how poorly they understand the subject. The guide suggests (p. 16) that courts look to see if jurisdictions have a way of designating evaluators who are competent in DV, and to see "whether the evaluator has been certified as an expert in, or competent in, issues of domestic violence by a professional agency or organization." Yet it does not warn, as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence discovered some years ago, that such certification can be bought by paying a fee.

    Others Are Better Investigators. As to actual investigations, a knowledgeable detective, police officer, child protection officer, batterer treatment provider, or a children's advocate from a domestic violence program is often far more qualified to make such a determination. Police or child protection workers are far better poised directly to use various surveillance methods and to seize and collect evidence than are others investigating ongoing abuse.

    Likewise, all of the types of alternative investigators suggested here are more likely to talk to community contacts, and their investigations are almost always less expensive than those of custody evaluators, which have been known to cost more than $20,000. While other suggested investigators may charge a fee (though usually below that of custody evaluators), police and child protection often are free.

    Indifferent to Costs. Indicative of the indifference of the cost implications to parents -- the vast majority of whom are unable to pay much if anything -- the guide is silent as to what custody evaluators should do when their fee has not been paid by one or both parents being evaluated. When the fees assessed against one or both parents have not been paid, custody evaluators usually refuse to inform the court of their results. But the guide is silent on how courts can or should deal with this quite common situation, or even whether it is constitutional to order an indigent parent to pay any costs for custody evaluations given. (In Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971), the US Supreme Court held that indigent litigants cannot be charged to get divorced.)

    At least in divorce cases wehre the evaluation is being done for the court, the court could require that reports be turned over to them and the court could assess costs through its distribution of assets and debts. But the failure to do more than suggest that in some cases evaluations can be done without charging the parties (while urging evaluations in all cases where there is even a suspicion of abuse), the tool seems to promote using custody evaluators where there is little indication that they are necessary and with no regard for the least expensive means of gathering the information desired by the court. Indeed, the very suggestion that abuse issues can be reopened may make many evaluators feel they can and should do so, and further encourage many batterers to seek to recast DV issues as PA or "unfriendly" parent allegations.

    Assumes Batterer Programs Work. In a similar vein, the guide implies with little justification that batterer programs are effective in ending abuse, so that a batterer who has completed such treatment should be considered as appropriate for custody, shared custody or unsupervised visitation (pp. 23 & 24). That the children or their mother may still be terrified of him is barely noted.

    However, the tool ignores the reality that the majority of abusive men who complete batterer programs (even when they have been cured of substance abuse problems) continue to abuse their former partners. Even studies that have looked at official records of only physical abuse often find that over half of abusers continue to physically abuse their partners, and virtually all use emotional abuse (Andrew R. Klein, The Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence (Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004)). Furthermore, many batterers that have ceased to abuse their former partners are not "cured," but rather have moved on to new victims, something that shall still affect their children during visitation. And the record of child abusers, particularly those who commit incest, is probably far worse.

    Although there are laws and court practices in many jurisdictions that return an abuser to the status quo for consideration of custody/visitation upon completion of a batterer program, the reality is that there is no rational reason for doing so. To date, nobody has been able to predict which program completers are considerably less likely to reoffend, although it is definitely true that program completers are considerably less likely to reoffend than are noncompleters (Peter G. Jaffe, Nancy K.D. Lemon, & Samantha E. Poisson, Child Custody & Domestic Violence, A Call for Safety and Accountability, 57-58 (Sage, 2003)).

    Gender Bias of Most Mental Health Practitioners. Probably the biggest problem with custody evaluators performing these investigations is that most of them are locked into a family dynamic systems interpretation of DV. Custody evaluators interject much bias against women, having been strongly influenced by Freudian interpretations that disbelieve abuse allegations and assume women and children make false abuse allegations. This has blinded most of them from being able to take the abuse allegations seriously, or even from benefitting from training in DV. In addition, they often reinterpret or recast these abuse allegations as lies, PAS, PA or "unfriendly" behavior, which they use to punish women seeking to assert their constitutional rights to protect themselves and/or their children.

    No Advantage to Alleging Abuse. Finally, by not mentioning it, the guide continues the myth that women who make abuse allegations obtain tactical advantages from doing so. As several Department of Justice studies have found, mothers obtain no advantage for alleging DV or CSA (forthcoming in a special volume on custody and domestic violence in the journal, Violence Against Women; John E.B. Myers, A Mother's Nightmare-Incest: A Practical Guide for Parents and Professionals (Sage, 1971)).


    We are encouraged that the NCJFCJ has agreed to reexamine its tool, albeit with the caveat that it is too late to make anything other than minor modifications. NCJFCJ acknowledges that it will modify the guide so that it no longer implies that virtually all cases involving DV allegations require custody evaluations.

    Although there is much helpful material in this tool (e.g, noting that PAS does not meet admissibility standards and noting that many psychological tests regularly used cannot inform about DV or CA), there are also many disappointing and even dangerous aspects. SAR urges the NCJFCJ to either pull the guide or to revise it in consultation with several experts in parental custody disputes involving DV or incest, e.g., Jay Silverman, Lundy Bancroft, Carol Dellams, Peter Jaffe, Linda Barnard, John E.B. Myers, or even your author.

    -- Joan Zorza

    © 2005, 8 Sexual Assault Report, 49 (March/April 2005). 
    Font and paragraphing in this article have been modified for easier web viewing.
    To download an original .doc file of this article, click here.


    Melinda Stratton: Another Holly Ann Collins?

    The following news reports are a little about Melinda’s story. Most of it of course is admitted because section 121 of the Family Law withholds mother and children from speaking about their experiences.

    Human Rights cannot intervene in Family Law cases and specialists outside the family court are often perceived below the Family courts psychologists’ expertise, regardless of level of experience or forensic evidence.

    If they find Melinda, she will be jailed and her son will be punished for the crime of disobeying a law that disregards the basic human rights of children and their mothers.

    Like Ann-Louise Valette,

    she is one of many mothers who have lost faith in the system to protect the children and taken the only choice available to her.

    For Ann, we created a

    Petition based on the facts that were presented on which the reaction of the father had given us more of a reason to be concerned.

    Some of the comments

    on the petition became even more of a reason why this system is at fault of betraying the children they are supposed to be considering the best interest for:

    "I did the same myself many years ago, because the court system failed to protect the children and myself.

    The system asks us to come forward and they will help protect our children, yet once they find out truth, they give the children to the same abuser.

    It defies logic.

    However, the reason is that violence is rewarded, as it creates money and jobs"

    "I was persecuted by a rapist using the secret family courts as a means of stalking me for SEVEN YEARS! The so called child protection/family courts are hurting children. For God's sake, leave this woman and her children alone - this persecution of women and children is disgusting. The secret family courts want abolishing, they are nothing more than money spinners for greedy lawyers and professional "experts" - expert swindlers, in my opinion!"

    "This situation is happening regularly.

    It is well researched and documented.

    Child protection is an impossibility for most protective parents in the family courts."

    "he is just protecting her children, any normal person could see that, I am doing the same thing at present, but I was also labelled as 'crazy' by my ex's family and told that I had a mental health problem. They reported me to Child Protection saying that I was going to kill myself and my children, well, it has been 6 years since my kids have had any contact with their father and they are alive and well other than suffering from the effects of the abuse he dealt. Leave this poor woman alone!"

    "I work for womens refuge and am a lay adviser for a M P i want the treatment of women and children to be improved in these cases. Do not hound this pople protect them. Some countries are in the Dark ages with D/V and Child abuse Listen to the children for gods sake."

    "It's about time allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence were taken seriously. spare a thought too for the woman in Adelaide this week who was sentenced to 2 years for failing to protect her child from domestic violence - moreoffenders need to be held to account?"

    "Given the ridiculous standard set for the proof of sexual abuse, police's unwillingness to report it and the courts' aggressive unwillingness to hear it, what this woman did was the only way she had to protect the kids. I hope she and the kids remain under the radar of the law until the law gets a grip and faces reality."

    "I also had to run with my children because of abuse that the system chose to ignore. my children are now safe but have ongoing issues because of the trauma that their father inflicted.

    This is definitely something that has to be looked into more closely."

    The Media:

    Mother accused of abducting child says 'courts failed her'

    By Jayne Margetts

    Original Article

    Anyone who recognizes Andrew Thompson or his mother should not approach them. (Supplied)

    A woman who fled the country with her four-year-old son to avoid a custody hearing has made contact with Australia for the first time in nine months.

    In a letter to The Australian newspaper, Melinda Stratton says she left the country because the family courts failed her.

    The boy's father, NSW Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Ken Thompson, says his son Andrew was abducted and he has launched an international campaign to find him but despite his efforts both at home and abroad, the trail has gone cold.

    "I've almost learnt to live for the past 12 months in a constant state of stress and anxiety. I have no idea where my son is; I have no idea where my wife is," he said.

    Ms Stratton fled to Germany with the four-year-old boy in April last year, while the couple were in the middle of a custody battle.

    Mr Thompson says his estranged wife has a mental condition.

    "She'd formed a belief that I was harming Andrew in some way. I knew that belief was wrong," he said.

    Now Ms Stratton has written to The Australian newspaper explaining why she left. In the letter she refers to "the appalling failure of the Family Law Court and Child Protection Services".

    "I have clearly lost faith in any form of justice coming out of Australia. By remaining silent, however, I ensure that they can continue to treat other mothers and children this way," the letter continues.

    A specialist in family law and child protection, Patrick Parkinson, says since reforms were introduced in 2006, the Family Court must consider allowing equal access to both parents in a custody dispute.

    "The court must at least consider equal time and it must at least consider time which is during the school week and not at the weekends and in school holidays," he said.

    But family lawyer Sally Nicholes say that does not make the law biased in favour of fathers.

    "I do not believe that they're going to have any more chance of having shared care or more access than they would in the past," she said.

    The Australian Federal Police and Interpol are investigating Andrew Thompson's alleged abduction and a warrant has been issued for his mother's arrest.

    Anyone who recognises Andrew Thompson or his mother should not approach them because Ms Stratton may pose a danger to herself and her son. People are asked instead to contact police.

    DOCS urges fugitive mother to return

    By Caroline Overington From: The Australian Original Article

    THE head of the NSW Government's international kidnap response team has urged Sydney businesswoman Melinda Stratton to return to Australia with her four-year-old son before she is caught by Interpol or foreign police.

    Ms Stratton, who is the wife of NSW deputy fire chief Ken Thompson, fled Australia with their son Andrew last April, during a Family Court dispute.

    Mr Thompson has launched an international campaign with posters placed on bus stops, billboards and the internet in an attempt to find his son.

    The Australian yesterday published excerpts from a letter written by Ms Stratton on January 15. It is the first known contact she has had with Australia since she took Andrew.

    Ms Stratton said she had heard about Mr Thompson's campaign to track her down but would not return because she had lost faith in the Family Court system.

    In a letter to Ms Stratton sent to her last known email address and her family members, the kidnapping response team offers a second opinion on custody matters from "an independent expert who is fully recognised by the Family Court of Australia".

    It says the expert "will be appointed in full consultation with the mother".

    "The process can be started with (Ms Stratton) putting forward the names of experts she considers would be suitable," it says.

    The letter says Andrew should be returned voluntarily. If not, "it is quite likely the mother and child will be located through other means".

    "A life constantly on the move is not in Andrew's interests," it adds. "When families cannot reach agreement in custody matters, the judicial process is the only way to resolve the issue."

    Child welfare expert Freda Briggs of the University of South Australia said mothers often fled as a last resort but she did not condone kidnapping.

    "Melinda's son will have been traumatised by the fact that he was removed from home, his toys, his friends and relatives very suddenly and secretly and taken to a country with a different language," Professor Briggs said. "If they are located, the child will be subjected to further trauma. From other recent cases, he is likely to be literally snatched from the mother by police in the early hours of the morning and placed in a secure detention centre.

    "He will be deprived of contact with his mother before being put on a flight to Sydney accompanied by strangers. He could be then placed in foster care -- again with strangers -- and sent to a new school or kindergarten. He may have as many as four foster homes before the case is resolved in the Family Court.

    "If the mother returns with him she can be arrested ... which won't help him at all.

    "Mothers who run with their children are usually caught because it is difficult to change your identity, especially if you have no money. They leave their cars, bank accounts, possessions, relatives and supporters behind and can't contact them because they believe that federal police will be tapping their phones and emails."

    Ms Stratton has made serious allegations about Mr Thompson, which he strenuously denies.

    He provided The Australian with a letter from the NSW Department of Community Services' Joint Investigation Response Team which says he has no case to answer.

    "As you are aware, information was reported to DOCS regarding your son and Andrew was interviewed as a result of this interview," the letter says.

    "The police are suspending this matter ... and DOCS/JIRT are closing this case (and) will not be having further contact with your family."

    Mr Thompson said it was reassuring to know that Andrew was alive and well.

    "I know she will be caring for him, feeding him, clothing and sheltering him, but I believe she is doing him emotional damage," he said.

    Defiant: mother tells why she took her son and ran

    Original Article

    Caroline Overington | February 02, 2009

    Article from: The Australian

    MELINDA Stratton is a woman on the run. In April last year, she fled Australia with her four-year-old son, Andrew, to avoid a custody hearing in the Family Court.

    In December, her husband, NSW deputy fire chief Ken Thompson, asked the court to lift a ban on identifying Andrew so he could launch an international campaign to find the boy.

    Photographs of Andrew are now plastered on buses in Europe, and on billboards in England. Mr Thompson has launched a website, and a group email has gone around the world, urging people to contact Interpol if they see Ms Stratton.

    Ms Stratton - a professional woman from Sydney's northern suburbs, who has an MBA, speaks French and German, and has lived and worked abroad - has so far managed to dodge the authorities, but yesterday emerged from seclusion to tell her side of the story.

    A 10-page letter - the first contact between Ms Stratton and anyone outside her immediate family since last April - was provided to The Australian with no identifying marks. It was dated January 15.

    Ms Stratton says she had no choice other than to flee Australia, because she had lost faith in the Family Court.

    She says the balance of the court - once firmly in favour of granting custody to mothers - had tipped dramatically towards fathers. The Howard government's regime of "shared parenting" had given power to fathers at the expense of mothers.

    "I have lost all faith in any form of justice coming out of Australia," Ms Stratton says.

    "By remaining silent, however, I ensure that they (the Family Court) can continue to treat other mothers and children this way."

    Ms Stratton does not say where she is hiding, but adds: "Currently, my son is well and happy.

    "I spent $30,000 on court proceedings. I have been told I will receive harsh penalties as 'punishment' for leaving from the Family Court.

    "I am in my 40s. My son is only four. His welfare and future are my priority.

    "The decision to break all contact with my family and friends, leave my job and our home was not taken lightly.

    "I also understand that the Family Court could take my son away from me and give Ken full custody of him, again as punishment."

    The battle between Ms Stratton and Mr Thompson for access to Andrew is complex and bitter.

    She says he suffers from depression and anxiety. He says he suffered from "mild anxiety" when his first marriage ended 20 years ago.

    "It was nothing more than mild anxiety," he says.

    "It was a very difficult time, but it was also a very long time ago."

    When he launched his campaign to find Andrew, Mr Thompson said that his former wife had a "mental condition". On his blogs, he says she is "paranoid" and that she may harm Andrew rather than return him to Sydney.

    Ms Stratton says she has "no mental problems whatsoever".

    Ms Stratton has made more serious allegations against Mr Thompson but The Australian is constrained by law from publishing them. She made the allegations in December 2007, left the family home in January last year, and the country in April.

    Mr Thompson strenuously denies his wife's claims, saying she "made all kinds of allegations ... the psychologists have said there is no reason to even investigate them".

    Ms Stratton says the court psychologist is biased against mothers. She points to papers presented by Family Court practitioners in which they say that mothers can make up allegations of abuse and that children can be manipulated by their mothers to say they have been abused.

    The identity of the psychologist is protected by the Family Law Act (1975).

    The Family Court ignored Ms Stratton's complaints and ordered her to make their son available for supervised contact with his father three or four times a week.

    She complied only a few times before fleeing.

    Her move was not unprecedented: although there have been some high-profile cases of men leaving Australia with their children - such as in the case of Canadian mother Melissa Hawach, whose two children were taken to Lebanon by their Sydney-based father and freed by mercenaries - it is overwhelmingly the mother who flees.

    According to the Attorney-General's Department, more than 120 children were abducted and taken out of Australia last year. In 75 per cent of cases, the mother was suspected of taking the children.

    Mr Thompson said his former wife should return to Australia. "I'm not the one who has run away from the court," he said. "I'm the one who took court action.

    "She's decided that the police were wrong, the courts were wrong, the psychologists are wrong, and she's right.

    "If she's right, I don't understand why she doesn't come back and see the matter through in the Family Court.

    "What kind of country do we live in if people can disagree with what the court says, and just take off?"

    The AFP is conducting a criminal investigation into Andrew's abduction and subsequent disappearance.

    Interpol has also issued alerts for Ms Stratton and Andrew in 187 countries.

    The Family Court publication order warns anyone recognising Ms Stratton or her son not to approach them and to instead pass the information on to police.

    A Kansas man’s Molestation Conviction Overturned Because of Error by Judge, Prosecutor


    Leigh Jones

    The National Law Journal

    September 09, 2010

    A Kansas man convicted of child molestation will get a new trial because of misconduct by the judge and the prosecutor. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 3 that they each crossed the line during the trial of Luther Kemble, who in 2008 was sentenced to 25 years to life for fondling an 8-year-old girl.

    The court found that Sedgwick County, Kan., District Court Judge Rebecca Pilshaw improperly questioned and encouraged the girl while she was testifying. The court also found that a Sedgwick County prosecutor violated Kemble's right to remain silent in statements made during closing arguments.

    The court determined that the misconduct, considered separately, did not necessarily justify a new trial. However, the cumulative effect created a prejudicial error that the evidence against Kemble could not overcome.

    Kemble, 36, was convicted after a jury found that he had touched the girl's chest and buttocks while he was a guest in her mother's home. The child was the daughter of his cousin's girlfriend. The girl initially accused Kemble of the act but gave conflicting testimony at trial.

    While the child was testifying, the judge repeatedly told her that if she was saying that she didn't remember details, when she in fact did, she was lying. Among other statements to the child during trial, the judge said that she was a "good girl" after she gave testimony unfavorable to Kemble.

    The justices, in an opinion by Justice Lee Johnson, said that they could "empathize with the frustration a trial judge might experience with a child witness who will not testify consistently." Nevertheless, they reasoned, "the judge cannot cross the line between being the impartial governor of the trial and being an advocate for the prosecution."

    Also at issue was a statement that the prosecutor made during closing arguments about Kemble's claim that he was too intoxicated to form the intent to commit the crime. The prosecutor said Kemble asserted that defense for the first time at trial, and never before. Such a statement, Kemble argued, was an improper comment about his post-Miranda silence and violated his right to remain silent. The court agreed. "The state may not use that silence against a defendant at trial."

    The attorney representing Kemble was Carl Folsom of the Kansas Appellate Defender Office. He was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for the district attorney's office said that attorneys there were reviewing the decision.

    Europe sides with Aussie Chauvinists

    Australian Shared Parenting Law Debate

    Australia, renowned for male chauvinist behavior, racism and all round backward thinking. The intelligence is clearly lacking when they called it "The lucky Country". With three major political parties leaning from moderate to far right - It is no wonder more and more women are fleeing this country. It is only the lucky country, because at the end of the day, there is always a scapegoat paying for it.

    When of course there are complaints, the media does a remarkable job at cleaning up after its thugs. One would only have to view articles like these to learn that there is little truth in the tales from down under. Ask any partner of any non white member of the Australian community about the daily racist slurs she or he receives in the public and suddenly the veil lifts.

    To consider that male white supremacy is righteous is in fashion for Australia and as it seems, every Aussie is following suit. Dig deeper at the victims of Australian white supremacy and there are many women, mostly mothers who care a lot for their children. They are Australian societies scapegoat. Those many who have tried or succeeded in escaping violence are the "untouchables" of Australian culture. The biggest reason for leaving is for their children. Most are not concerned what happens to them, just their children.

    Of course, there are always bad examples of motherhood, but these are trophied as recognition that all mothers are this way; that in a bizarre logic - they are not human, but merely a brand of product on the patriarchal market. To the male dominated judicial system, the family court views mothers as a machine useful for providing children as though they are a commodity. Even the values of equality are distorted to feed the masses of male supremacist, by faking shared parenting. Sharing the parenting before divorce for most Australian men is too much, but if the woman leaves, sharing the parenting is invoked as a means to use the child and chain her to him for life.

    This was after all instigated by the same group that invoked censuring the internet. The festival of the Light. Men like Warwick Marsh, Barry Williams and John Abbott, wanted to enforce marriage as a non-negotiable contract. They blamed women for the problems in marriage, but grossly ignored the violence from men. Warwick Marsh himself had a close family member commit a murder-suicide, the ultimate act of possession and obsession. Yet, his interpretation of the event was misappropriated to condemn and punish the women who leave.

    John Abbott was an extreme example, but successfully pushed for shared parenting in alliance with the members of the shared parenting council. He believed that women who cheat should be punished by death. A rogue and violent attitude that one would consider reserved only for the underdeveloped world where stoning women is an everyday account.

    In contrast, Europe gender divide is far less than Australia. Shared Parenting occurs before divorce and the European Assembly had raised UK's treatment of mothers in the Family Court as abhorrent. In the case of Melinda Stratton however, it appears that Europe has sold out on human rights as they arrested her for taking her child.

    The media in Australia has written dozens of articles applauding the pursuit of a mother who stated that she went to such a great length to save her child from being abused. The media painted this business women as mentally ill, yet omitted this diagnosis to originate from the courts hired psych. In the Australian Family court stats, nearly all of the mothers who are cut off from contact are deemed mentally ill. Dig a little deeper into the family court judgments and many abuse cases mostly the mother raising concerns lose contact because they were persistent and challenged the court.

    The family court was so abusive during the Howard era that they trophied cases that were deemed to meet the "Parental Alienation Syndrome" criteria, a popular theory amongst the pseudo-psych legal community. It was popular largely because the family court could deliver cheap cases without addressing the abuse, whilst the protective parent was barred from contact and the ability to collect or provide any further evidence of its occurrence and thus providing a false sense of credibility towards family court decisions. The problem is that "Parent Alienation Syndrome" is largely debunked by the scientific community as the Dr who created it also supported pedophilia.

    When the Australian was given a ten page letter by Melinda Stratton on her side of the story, they were constrained by the Family Court from publishing her concerns about sexual abuse by Ken Thompson. Yet, the media were not constrained to convey her as "Paranoid" or as an abductor. It would be too much of course, for the family court to convey this mother as a human being or focus on the child's real best interests, rather than its own interests.

    Posted by Ella Butler at 11:54 PM

    Labels: Andrew Thompson, Barry WIlliams, Family Court, Family Court of Australia, Family Law, Ken Thompson, Melinda Stratton




    Many articles have been published in major media, on-line news and commentary sites such as WorldNetDaily, WomensENews and professional an advocacy sites including the National Organization for Women.

    Victims should know that the fathers rights' movement and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) were created by a ring of judges to stir-up domestic litigation and use that litigation as a extortion/protection scheme against vulnerable women who are worried about the safety of their children. Abusive men are given "protection" in exchange for their cooperation in non-stop profitable litigation activity. Viewing the malicious court conduct by the judge a result of "bias" or "good-old-boy" local cronyism is a serious mistake which will prevent you from learning how to deal with the bad court professional and make them stop exploiting you.

    While the articles below are useful reviews of what is wrong with "PAS", none of them touch on the most compelling error in the PAS methodology model, which is - it purports to be a method for identifying instances of one parent alienating a child from the other parent.  However, the PAS authors do not describe any child (or mother) behavior which could be labeled an alienated conduct.  Instead, their entire focus is on something else -   sex acts with children.  A mother's complaints against the father for sexual activity with the child, is the sole criteria for the author's strong condemnations against the mother for causing the child to be alienated from the father.  The PAS authors believe a child is made to fear the fathers' sexual activities, when absent the complaint everything would be fine.  Nothing is said about what factors would constituent a valid sex abuse complaint. All the reactions by the mother which they label as "alienating" are normal reactions to discovering her child was being abused.

    Additional discrediting factors are:  Gardner/Underwager analysis model has no identifying factors for a truly "false" allegation. The sum of their writings really say,  is that the mother should keep her mouth shut and not interfere because there is really nothing wrong with sex between fathers and children. The only real harm occurs when the mother makes the child think there is something wrong with the sex activity.  The fact that hundreds of people have read, absorbed and endorsed the Gardner / Underwager sex theories gives evidence to how many sex perverts (both male and female) there are in our society.  Furthermore, the fact that hundreds more have read and critically reacted to their pro-incest writings but haven't labeled them for what they really are - is an indication of how fearful the rest of society is about violating taboos against acknowledging grown men actually do have sex with their own children and are proud of it.  Even the most outspoken critics of PAS can not bring themselves to say publicly what they all should know is obvious - that Gardner, Underwager, Farrell and their fathers rights followers are a bunch of sex perverts.  The bottom line is that subject of incest is still very much a social taboo and the incest crowd knows this and plays on this social taboo to its own advantage hiding behind "parental alienation" and other cover theories to keep their critics distracted.  Even worse this crowd has taken matters one step further and made incest (under the cover of alienation and visitation interference) an official government social program, under the guise of helping fathers see and have good relations with their children. 

    Never underestimate the ability of a government bureaucrats to play dumb about other peoples' problems and exploit it to the hilt in the name of helping those people.

    Articles published in Washington Times by NAFCJ leader Liz Richards describe these factor in more detail:

    Washington Times | April 2006 |"The other side of fathers' rights controversy"

    Washington Times | April 2008 | "Parental rights and wrongs"  

    Article published in Northern Virginia community newspaper in 2003, and posted on French Canadian site. 

    "Program produces mother less kids" by Liz Richards

    Dept of Justice Research Division's report, published by Sage Publishing in January 2009, on the negative Impact of the Fathers Rights on Domestic violence included material from Liz Richards' research.  See pages 2-3 and page 19 of reference section.

    Kinsey-Sexual deviancy expert, Judith Reisman has written frequently on this topic for WorldNewsDaily, going back to a 1999 article in which she mentions Liz Richards and NAFCJ - Texas activist, Jan Barstow.

    Reisman was the source of the PAIDIKA article which exposed Ralph Underwager pro-pedophilia opinions.

    Dr. Judith Reisman

    WorldNetDaily: Child custody for sex offenders / April 1999

    WorldNetDaily: Child abuse and child custody- March 1999

    WorldNetDaily News Archives: Judith Reisman

    Leadership Council, founded by psychological professionals,  has done extensive work researching PAS.

    The Leadership Council: What is Parental Alienation Syndrome

    The Leadership Council - Homepage

    Leadership Council / Dr. Joy Silberg

    The Leadership Council - Articles on Abuse and Custody

    Leadership Council member, Stephanie Dallam, has written some of the best articles exposing Gardner & PAS as pro-incest.  Look for the section titled "Therapy for the Mother", in which Gardner offers the disgusting advice to therapists treating an "incest" family. Gardner says the mother should be encouraged to use a vibrator so the father won't have to seek sex from his daughter.   Most of what Gardner writes actually justifies incest and blames the problem on the mother or the victimized child.   This is the basis of "PAS" and the strongest reason why PAS is not valid.

    Stephanie Dallam: "Parents losing custody to abusers"

    Marin County Calif. based advocacy / reform group Center for Judicial Excellence convinced California state legislators to conduct investigations of widespread mishandling of custody litigation.   .

    California orders audit of Marin County family court | 2009

    Geffner: Custody Disputes Often Bypass Abuse Assessments

    From the "What Took Them So-Long" category, is this Department of Justice, June 2009 release of remarks by Attorney General Holder which include: "Why are mothers who are the victims of domestic violence losing custody of their children to the courts and to the child protection system? " Remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder June 2009

    American Judges Association Studies show batterers convince authorities that the victim is unfit, undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases and that in approximately one-half of abusive families, some form of physical and/or sexual abuse of children exists.

    This article is about Pennsylvania judges exposed and convinced in a similar court-based scheme using their control of children for financial kickbacks.

    PA.Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit - NYTimes.com

    Kim Gandy/N.O.W.article on Gardner " Sick Joke or Sick Reality?"

    N.O.W. "The Crisis in Family Law Courts"

    CA NOW Family Law Task Force to investigate and reform corruption and gender bias in the courts; reported included information from our group NAFCJ.

    Jana Bommersbach, Phoenix Mag, May 2006, critical article on PAS

    Battered Mothers Custody Conference

    Garland Waller |Biased Family Court System Hurts Mothers| WomensNews

    Stop Family Violence - Protective Mothers file complaint with Inter American Commission on Human Rightst

    Stop Family Violence - Breaking The Silence PBS documentary

    VNET - Violence Against Women Net

    Chamber of Secrets, Child Custody corruption exposed, CBS 48 Hours

    NAFCJ associates and leaders

    Michigan National Organization for Women, Renee Beeker

    Illinois Council for Family Court Reform

    Michelle Bryon-Egan story

    NAFCJ associates:  advocates & experts who deal with incest survivor issues:

    Jill Jones Soderman /Psychodiagnostic & Psychotherapeutic


    California Protective Parents Association


    THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF THE PRO-MALE, PRO-PEDOPHILIA COURT METHODOLOGY IS A RING OF PUBLISHED INCEST PROMOTERS, LEAD BY DR. RICHARD GARDNER, Ralph Underwager and Warren Farrell - all closely associated with the fathers rights movement. (Gardner & Underwager died in 2002)

    Underwager was a CRC founding board official. Farrell was a founding board official of the three principle fathers rights groups.

    Farrell is still very active with all the fathers rights groups and makes frequent media appearances on their behalf.

    Gardner was a frequent speaker at fathers rights events and appeared as an "expert" witness in their cases until a lengthy discrediting article was published in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|"Casualties of a Custody Wars"| Nathan Greico-Scott

    The "fall-out" from this very critical review, caused Gardner to stop appearing as a expert witness for fathers in the custody litigation and "drop-out" of public view.   It wasn't until his "strange" suicide death in 2003, did the media take an even closer negative look at this perverted practices. 

    Gardner's death was ruled a "suicide" by the Bergen County, New Jersey coroner office.  However a careful reading of the medical examiners autopsy report, described wounds very unlikely to be self-inflicted - e.g. multiple stabs in his heart and multiple slits on his throat.  This factor plus our knowledge of inconsistent comments from Gardner's family , and violent fathers rights activists, indicated he was really killed and everybody covered it up - including the N.J. police and medical examiner, his family and his fathers rights allies & admirers.  It is not believable that a 70-year old man in supposedly ill health could slit his own throat several times and then stab his own chest several times, and finally sink a 7" knife blade into his own heart !!!

    CincinnatiPAS site ,by Ohio based activists who were forced to go "anonymous" because of retaliatory threats of their very explicit expose of Gardner and the "fake"  suicide.

    Dr. Richard Gardner | CincinnatiPAS-front page

    At the bottom of this site is scanned copies of the New Jersey medical examiner's report which reveals the truth about his 'suicide'.:

    Dr. Richard Gardner MD - autoposy report

    Gardner - PAS Caselaw

    This is a great "spoof" article written by NAFCJ member Karen Anderson of N. California about Gardner's crazy theories.

    Syndromes R Us ltr to Richard Gardner  -- July 1999

                                      WARREN FARRELL, ANOTHER FATHER'S RIGHTS ASSOCIATE.


    Scroll down to the mid-point of the linked article below,  to the section describing the "purported" actions of 40 year-old writer who seduced his teen daughter at the family beach house as she came out of the bathroom.  This and other sections gives us an "insight" into the depraved minds of these people.  Farrell tried for years to cover up his own published statements by making false claims about a one word "misquote".  He gave up on this cover-up tactic after Liz Richards distributed excerpts of his many other deviant remarks.  WARREN FARRELL - GENITALLY CARESSING CHILDREN

    RALPH UNDERWAGER OF MINNESOTA IS ANOTHER FATHERS RIGHTS AFFILIATED INCEST/PEDOPHILIA PROMOTER. Underwager was also closely associated with the fathers rights (a founding board member of CRC) until he resigned after exposure of his pro-pedophilia interview published in the Dutch based journal "PAIDIKA", which labels itself as "The Official Journal for Advocating the Lifestyle of the Pedophile." 

    This article was discovered and analyzed by researcher Judith Reisman (see above)

    Ralph Underwager Home Page of the IPT - Institute for Psychological Therapies



    The following are professional publications with have discredited Gardner and PAS:

    The National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, based in Alexandria, VA was one of the first to explore the misuse of PAS in evaluating sex abuse in court cases - both civil and criminal.  After both Gardner & Underwager died, NCPCA staff felt free from potential harassment and issued the following double-edition report.

    NCPCA- Newsletters

    NCPCA Update Newsletter Volume 16, Number 6, 2003

    NCPCA Update Newsletter Volume 16, Number 7, 2003

    National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges [anti-PAS] Guide,  "The discredited "diagnosis" of "PAS" (or allegation of "parental alienation"), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children's behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be "alienated" have no grounding in reality.  It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children's responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children's other parent. "

    American Judges Association Studies show batterers convince authorities that the victim is unfit, undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases and that in approximately one-half of abusive families, some form of physical and/or sexual abuse of children exists.

    Model Code of the Family Violence Project, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCFCJ, 1998) "rebuttable presumption that it is detrimental to the child, not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of family violence"

    Beware of Family Court: What Victims and Advocates Should Know, by Women's Justice Center

    Carol Brush 2001 Analysis of PAS


    Battered Mothers Human Rights Violations - The Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Man

    Alleged Violations of the Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Man

    While state courts are responsible for custody cases, the federal government is responsible to ensure that their judicial systems operate in accordance with the Organization of American States Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man .  The specific articles the petitioners claim have been violated are:

    Article I. Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.

    The courts place the children directly in danger without regard to their right to life, liberty or security of person.  In addition, often the arrangements made for visitation are unsafe to the mother as well.

    Article II. All persons are equal before the law and have the rights and duties established in this Declaration, without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed or any other factor.

    The gender discrimination both in the courts in general and in custody cases in particular has been known, studied and proven for years.  The gender bias studies in the 1980’s showed bias that has never been corrected.  The studies of custody have shown that it is a complete myth that women get custody over men or that men are disfavored in family court.  It is such a pervasive myth that years of litigation and proof has not shaken it  - to the harm of the victims of violence.

    Article IV. Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever.

    Litigants, especially mothers, who report child abuse are punished with jail or the loss of custody of their children.  The protective parents are in a Catch 22 situation.  If they do not protect their children, they are charged with failure to protect and the child protection agencies take their children.  If they do act to protect, the courts put the children directly into the arms of the abuser.  

    Article V. Every person has the right to the protection of the law against abusive attacks upon his honor, his reputation, and his private and family life.

    Often the protective parents who report abuse are labeled mentally ill or diagnosed with such imaginative syndromes as parental alienation or munchhausen’s by proxy. Often they are ordered into counseling or in the case of one petitioner, taken to the mental hospital.

    Article VI. Every person has the right to establish a family, the basic element of society, and to receive protection therefor.

    By separating the protective parents from their children for no valid reason, the parent is denied the right to establish a family.  Some of these petitioners have not seen their children for six years.  Every single petitioner was denied contact with their child for some period of time though none was ever proven to have harmed them.

    Article VII. All women, during pregnancy and the nursing period, and all children have the right to special protection, care and aid.

    Often battering begins during pregnancy yet special protection is not afforded the mothers, even when they have an order of protection.  Much research has proven that children of abusers are likely to be abused themselves and have a higher rate of sexual molest.  Yet courts continue to refuse to protect the children. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in the DeSheney case that the state does not owe any right of protection to children even when they know of the abuse and have in fact placed that child in that home with the father.  This is in plain violation of the Declaration.

    Article XVIII. Every person may resort to the courts to ensure respect for his legal rights. There should likewise be available to him a simple, brief procedure whereby the courts will protect him from acts of authority that, to his prejudice, violate any fundamental constitutional rights.

    The lack of due process in family court is legion.  Ex parte hearings and communications, decisions without hearings, refusal to admit the mother, refusal to admit evidence of violence is rampant in the cases and violates the most basic principles of due process.  Little attention or time is given to these decisions that shape a child’s life forever.

    Article XXIV. Every person has the right to submit respectful petitions to any competent authority, for reasons of either general or private interest, and the right to obtain a prompt decision thereon.

    The gender bias studies of the 1980’s showed that courts are not competent when dealing with women.  Unfortunately, things have not improved.  In spite of training, legislation and lobbying, judges continue to ignore statutes that mandate no custody to abusers.  The petitioners have tried to hold the judges accountable by appeal or disciplinary procedures, all to no avail.

    Article XXV No person may be deprived of his liberty except in the cases and according to the procedures established by pre-existing law.

    The many children who are put directly into harms way by being placed with an abuser or molester are deprived of their liberty.  When courts ignore evidence of violence, they are not following pre-existing law.  It is commonplace for judges to completely ignore state statutes that mandate that custody will not go to a perpetrator thereby violating state law as well as putting children in danger.

    Article XXX. It is the duty of every person to aid, support, educate and protect his minor children, and it is the duty of children to honor their parents always and to aid, support and protect them when they need it.

    These petitioners have tried to protect their children.  It is the courts that have prohibited them.  The cost to both child and parent is overwhelming and devastating.

    The Gonzales case, also filed at the InterAmerican Commission, illustrates the failure of the American justice system to protect battered women and children.  That case dealt with the failure of the police department.  This case deals with legal abuse  - the failure of the legal system, the courts, the guardians ad litem, the attorneys for the children, the state protective agencies to both follow the law and to protect the helpless children who face the horror of violence daily.

    Battered Mothers file Human Rights Violation Suit Against US to IACHR

    On May 11,2007,  just before Mother’s Day weekend, ten mothers, one victimized child, now an adult,  leading national and state organizations filed a complaint against the United States with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. Their petition claims that U.S. courts, by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters, has failed to protect the life, liberties, security and other human rights of abused mothers and their children. 



    OVERVIEW and FAQ's in materials on the right side of this page.

    Scroll down to read full petition, including case histories of several of the petitioners.  You will be horrified to learn what is happening to abused women and children in courtrooms all across this country.

    Exhibit 28: Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories
    Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Tatge Lasseur Productions, 2006 Underwritten by a grant from the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.
    Full length of this documentary was submitted to the IACHR. 

    Full Petition to the IACHR (large file)

    Table of Contents



    Court Gender Bias - academic studies

    Court Gender Bias -experiential studies

    Attempts to Remedy Problem

    Summary of Problem

    Alleged Violations of the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man


    Additional Supporting Organizations - list

    List of Exhibits


    1. Photos of petitioner Claudine Dombrowski . (graphic)

    2. Affidavit and book, Let My Children Go, A Mother’s Journal , Wendy Titelman, Kinderlex Books, 2005.

    3. Letter from California Protective Parents Association .

    4. Affidavit from Kourts for Kids.

    5. Letter from StopFamilyViolence.org .

    6. EXPOSE  The Failure of Family Courts to Protect Children from Abuse in Custody Disputes:   A Resource Book for Lawmakers, Judges, Attorneys and Mental health Professionals, Our Children Our Future Charitable Foundation, Los Gatos, CA, 1999. 
    ( very large file - long time to load)

    7. Chesler, Phyllis, Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody,  McGraw-Hill Book Company, NY, 1986, select pages.

    8. Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project:   A Human Rights Approach to Child Custody and Domestic Violence, Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, June 2003.

    9. Common Misconceptions in Addressing Domestic Violence in Child Custody Disputes , Jaffee, Crooks, and Poisson, 57 Juvenile and Family Court Journal Fall 2003.

    10. Justice in the Domestic Relations Division of the Philadelphia Family Court:  A Report to the Community, Women’s Law Project, Philadelphia, Pa, April 2003.

    11. California Protective Parents Network , national survey, September 2001 to December 2004.
              Part 1 - table
              Part 2 - report

    12. Jana Bommersbach, Jana’s View, Phoenix Magazine , May 2006, p. 28.

    13. Article Launched: 6/18/2006 12:00 AM , Mom termed 'parental alienator' wins rare vindication in courts , BY TROY ANDERSON, Staff Writer, LA Daily News.

    14. Hoult, Jennifer, J.D., The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome:   Science, Law and Policy,  Children’s Legal Rights Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1, Spring 2006.

    15. Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence:  A Judges Guide , National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2004, revised 2006.

    16. Report on Women’s Rights in the United States under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in response to the Second and Third Periodic Report of the United States of America, July 2006.

    17. Courageous Kids personal stories.
                Part 1 - Courageous Kids Network
                Part 2 - Case Studies
                Part 3 - Letter to IACHR by siblings
                Part 4 - Alana Krause, Girl, Interrupted

    18. Letter from Legal Momentum to Daniel Meron, DHHS , Washington, DC dated 28 February 2007.

    19. European Parliament, A6-0404/2005, Report , 9.12.2005 on the current situation in combating violence against women and any future action (2004/2220(INI)) Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality Rapporteur: Maria Carlshamre PE 364.709v02-00 2/17 RR364709EN.doc

    20. Testimony to the Truth Commission , Fourth Battered Mothers Custody Conference, January 2007.

    21. Examples of Injustices in NYC Family Courts , Battered Women’s Resources Center, January 2007.

    22. Letter and columns from The Parenting Project , Rhode Island.

    23. Letter from the Illinois Coalition for Family Court Reform .

    24. Letter from Child Abuse Forensic Institute , Napa, CA.

    25. Legal Momentum letter and summary of Battered
         Mother's Speak Out

    26. Letter from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

    27. Letter from Justice for Children

    28. Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories , Connecticut Public Broadcasting (see above for excerpt)

    29. Letters of support from additional organizations.

    National organizations

                       State Organizations

    Supporting Organizations

    The following organizations have sent letters to the InterAmerican Commission in support of the petition.

    Nat'l Organizations

    Domestic Violence Report

    Family Violence Prevention Fund

    Justice For Children

    Kourts for Kids

    The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence

    Legal Momentum

    National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

    National Center on Sexual and Domestic Violence

    National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

    National Organization For Women

    National Organization For Women Foundation

    National Family Court Watch Project
    Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute

    Stop Family Violence

    State Organizations

    California Protective Parents Association

    California National Organization for Women

    Child Abuse Forensic Institute (CA)

    Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence

    Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence

    Illinois Coalition for Family Court Reform

    Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

    Michigan National Organization for Women

    New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

    National Organization for Women - New York State, Inc.

    Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence

    Parenting Project (RI)