I tried to contact my son from December 16th 2006 for 4 days, emailing, telephoning writing, there was no answer, I was very concerned. His mother then claimed my attempts at contact were harassment. This is the first mechanism she used to alienate me from my child. On January 16th I get a letter from her solicitor saying they will fight vigorously to stop me seeing my son. Then today February 19th 2007 I get a letter from the same cowboy solicitor saying my ex-wife is encouraging my son to see me. So why the two conflicting letters?...this is all part of the game of alienating me from my son.
Rule Number 1. It is not me that is crazy and I keep telling myself this fact.
It is normal that children will defend the alienated parent from the targeted parent. Child often protect the abuser.
Do I not take action and wait for my son to eventually come around and contact me. This is one option that may or may not work. It might take years before he feels strong enough to contact me, I might die in the meantime, he might never come around - depending on the strength of the outside influence he is receiving from his mother and grandparents. Also I will be losing the right to see my son.
Do I fight this through the courts and risk having all the dirty horrible stuff from all our pasts dragged out in the courts, along with the possibility of pushing him further away. The only people who win here are the legal people, who act like vultures with children in the family law courts. It's not about justice its about money. Mothers can make false allegations and tell lies in affidavits and get away with it in the family court.
Indications that PAS was happening to me
In 2002 'A' came to me and said that Grandma was 'trouble making' as she wants to go to the park, but only if I (his father) did not come. This clearly upset A. I confronted them and a unpleasant argument started. They refused to leave my house, they refused to leave my wife and I alone to sort out these problems, they refused to apologise to A or me or to J. This is one example of how they denigrated me to A. I would often catch them pulling faces behind my back and when I asked J to ask them to stop they would deny they were doing it.
When I would pick my son up at our visitation time, we would drive for an hour. He would talk, almost every visit about how his grandad was racist and how he was calling me names and critising me. That Grandma was moody and would go in the bedroom with her arms folded and make him feel guilty, he also said he could never win an argument with his mother and felt he had three parents now. He would ring me up and whisper down the phone that they are upsetting him.
My ex-wife seemed to dislike it when I said A and I had a great time together. She would get displeased at me buying him gifts, especially if she thought they were expensive (which they were not). A was doing a camera project at school and wanted to learn about 35m SLR camers so I bought him a Pentax camera from Ebay for $45.00 and a lense for $30 and we went into the country way and took photos together, we both had a great day playing in the creek and having fun. When I got back to A's house, my ex-wife asked A to go inside and she had a go at me for "spending money on him", I explained it was none of her business and it was not expensive any how to which she didn't seem to believe me.
Further indications of PAS
'A' would periodically come down to my home on the Gold Coast and play with my partners children. He got on very well with my partner and would hug her and tell her he loved her. This was also denied by my ex-wife as untrue. It seems anything she can do to discredit or manipulate the truth regarding my visitations with A, she will.
PAS Comments my ex-wife has made. The signs were there and I missed them. I trusted my ex-wife to do the right thing by our child
"Get over him"
"take a look in the mirror"
"he is over you"
"he doesn't want you any longer"
" if you make any contact this is harassment"
"why didn't you send his present"
so I did, and three days later..a letter that said
"you have been harassing me"
"why is your mother bothered about A, she hasn't seen him since he was 3 1/2"
"I never received a xmas present for A from your sister"
J then sent a card to my mothers saying "thanks for the xmas present from my sister"
"if my parents die A is not going to you for you to look after"
"if you come home to live I will tell my parents to go away and not visit here for ever"
"if you get your new partner pregnant it will be the end of us for ever"
"A, has been acting all this time and has never ever liked being with you"
"your sister and brother don't care about him"
"I don't want you to come to school functions"
"can you sign over your tax rebate to me" (I did)
"A wont stay over night with you on visitations so you can only see him for one day a fortnight"
"bring him back by 4pm because i have work to do"
J would often cancel visitations at the last minute
I once took A to a birthday party of a boy aged 11 and his father had a water slide, J said to me, "who are these people" in a very derogatory manner
J's previous claims of abuse have stopped and now because I was trying to get in touch with my son she is calling this harassment
I asked if I could go camping with 'A' and my ex-wife said "No Way"
I asked where the mobile phone went I bought him, as I turned round I saw her laughing
'A' would constantly ask when my partner and I would be getting married
He would ask personal stuff about money, details of the divorce,
he became rather negative in the last few months, making derogatory comments to me, that were unwarranted.
She asked about why I did not pay CSA payments, when she had already wrote to them and asked for me to stop payments.
Chain of events
October 16th 2006, I received a letter from Child Support Agency informing me that 'J' has requested that I stop paying money for 'A'.
Middle of November 2006 'J' rings up and cancels my visitation with 'A' at the last minute. It will be four weeks since I see my son.
"J' rings me and exlpains she and 'A' are going on holiday for two weeks from December 1st 2006 and won't be back until December 16th..this would be now 6 weeks since I saw my son, she offers to bring him down to the gold coast to see me for two or three days when they return on 16th.
The 16th arrives and I telephone to arrange to see my son. no answer
I also send an email
I also leave a message on her mobile
The 17th arrives I do the same again as on the 16th
The 18th arrives, I do the same again as on the 16th and 17th
I ring her house and her mother answers the phone and abruptly says "I don't know where he is and when he will be back"
'J' finally telephones me to say "I have been harassing her" and that I have to "get over him", and he is "over me".
I send an email to my son to see what is happening - no reply
I email her - No reply
I write to her - no reply
I then receive a solicitors letter on 23rd December saying I am abusing and harassing my ex-wife?
I get a solicitor to write to her solicitor and refute all claims of abuse and harassment.
5 weeks later I rang 'J' and have a very civil conversation on the phone in which we discuss 'A', she asks why I didn't send his xmas present, I explained because she had sent a letter saying It would be seen as harassment. She said well now he thinks you do not care!!!!!!
I sent his present immediately and three days later got a solicitors letter claiming I was further harassing her. I took the bait.
Symptoms of Parental Alienation
Douglas Darnall, Ph.D., 1997
To prevent the devastating effects of Parental Alienation, you must begin by recognizing the symptoms of PA. You will notice that many of the symptoms or behaviors focus on the parent. When the child exhibits hatred and vilifies the targeted parent, then the condition becomes parental alienation syndrome. After reading the list, don't get discouraged when you notice that some of your own behaviors have been alienating. This is normal in even the best of parents. Instead, let the list help sensitize you to how you are behaving and what you are saying to your children.
1. Giving children choices when they have no choice about visits. Allowing the child to decide for themselves to visit when the court order says there is no choice sets up the child for conflict. The child will usually blame the non-residential parent for not being able to decide to choose whether or not to visit. The parent is now victimized regardless of what happens; not being able to see his children or if he sees them, the children are angry.
2. Telling the child "everything" about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce is alienating. The parent usually argues that they are "just wanting to be honest" with their children. This practice is destructive and painful for the child. The alienating parent's motive is for the child to think less of the other parent.
3. Refusing to acknowledge that children have property and may want to transport their possessions between residences.
4. Resisting or refusing to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of extracurricular activities.
5. A parent blaming the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the family, changes in lifestyle, or having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.
6. Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule in order to respond to the child's needs. The alienating parent may also schedule the children in so many activities that the other parent is never given the time to visit. Of course, when the targeted parent protests, they are described as not caring and selfish.
7. Assuming that if a parent had been physically abusive with the other parent, it follows that the parent will assault the child. This assumption is not always true.
8. Asking the child to choose one parent over another parent causes the child considerable distress. Typically, they do not want to reject a parent, but instead want to avoid the issue. The child, not the parent, should initiate any suggestion for change of residence.
9. Children will become angry with a parent. This is normal, particularly if the parent disciplines or has to say "no". If for any reason the anger is not allowed to heal, you can suspect parental alienation. Trust your own experience as a parent. Children will forgive and want to be forgiven if given a chance. Be very suspicious when the child calmly says they cannot remember any happy times with you or say anything they like about you.
10. Be suspicious when a parent or stepparent raises the question about changing the child's name or suggests an adoption.
11. When children cannot give reasons for being angry towards a parent or their reasons are very vague without any details.
12. A parent having secrets, special signals, a private rendezvous, or words with special meanings are very destructive and reinforce an on-going alienation.
13. When a parent uses a child to spy or covertly gather information for the parent's own se, the child receives a damaging message that demeans the victimized parent.
14. Parents setting up temptations that interfere with the child's visitation.
15. A parent suggesting or reacting with hurt or sadness to their child having a good time with the other parent will cause the child to withdraw and not communicate. They will frequently feel guilty or conflicted not knowing that it's "okay" to have fun with their other parent.
16. The parent asking the child about his/her other parent's personal life causes the child considerable tension and conflict. Children who are not alienated want to be loyal to both parents.
17. When parents physically or psychologically rescue the children when there is no threat to their safety. This practice reinforces in the child's mind the illusion of threat or danger, thereby reinforcing alienation.
18. Making demands on the other parent that is contrary to court orders.
19. Listening in on the children's phone conversation they are having with the other parent.
20. One way to cause your own alienation is making a habit of breaking promises to your children. In time, your ex-spouse will get tired of having to make excuses for you.
SUPPORT THE PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL PARENTING
What’s Wrong with the Family Court
1. The Family Court of Australia systematically discriminates against Dads.
2.The Family Court has been alienating children from their Dads for over 30 years (the current Family Law Act was introduced in 1975).
3.The Government has said that it has made the biggest changes (amendments of July 2006) to the Family Law Act since its inception in 1975 in order to allow Dads to play a more meaningful role in the lives of their children. The Government wants to give the impression that Dads can now have half residency of children. The truth is that the new amendments only stipulate “Equal Responsibility”. “Equal Responsibility” sounds good in theory but in practice it means little. Besides, “Equal Responsibility” was already in the legislation before the July 2006 Amendments. As a senior Family Court official said, the 2006 amendments are merely a “repackaged brief.”
4.The Family Court system is very formal and adversarial. As such, it tends to amplify conflict between separated parents more than it defuses conflict. As a result, it regularly damages the chances of reconciliation between separated parents, with devastating impacts on the children.
5.The Family Court has a policy that if there is any evidence of conflict then Equal Parenting no longer becomes an option. This gives an incentive for the mother to create conflict. Instead of penalizing parents who behave inappropriately, the Family Court fosters inappropriate behaviour by the parent most likely to get custody (usually mothers). It sends the wrong signal.
6.The Family Court system is not accountable. While it is true that members of the public can sit in on proceedings (and this must remain), it releases few statistics on outcomes. There is virtually no right of Appeal since Appeals are heard by a panel of Family Court judges who are “reluctant to overturn a ‘discretionary’ decision of another judge”.
7.A Family Court case that goes to a Final Hearing typically takes two years or more. This two years of uncertainty represents two years of stress, of posturing between the parents, two years of manipulating the truth, sometimes involving contrived Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) – all of which impacts on children. This time frame needs to be reduced from two years to two months approximately.
8.Transcripts of proceedings cost about $1,000 per day of hearing. So for a typical three day hearing a parent would need to spend approximately $3,000 for the transcripts !
9.The government introduced the Family Relationship Centres because they recognize the adversarial nature of the Family Court system is inappropriate and creates conflict. The government has stipulated that neither parent can consult a Family Law solicitor before they have been to a mediation session at a Family Relationship Centre. This is in recognition that Family Law solicitors ‘up the ante’ and generate conflict as they are part of the adversarial system, and it is in their interest to ‘up the ante.’ However, the Family Relationship Centres will remain a toothless tiger until we have a Presumption of Equal Parenting, because mothers already know they can wait out the three hour mandatory mediation session in the Family Relationship Centre so they can continue with their solicitor in the Family Court and get their 70% property and 70% residency
10. Solicitors typically charge $20,000 - $50,000 for full Family Court case. While the Family Court holds two conciliatory conferences before the Final Hearing, solicitors are present, and some solicitors have been known to actively undermine chances of reaching an agreement.
11.judges often look to Family Reports of Child Psychologists when making decisions on residency. The Family Reports in turn are usually based on an interview with each parent (about 1 hr 45mins) and an ‘observation’ of the parent interacting with the child(ren). This observation is so brief, unnatural and contrived, yet the psychologists ‘observations’ can determine the child’s access to their father for the next ten or fifteen years or more.
- The Family Court says that it is not interested in the rights of parents but is only interested in the best interests of children. The tragic irony is that in alienating children from their Dads and in submitting separating parents to a very expensive and highly adversarial system, in many cases irreparably damaging an already strained relationship between them, it has acted against the best interests of children. This is demonstrated by the government attempts to find an alternative.
- We now recognize that the State had no right to remove Aboriginal children from their parents where there was no evidence of abuse or neglect. The Stolen Generation is a tragic example of the State believing it knows what is in a child’s best interests above the parents. What right does that State have to extinguish the rights of parents when they separate ? On the contrary, the best interests of children are served when the rights of parents to bring up their children are respected. Mums have a right to bring up their children. So do Dads. In fact they have an equal right. Surveys show that children overwhelmingly prefer equal access to their parents following separation.
3.Being a single parent is stressful and stress doesn’t help good parenting. Allowing equal parenting time gives both parents the chance to ‘recharge their batteries’ and give quality time to their children when they are with them.
Presumption of Equal Parenting Time
- We need to introduce a policy of a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time*. A ‘presumption’ means that exceptions can be made where there is evidence of abuse or neglect by the mother or father, or where there are intractable practical problems (eg living in different cities etc).
- The Family Court system needs to be available only as a last resort. Family Relationship Centres need to be designed and equipped to be able to resolve residency and property issues arising from family separation.
- More funding needs to be given to the network of Family Relationship Centres because the three hours currently allotted to sort out issues is ridiculously little.
- The Family Relationship Centres need to be made transparent and accountable.
- An independent review system needs to be established to investigate claims of bias or incompetence either in the Family Relationship Centres or the Family Court system.
- Transcripts of discussions in Family Relationship Centres and proceedings in the Family Court need to be available to both parents at a reasonable cost (eg $2 per hour of discussion).