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Dealing with Parental Alienation Syndrome

Posted on in Child Custody

Texac complex custody lawyer, parental rights, PAS,Twenty years after psychiatrist Dr. Richard Gardner first identified the disorder, Parental Alienation Syndrome is a widely, although not universally, condition that affects many complex custody disputes in Travis County and nearby jurisdictions.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

PAS is generally defined as the systematic poisoning of the relationship between a Non-Custodial Parent and that parent's children. In most cases, the alleged perpetrator is the Custodial Parent mother. The Jason Patric/Baby Gus saga is an extreme example of PAS. The actor served as a sperm donor to his girlfriend, and after the child was born, Danielle Schreiber did not allow Mr. Patric to have contact with the boy. A trial court ultimately ruled in favor of Ms. Schreiber, but an appeals court partially overturned that decision.

In most complex divorce cases, PAS is much more subtle and perhaps even somewhat unintentional. Some red flags include:

  • Making last-minute schedule changes and erecting other obstacles to visitation;
  • Extending special privileges to children, such as a later curfew or a private bedroom;
  • Using children as substitute spouses and emotional confidants; and
  • Disparaging the other parent in front of the children, or within the children's earshot.

PAS is sometimes mislabeled as "maternal brainwashing" or some similar term.

Early Years

One of the reasons that PAS is not yet universally accepted may be Dr. Gardner's rather controversial history. In 1992, at the height of the Woody Allen-Mia Farrow child abuse scandal, Dr. Gardner remarked that "screaming ‘sex abuse' is a very effective way to wreak vengeance on a hated spouse," clearly implying that Ms. Farrow had manufactured the allegations to gain leverage against Mr. Allen.  Recently, Dr. Gardner partially recanted, but the damage to his reputation, and to the syndrome's acceptance in the scientific community, had already been done.

What to Do

If you suspect PAS may be part of your complex child custody dispute, it may be best to refer the matter to a social worker. These professionals are often more open to PAS and are trained to recognize telltale signs. Also, keep a detailed journal about family interactions. At the very least, the journal can offer insight into the true nature of the relationship between the custodial and non-custodial parents, and the children.

PAS is a recognized disorder that can help - or hurt - your child custody case. For questions regarding custody issues, contact an aggressive Williamson County high-asset divorce attorney. Call the Law Offices of William D. Powers at 512.610.6199 for a consultation. Mr. Powers is a board certified family law expert.

The Law Offices of William D. Powers

8911 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Building 2, Suite 2105, Austin, TX 78759