“Thousands of children in New Zealand will go to bed tonight in the court-ordered care of violent fathers because a judge accepted a diagnosis of a non-existent disorder.”
Broadly speaking, parental alienation is understood to refer to deliberate or unintentional acts that cause unwarranted rejection by the child towards one of the parents, usually the father. Parental alienation syndrome is often used to by predominant aggressors of family violence through court proceedings as a form of coercive control to undermine primary victims who are trying to keep their children safe.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls explained how “the discredited and unscientific pseudo-concept of parental alienation is used in family law proceedings by abusers as a tool to continue their abuse and coercion and to undermine and discredit allegations of domestic violence made by mothers who are trying to keep their children safe”.
For many years within our court systems, when primary victims have attempted to keep their children safe form an abusive parent they have been accessed of attempting to deliberately withhold their children from the other parent. Children and primary victims are being “dragged” through litigation abuse - systems, structures, lawyers, social workers, psychologists etc. until they are completely worn down.
Yet, parental alienation syndrome does not have evidence to support its existence, and has been dismissed by the World Health Organisation, and medical, psychiatric, and psychological associations.
As family violence practitioners, we need to be aware of the impact of custody proceedings on children and primary victims. We have an important role in advocating for and supporting them. It's important we're aware that parental alienation syndrome has been discredited and there is no evidence to suppport it.