Learning Points: Alienation of a parent devastates the whole family

How can it be that a father is told by the court that he has a right to see his child and yet remains without contact, asks Richard Hogan

IN last week’s article, I outlined parental alienation and how it devastates the family. I spoke about how children can be used by a parent in their war against their ex-partner and how the fallout can impact a child for life.

Men are more likely to be alienated from their children than women.

I have received many heart-wrenching letters from parents going through parental alienation.

And it has been troubling to think that so many men and women are going through an experience as soul-destroying as those letters described.

One father said that he had met his son for less than 24 hours in three years.

“I have missed his 11th, 12th, and 13th birthdays. I’ve missed his confirmation. I have missed all holidays and I haven’t seen him on Christmas Day since 2014 and I know I won’t see him Christmas Day, 2018.” Another father said: “I’ve been through the courts so many times, I’m losing faith in the system. My ex-wife has completely turned the children against me. They say they don’t want to meet me, but the last time I saw them, they ran into my arms and cried. I don’t know how much more I can take. I did leave my wife; I couldn’t be with her anymore. She told me when I left that ‘you will never see your children again’. How can she get away with this?”

Grandparents wrote to me, also, illuminating their struggle. I have often wondered what must it be like for them grandparents, when their son/daughter is being alienated from their child. How do they experience parental alienation? It is devastation for the entire family.

One grandparent wrote to me: “I’ve had to watch my son be destroyed by his ex-partner. She has reduced my son to nothing. I feel like she won’t be happy until he is dead. He doesn’t go out anymore; we have had to support him because of all his legal bills. My wife and myself haven’t seen our grandchildren in two years. The last time we met them, my granddaughter said ‘Mom says you are mean and you don’t love us.’ My wife was upset for such a long time after that encounter. I have just retired. This was meant to be our time, but it has been marred with such poison and venom. I don’t understand it.”

All of these letters left me with a very uncomfortable and unsettling feeling. Surely, more can be done to support the children and the alienated parent.

To turn a child against his father or mother, because of some personal vendetta, damages everyone in the process.

This scorched-earth approach leaves nothing in its wake except annihilation of all that is healthy and good.

So how can the psychotherapist, lawyer, or teacher support a parent who is being excluded from their child’s life?

How can we train professionals to understand the complexity of the issue and help them to spot parental alienation?

And whom should they contact, if they believe the children are being coerced into a particular narrative against a parent?

The court system is letting fathers down. One father painfully told me, “I’ve had five judges all say, ‘this man needs to see his son’ or, conversely, ‘it’s in the child’s best interest to see his father’, but, frankly, none of these judges had the courage to actually enforce the court orders that I obtained, which renders those orders meaningless.”

How can it be that a father is told by the court that he has a right to see his child and yet remains powerless and voiceless and without any contact? Is family law negating its responsibility to all involved in marital separation and divorce?

OR, is there an inherent bias in family law that needs urgent addressing?

We have fought so hard against so many prejudices in our society.

Why is this one that we are willing to ignore?

Parent alienation is, perhaps, the single most devastating, maladaptive behaviour a parent can engage in. And yet, those who are experiencing it do so in silence.

We must force this issue into public discourse. It is only through awareness that we can illuminate the plight of so many fathers and mothers.

The more that men discuss their experience the more they will have their story heard.

It is about time that we support the fathers in this country, and stand with them and let them know that they are not alone, and that their right to see their child is a right we are willing to fight for.


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