Parental Alienation Syndrome


An interesting issue arising in some custody battles in recent years is something called Parental Alienation Syndrome.  As described in this article, PAS is a not-yet-officially recognized “ailment,” inflicted upon children by custodial parents during and/or after divorce.  Basically, PAS occurs when the parent who has greater access to the child uses that access to negatively influence that child’s feelings about the other parent.

Although doctors and psychiatrists are in dispute about the validity of PAS, it is arising in custody cases more and more often.  Still, it can be difficult to prove PAS because the lack of official recognition makes it difficult or impossible to secure expert testimony on the subject. 

This is one of those areas where the law seems, to me, hopelessly out of touch with people’s day to day lives.   In order to get evidence of PAS admitted into court, it must be a scientific syndrome, described and analyzed in technical language and supported by empirical studies.  Yet ordinary people know that, whether or not it rises to the level of a syndrome, the concept of parental alienation exists.

Unfortunately for children of divorce, many parents are unable to control their anger at one another when their marriage fails.  Even more unfortunately, one parent may take out this anger by manipulating the child into blaming or disliking the other parent.  Does the court really need to see studies showing that this type of behavior is harmful to the parent-child relationship?   

At any rate, I thought this was a useful issue for shlep discussion because I suspect that pro se patrons who are dealing with child custody issues often worry about the influence the other parent is having on the child’s feelings.  It might be helpful to these people to learn more about PAS and its effects, even if they aren’t ultimately able to get everything into the courtroom.

1 Comment

  1. Andie

    June 11, 2009 @ 2:58 pm


    My brother has had this done to him and he has not seen his children in 3 years. His ex has used false accusations via protective orders and assault charges against him to prevent his visitation with his children. I can’t begin to understand the problem a person like her has.

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