What Non-custodial Parents Need to Know About Parental Alienation Syndrome in San Diego: 2012

August 9, 2012

For many custodial parents in the aftermath of a custody battle, the court's findings affirmed their "superiority" as a parent when primary physical custody is granted to one parent. In San Diego, as well as other places, this can lead to an overt attempt to cement their lofty position by establishing sole control of the child's heart and mind by undermining the child's relationship with the other parent. This has been recognized as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a condition that can have devastating consequences on your child's future health and happiness. Unfortunately, there have been many cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome both alleged and proven in San Diego Superior Courts in divorce cases.

For many custodial parents, PAS is a natural consequence of a sincere belief that the child is better off without the other parent in the child's life. However, unless there is a history of abuse, molest or neglect and there is a current safety or danger issue, a child's best interests is normally to be bonded and have a relationship with both mother and father.

Children who are victims of Parental Alienation Syndrome can suffer from low self-esteem. This can lead to behavioral issues, such as acting out in school. If left unchecked, behavior can worsen, with the child becoming more anti-social, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, turning to self-destructive or criminal behavior, and having ongoing difficulty in establishing relationships with the opposite sex. PAS can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach problems. It is very important to recognize any symptoms which can be due to this syndrome as soon as possible. Again, the prevailing wisdom is that children need both parents. In addition, under the California Family Law Code which is followed in San Diego, the primary physical custodian is to promote, encourage and foster the relationship with the none custodial parent and not to try and destroy it.

Non-custodial parents of a child with PAS are also victims. The child's rejection can also impact your self-esteem, and lead you to focus on the guilt you feel over past mistakes instead of learning from those mistakes and building a better future.

Is your child a victim of PAS?

Most children don't realize what's happening. Especially after a difficult divorce, they're used to hearing both parties express hostility toward one another. And if your response to the other parent's criticisms is negative, you may unknowingly reinforce those criticisms. The two most important things to do after divorce are to listen to your child and treat the other parent with respect, even if they don't deserve it. Once you recognize signs of PAS, try to focus primarily on your child as victim. Your status as a victim is secondary. The law and the Judge's focus on the best interests of the child or children and not the best interests of the parents however all of us are human beings and rejection {especially by your own child} is most difficult. If you need to, a professional such as a therapist can help with the dealing of this rejection.

By listening to your child, you may be able to recognize and document specific examples of the other parent's ongoing attack on you. Be aware that some parents don't stop at convincing the child you are Evil Incarnate. False accusations of abuse, neglect and even molestation are often made. Especially when criminal allegations are made public, you need a knowledgeable San Diego attorney familiar with PAS in your corner. It is also important to remember not to involve your child in your divorce case and not to discuss the case with your child and not to make negative comments about the other parent in front of your child and, of course, try not to make negative statements at all if possible.

You may also want to consult with a professional to help your child overcome the effects of PAS. Be aware of how destructive negative comments can be, especially if your child's self-esteem has been under attack. Use positive reinforcements to assure your child's worth as a person. This may be needed to be ordered by a Judge of the San Diego Superior Court if the other parent will not agree.

A determination of PAS can have serious legal consequences for the other parent. There may be a change in custody. A finding of contempt can result in jail time if the court orders are not being obeyed without a defense. If the child has suffered serious physical impairment, such as self-mutilation, the Judge can be very critical as to why this was not addressed before harm occurred.

PAS cannot be overcome overnight. However, by attempting to maintain a firm but reasonable position throughout this challenge, you can provide a powerful example for your child and effectively counteract PAS.

For a free consultation on PAS or other family law issues, please contact us online or call our office at 858-312-8500 to schedule an appointment.

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