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Parental Alienation and the Courts

by Julian Fitzgerald

I can't help thinking that sometimes education is underrated - education of judges I mean. If they were more aware of recent scientific discoveries and paradigms, particularly those involving the interplay of hormones and human contact, I think they would bring more rational attitudes to bear on families.

Where Doctor Lowenstein mentions "failing to provide access for either a father or a mother to children" , in his article just published to EDM: My court experiences of dealing with cases of parental alienation
... the reality can be rather more severe than mere "failure" - it is in truth more likely to be active obstruction of contact by the courts, on the "you have to be cruel to be kind" basis that it is better for a child to be protected from adult conflict by the removal of one of the parents, if necessary. When the decisions of judges actively and knowingly lead to just such a situation, what else can one conclude and why should we not discuss such matters on the basis of reality, rather than the fiction that this is between the parents alone?

Many of us have injunctions and indirect contact orders extant which actively prohibit us from being in contact with our children, and the children know this - what opinions are they likely to form of a parent thus ill-treated, they are bound to presume there is just cause, especially when prevented from any real communication with that parent? For many there is the knowledge that attempts to meet or get in contact with their children will result in injunctions, restrictive orders or argy bargy with the police - factors of which the judges are fully aware when they come to their decisions to create such circumstances.

We would be much nearer to the truth to say that the courts are often actively creating the legal basis for systems for obstructing contact and for alienating children. This is the evidence in front of our eyes, to date, and the words of the judges Dr Lowenstein reiterates tend to confirm this.

I have one set of key observations to make regarding the judge's logic, which I think is represented with great precision and clarity by Dr. Lowenstein, it certainly concords with the experience of many in the courts.

In children we inculcate moral and human values. These involve concepts such as relational loyalty, good faith and the maintenance of trust with others, etc.

We learn these from adults and from the authorities, even as little children. The total lack of consideration for our closest relations - our parents - exhibited by the judge, is like an object lesson in amorality and deprecation of our personal social values, it literally crushes them underfoot - we learn that these relational values are literally "invisible" to the authorities who decide our fate. By condemning us to relational alienation from our nearest and dearest, he teaches us the absence of compassion and love with our nearest and dearest, surely a deeply evil lesson to be taught, by anyone's standards?

I recall a very recent clip of David Attenborough, concerning the values he was brought up with. Of two European refugee girls who were forced to stay with the Attenboroughs during the war, he was told by his parents: "right, you now have two new sisters, they will be treated no differently." The example of this and other acts of duty towards one's fellow human beings were what formed the warm, rounded and fulfilled human being David Attenborough has become.

How could any judge believe that he was behaving in the best interests of an alienated child, enveloped in a myth of hatred of a loving parent, by sustaining this myth? How does it help a parent who has only too successfully achieved total control of their children, to the exclusion of the other parent, to sustain this edifice of delusional power based on patterns of alienation? Surely the judge is aware, must be aware, that on average children in alienated families fare even worse than those in amicable separations?

This is because the child's interests can best be worked out by averaging the interests of the child's biological family. By behaving cruelly and unjustly towards one member of the family, the judge merely instrumentalizes a cruel family dynamic which will act to the lasting detriment of that family's social ecology. It is in fact quite extraordinary that judges and even psychologists seem to fail to recognize that you cannot simply transplant human beings from one set of human relationships to another, the bonds we form with our biological parents and our extended families are lifelong. In other words, it is quite erroneous to perceive a child's interests as exclusive. For the child's interests above all, as opposed to those of other family members who are grown-up enough to fend for themselves, the interests of both parents have to be given equal and great importance - they are the child's insurance policy for life.

These are seldom arguments put to judges , who seem to have fallen into the habit of refusing all argument which does not reinforce their own habitual practice. It feels as though they are still living in another age, redolent of the Skinnerist or behaviouralist thinking of the earlier twentieth century. Sometimes you can get these time warps in bureaucracies, where continuity can override the acceptance of new discoveries, or convert them back into old currency repeatedly. But this is now blighting the whole of society.

To put it another way, it is interesting to observe the gradual humanisation of our scientific attitude towards animals. The acknowledgment that chimpanzees can have a sense of humour and a theory of mind has taken many decades, even though we knew it in our hearts. It is interesting to observe this humanisation of our scientific attitude to animals, when one considers the dehumanisation of the judge's attitudes to our basic human rights as children and parents. Now there is a real conundrum!




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