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SECTIONNote that divorce information given in this section cannot take the place of independent legal or financial divorce advice. Please read our disclaimer.

"How do divorce attorneys and judges contribute to parent alienation?"
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Unless children have been appointed minor's counsel, they are not represented in court, according to the standard of the often-quoted "best interests of the child", as many people imagine them to be. The attorney's role is that of an advocate for their client only, not the child or what would represent the higher good of the family. Attorneys have a choice as to whether or not to represent a difficult person. They may advise such clients on the consequences of their poor behavior and choose not to accept them as a client. However, a retained attorney is expected to deliver on what the client desires. It's easy for a toxic parent to choose a divorce lawyer who will manipulate the court system by doing everything possible to prevent a positive resolution in favor of the child. In fact, many attorneys enjoy high-conflict clients and will greatly exacerbate the problem with repeated court appearances, unnecessary delays, and false allegations that the targeted parent has to scramble to disprove. Such attorneys don't try to stop their client's mean-spirited behaviors, such as cutting a child out of the targeted parent's life or attempting to stop the brainwashing that results in a child fearing or hating the once-beloved parent. The children in these cases lose their critical-thinking skills, as well as their ability to individuate and decide what is best for them. In most cases, they end up with no access to one half of their heritage -- their family and friends that could help them with a more balanced view of the world.

Judges are the referees whose role is to make court orders after hearing the evidence presented between two dueling lawyers who often represent wildly different points of view. Few judges are educated in parental alienation, or in the kinds of mental-health disorders that drive disturbed parents to do serious damage to their family. Most judges hold the belief that their judgment ought to accommodate the principle of shared custody. However, in parental alienation/Parental Alienation Syndrome (PA/PAS) cases, joint custody could be the worst decision. The offending parent ought to be viewed by judges as committing a heinous crime of child abuse and neglect. The outrageous anti-social behavior that goes on in these cases, perpetuated by court delays, and ignorance of the seriousness of the problem allows the destruction to proceed.

Society has a long way to go before PA/PAS is understood. All mental-health professionals, lawyers, and judges ought to be responsible for educating themselves as to what PA/PAS is and how serious it can be. In the extreme form, parental alienation (PAS) must be considered one of the worst kinds of child abuse. A courtroom setting is the least efficient way to teach judges what PA/PAS. PA/PAS education ought to be part of the training that family law judges receive long before they get to the bench and begin hearing these cases. How else are we going to stop these terrible abusive behaviors to children and their targeted parent, unless the professionals making decisions for these troubled families get a handle on the truth?

Jayne A. Major, Ph.D. is the founder of Breakthrough Parenting Services in Los Angeles, CA and the author of Breakthrough Parenting: Moving Your Family from Struggle to Cooperation. She is nationally recognized as an award-winning expert in family education, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, author and consultant on optimal family relationships. She can be reached at (310) 823-7846.