A Simple Lesson from Reveal’s Podcast on Parental Alienation

The family law community has been abuzz with conversation regarding parental alienation, thanks to a recently aired podcast episode on the topic:

Bitter Custody: A Reveal Podcast from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

“A controversial theory is swaying family court judges to award custody to parents accused of harming kids. We trace the origins of “parental alienation” and learn how it has spawned a cottage industry of so-called family reunification camps that are making big profits from broken families.” Listen here (51 minutes)

According to the psychiatrists interviewed, “parental alienation” is the actions of one parent, the custodial parent, brainwashing the children to dislike the noncustodial parent, sometimes even to the point of believing they were victims of abuse

We’ve said it before: parental alienation is very real, but it’s one of the most difficult issues to address in family court. Admissible evidence to support the claim can be difficult to come by, and you may not be able to prove it.

If you listened to the podcast, you heard a psychiatrist testify regarding an alleged incident of a mother, the non-custodial parent, strangling her pre-teen daughter. The psychiatrist testified that while he had serious doubts the incident had actually occurred, the children were sure it had. Whether it was a false memory or they had been brainwashed by their father, it was real to the kids.

And therein lies the difficulty with resolving a case with parental alienation.

To some psychologists, the solution is separating the child from the custodial parent, who has been accused of engaging in alienating tactics. The podcast, which represents an extreme example, told a story of the children being completely cut off from their father for years. Their father, who had been their source of stability throughout the process, and the home in which they felt safe and comfortable.

Listening to the podcast, I thought there was one valuable lesson that all family law litigants could take to heart: conflict through your divorce will have a negative effect on your children.

The best thing you can do is put your differences aside and work towards a peaceful co-parenting relationship. Keep discussions of property division, parenting plans, and child support away from young ears. Encourage your kids to enjoy their time with both parents and assure them it’s okay that they love you both.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keeley Nickelson an attorney with FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC, a Northern California law firm focused exclusively on specialized counsel for complex divorce and family law issues. The firm regularly represents business owners, professionals, and other high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce, premarital agreements, and related actions. Keeley can be reached at info@foresterpurcell.com or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice. Follow FPS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @law_fps
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