Parent Survival Guide Parent Survival Guide Issue 02 (Spring) - Page 13

spring 2017 PSG 13

Research has debunked this myth. For detailed analysis, refer to Warshak,R., Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies That Compromise Decisions in Court and in Therapy, 46(4) Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 235 (Aug 2015).

Consider these two scenarios, both involving decisions by teenage boys to sever their relationships with their fathers:

Scenario 1:

A judge who understood that the 13-year old’s decision reflected impaired judgment, but nevertheless acquiesced to the boy’s demands because, “He is now of an age where, even if he may be too immature to appreciate what is best for him, he cannot be physically forced to remain where he does not want to be.”

Scenario 2:

A judge who responded to the teenage boys, “I want you gentlemen to understand that it is the court’s order, not your parents’ order that you are going to be – or that your parents are abiding by. And the consequences fall on your parents if there is a failure to comply, so I want you to know that while you think you are of an age where you can make these decisions or should be able to make these decisions, you’re not yet.”

Which of the two approaches mentioned above is likely to work?

If you voted for Scenario 2, you got it right.

To understand why, consider this Nebraska case. In stripping a mother of custody and awarding custody to the father, the court found that the mother had encouraged the children to violate the parenting plan and had been alienating them from their father. In response to the mother’s argument that it was up to her 15-year old daughter to decide whether to see her father, the trial court stated:

“I’m going to tell you the law in Nebraska is very clear, 15-year-olds don’t make the decision about whether they attend visitation time with their parents or not… If [the daughter] suddenly decided that she didn’t like to go to school… or that she didn’t want to go to a medical appointment, I’m going to guess that you would find a way to make sure that she got there regardless of whether she didn’t want to or not…. [A]s a parent, you’re under an order for parenting time to take place.”

Courts need not feel helpless in the face of oppositional behavior from alienated teenagers. Research has demonstrated that most children’s protests evaporate when reunited with a rejected parent. Instead of giving in to children’s demands, the court can and should enforce parenting time.

Ashish S. Joshi is an attorney

with Lorandos Joshi Trial Lawyers

Adapted from the author’s article Parental Alienation: Remedies, Michigan Family Law Journal, Nov. 2016.

Complying with court orders is the responsibility of the parents, not the children.

Instead of giving in to children’s demands, the court can and should enforce parenting time.

Enforcing parenting time gets harder with adolescents.