8. Time – Slowness and Delays. Time and space away from you are what the alienator needs to establish and perpetuate alienation from you. Time and space away from the alienator are what your children need to be free to perceive reality. Frankly, the best strategy for any alienator is to delay and frustrate your attempts to connect with your children by any means possible until they are too old and/or too severely alienated for any legal remedy to be applied. Unfortunately for you and your children, any legal action will take many months, and more likely years. Once you have done your research and are ready to start, you will be anxious to move quickly, but you may face long waits for every step, and cancellations and delays can always occur. Whenever you can, remind any involved professionals that time is critical. A consciousness of the importance of time as it relates to PAS in anyone you are working with is a good sign. Your lawyer may need to emphasize the significance of time for when requesting a particular solution.
9. Inadequate Assessments. A Kafkaesque nightmare. So, an assessment was ordered. You feel so relieved! At last, the truth will be discovered, you and your child will be helped, and everything will finally be okay. But what if the alienator in your case is a charming and intelligent manipulator? Remember, any alienator is ipso facto personality-disordered, but his or her narcissistic and sociopathic core can be hidden under a veneer of normalcy which takes time to reveal itself. What if the alienator convinces the assessor that he or she is loving and caring, and paints you as a hysterical, emotional mess? What if the alienator and your child blatantly lie about you? What if you ARE a hysterical and emotional mess, never before, but now, directly and only because of the alienation? Would your assessor be skilled enough to see that? Does the assessor have the resources, time and motivation to thoroughly investigate? What if the assessor has no knowledge or experience of parental alienation, or even worse, is aware of the controversy surrounding parental alienation as a diagnostic entity and has decided that it does not exist? What if you are an alienated father and your assessor, man or woman, believes the dogma that parental alienation is a fraudulent invention of extremists in the fathers’ rights movement or a tool of abusers? What if your assessment is to be done by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (or a GAL in the US) and will consist of extensive interviews with your 14-year old and then a couple of hours with each parent? Will that be enough?
Serious mental illness is at work in alienation cases, but serious can still be subtle in its manifestations. You need an assessor with skill, knowledge and experience, and enough time to be thorough. You may have no choice about who assesses you. You may not be able to afford the best person, or the best person may not be available.
So what can you do to maximize the chances of getting an assessment that helps and does not harm? You may have no control over who assesses you, but you do have some control over yourself. Although you may feel terrible, and frantic, and desperate, and think of the assessor as a saviour, beware! Never take for granted that any assessor will automatically figure out the truth, especially if time is limited and especially if the alienator in your case is clever and charming. Also, do not think of the assessor as your therapist. Having an attentive and apparently sympathetic listening ear may tempt you to allow yourself to fall apart or to express your deepest fears and resentments, but this is not the place. Even if you are generally coping well, being assessed can be nerve-racking. So much is at stake. I was assessed by a psychiatrist through interviews over several months, and also sent for two days of testing by a psychologist, and I found the psychological testing especially harrowing. I felt terribly vulnerable, and I wasn’t sure that I could trust the person doing the testing. It is critical that you have friends and supports for yourself in place, so that you can be at your best when you go to be assessed, and also to help you recover afterwards. It’s stressful, even if it goes well.
You must demonstrate that you are a sane and loving parent, and do your best to lead the assessor to the truth – that that there is no good reason for any child to reject a loving parent, and no good reason for your child to have rejected you. Although of course you are suffering, you must stress that your children are the primary victims. You must be honest and upfront about any mistakes you have made, and confront and deal with anything that has been presented as a reason for the alienation. Bring evidence that you are a good parent. Statements from friends, teachers, relatives. Even if they are not read it matters that you have them. If relatives have been rejected along with you, make that known. Bring photos of you and your child being happy together. Cards or notes from your child expressing love for you. Imagine what your alienated child will say about you, and what the alienator will say to the assessor. Put yourself in the shoes of the assessor hearing all this, and consider how s/he will perceive that information. Ideally it will become clear that the cause of the rejection is the influence of the alienating parent, but you may have to “prove” this too. Make the case with facts. Show the difference before and after the alienation began. Try to provide evidence of the alienator’s actions and motivation.
If your assessor seems not to understand alienation, for example if he or she suggests that everything will work itself out when the child gets a bit older, you might try to gauge whether the assessor is open to learning about alienation. You might mention that you are very concerned because you have read about life-long damage that can be caused by the unjustified rejection of a parent, such as serious negative effects on future relationships and higher rates of depression & substance abuse. If they ask what you read you could mention the work of Amy Baker or some other researchers (Darnall, Rivlin, Clawar, Major, Warshak, Gardner, Rand, etc.) and offer to bring references if they are are interested. Even if they are not responsive to your suggestion, you may pique their curiosity, and you will have let them know that there is a body of research out there that takes parental alienation seriously.
What to do if you get an assessment that does not recognize the alienation, or does, but recommends a destructive “solution”, such as ordering therapy to restore the relationship but no contact with you until the child chooses? This is definitely a set-back, but it is not necessarily decisive. You may be able to have another assessment done. Your lawyer may be able to propose and win a good remedy in spite of the assessment. And sometimes assessments are ignored anyway! I will write about this in my next post.