A GUIDE TO THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME
by Stan Hayward, Research Officer, Families Need Fathers
WHAT IS IT?
The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the systematic denigration by one parent by the other with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent. The purpose of alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the non-custodial parent (NCP) The alienation usually extends to the NCP's family and friends as well. Though this document is written with the father in mind, it must be clear that there are many cases of PAS where the NCP is the mother, and PAS from the non-custodial mothers' viewpoint will be discussed later.
Dr. Richard Gardner in his book 'The Parental Alienation Syndrome' states (p. 74)
"Many of these children proudly state that their decision to reject their fathers is their own.";
They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognise the importance of such involvement, yet such a mothers every act indicates otherwise.
Such children appreciate that, by stating the decision is their own, they assuage mother's guilt and protect her from criticism. Such professions of independent thinking are supported by the mother who will often praise these children for being the kind of people who have minds of their own and are forthright and brave enough to express overtly their opinions.
Frequently, such mothers will exhort their children to tell them the truth regarding whether or not they really want to see their fathers. The child will usually appreciate that "the truth" is the profession that they hate the father and do not want to see him ever again. They thereby provide that answer - couched as "the truth" - which will protect them from their mother's anger if they were to state what they really wanted to do, which is to see their fathers.
It is important for the reader to appreciate that after a period of programming the child may not know what is the truth any more and come to actually believe that the father deserves the vilification being directed against him. The end point of the brainwashing process has then been achieved.
NOTE ON TERMS
Though this paper assumes that mothers have control of the children and that fathers are the ones seeking contact, this assumption is made for the purpose of outlining the problem. This situation is true for most cases. But where fathers gain custody, they may also, and quite commonly alienate the children against the mother. There are cases of Guardians who will alienate children against the parent. I am aware of cases where the mother's own mother (the grandmother) gained custody of the child, another case of the mothers sister gaining custody of the child, and these children were alienated against the mother. I am also aware of a mother alienating her children against her own family, and a cases a child alienating her siblings against the father.
HOW COMMON IS IT?
It is common to hostile separations, and most non-custodial parents will have some experience of it. There are cases where children as young as two year old 'claim' not to want to see their father again, and cases where all children of one family will all decide that they do not wish to see their father again. It comes up to some degree in virtually every case where the father is attempting to get or extend contact, and most court appeals will include aspects of PAS being a factor in the stopping or disruption of access.
WHY IS IT SO COMMON?
It is a very effective legal device for the custodial parent to get rid of the other parent. There are two reasons for this. First the Children Act of 1989 took more consideration of 'the child's wishes'. That is, the child could state whether he or she wished to see the 'absent' parent. Oddly enough, though the Family court accepts the statements of such children, should that same child commit a crime, its statements would not be considered to be trustworthy as 'the child would be considered too young to appreciate the truth'.
Secondly, the Child Support Agency (CSA) separated the issues of court orders for maintenance and contact. Prior to the CSA the court issued orders for both Contact and Maintenance. Parents who defaulted on maintenance or contact were in contempt of court, but rarely was anything done about it. The CSA separated maintenance from contact. This allowed fathers defaulting on maintenance to be punished, but ignored mothers defaulting on contact. Whereas before, an illegal, but practical approach for some fathers, was to say, "No contact, then no maintenance". This was no longer an option for him as the mother would get maintenance anyway. She could stop contact claiming she was not stopping contact, but that the children no longer wished to see the father. Family courts generally accept this.
Parental Alienation offered this loophole in the law that has been commonly exploited.
For the mother to state 'The children do not wish to see the father' is not in itself sufficient for the court to stop contact. Evidence of the child's wishes must be confirmed by a Court Welfare Officer (CWO). A CWO will interview the child and report that the child has confirmed that it does not wish to see the father. The 'child's wishes' will then be taken into consideration and the court will usually stop the fathers contact. The mother will be in the clear. The CWO will have reported the matter accurately, and the court will respond accordingly. The father will have lost contact, probably for several years until the child is old enough to become independent of the mother. Interviews with adults who have been through this experience as children make the common statement that 'they did not know how to cope with the situation, so avoided the father rather than hated him'.
The father has another disadvantage in that the majority of those involved in child welfare tend to be women. These include the Family Court magistrates, CWO's, Court Clerks, Social Workers, Teachers in lower schools, etc. In general they will identify with the mother. Also, family problems are more likely to be covered in the media by women journalists/reporters, and subjects of women abusing children are not likely to get the most coverage. This falls under the 'Feminists against Fathers' category. On the other hand women carry out most studies on Family Policies, and their work has made major contributions to bringing the plight of fathers to the public.
Parental Alienation also effects the fathers' family. The defining characteristic of PAS is that the mother will alienate the child against everyone the father has close contact with, including his family, friends, and regular acquaintances. This is different from situations where the father has abused the child in some way and the child actually does hate the father. In those cases the mother will often seek the help and support of the fathers friends and relatives.
WHY DON'T CWO'S RECOGNISE THE SITUATION?
They do, but the Court Welfare Service is not ideally suited to deal with the problem. The problems with the Court Welfare Service include the following:
The Court Welfare Service is a branch of the Probation Service, so inherent in the attitudes of the officers is the idea of 'a guilty party', which in most cases is seen to be the father.
Women, who are more likely to identify with the mother, also predominantly operate the Service. There are also cases of CWO's who are themselves single-mothers, so hardly likely to be unbiased.
Many of the officers come into the service as a second career, and few come to it as a career choice. It is a very common career for professional women returning to work after the family has grown up. It requires little skill more that the ability to write a report. It has few dedicated members keen on improving the job. There is no follow up by the Court Welfare Service to see if the child's interests actually have been catered for. Once the report has been submitted it is unlikely to be seen again unless the matter is brought back to court. The CWO's report cannot be published or shown to anyone apart from the parties involved, so it is impossible to complain on the basis of the inaccuracies in it. The only way to do this is to take the matter back to court, where the whole process is repeated.
The Court Welfare Service is itself regarded as the 'Cinderella' of the Probation service, so its officers are rarely trained in either law or child psychology to the point of usefulness.
A CWO will typically have to do one case a week, so is always pressed for time. Late reports are very common, and if these reports are inaccurate, there is usually no time to get these corrected, so valuable court time is wasted on correcting the reports rather than dealing with the children's interests. It is common for a hearing that that taken months to get, to be wasted sorting out the CWO's mistakes. Granting custody to the mother is the easy option in most cases.
However inaccurate or biased the report is, the CWO cannot be sued or even punished as the CWO's report is simply 'guidance for the court' and not a sworn statement. So the parent has no way of pursuing the matter to any effect.
Complaints can be made to the CWO's senior officer, but these complaints must be made within weeks (a time when the complainant is often depressed), and will meet with great hostility from the senior officer. Even should the complaint be upheld, it will be reviewed by those who have close ties with the Court Welfare Service, so little will be achieved.
The report being confidential, and the hearing is held in court without public access. It means that even if the CWO is shown to be incompetent and biased in court, this cannot be reported publicly. This above all is why the incompetence of the Court Welfare Service continues.
Though the CWO can advise family therapy, this would be costly, and with several thousand cases a week, would be impractical to implement. Courts are very reluctant to take this path even though it often offers the best route for resolving conflict.
Though there is an 'Official complaints procedure' in the Court Welfare Service, this is not for parents to complain, but for the service itself. A CWO who does not carry out his or her duties properly may be reprimanded, but carrying out duties does not involve knowing the law, child psychology, or even showing bias. Though the Home Office, which supposedly is in charge of the Probation Service, the local authorities of the Family Court Welfare Service are responsible for the services. A study published some years ago in a Law Journal suggested that there was no evidence that the Family Court Welfare Service provided any support for families, or served any real useful purpose that could not be done better, quicker, and cheaper by other ways.
It should also be clearly understood that the Governments concern about broken families is that the cost of supporting single-mothers is the largest part of welfare payments. It is not that children are deprived of a parent or that parents family, even though this leads to the vicious circle of other social problems that the taxpayer has to pay for.
The Court Welfare Service does have various Unions, but these are mainly concerned with the welfare of its members rather than the duties they perform. When asked if they recognised PAS, NAPO (National Association of Probation Offers) spokeswoman stated "NAPO has no policy on PAS" meaning that though recognised, there is no clear cut action to be taken. Yet in spite of this, the CW service has several synonyms for parental alienation including coaching, programming, prejudicing, rehearsing, and other categories of brainwashing.
In general, CWO's do not have the time, the experience, or resources to do what needs to be done. They should interview the child out of the vicinity of both parents, and in the company of each parent separately. Though they are authorised to do this they rarely choose to do so. A common complaint of FNF members is that the CWO's interviews are not carried out with the intent of getting the facts, but merely to go through the motions with the intent of getting the result the CWO chooses rather than as information for the court to decide upon.
IS PARENTAL ALIENATION OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED?
There are two distinct aspects of PAS, Medical and Legal.
A problem in defining the Parental Alienation Syndrome is the word 'Syndrome'. It means 'A characteristic pattern or group of symptoms'. Medically this usually requires a distinctive pattern of behaviour in the patient. But in this case the behaviour is in the mother and the effects of her behaviour are in the child.
The mothers' behaviour pattern is typically to systematically cut off all communications between the child and the father, and anyone the father is close to. The mother will also attempt to stop anyone she is close to having contact with the father. Typically this includes her relatives and friends. If someone she is close to continues to relate to the father, the mother will exclude that person from her life.
The child's behaviour is to withdraw from the situation. Typically they will become very quiet, and may suffer educationally. This varies from child to child. Some become behaviourally disturbed. The trauma may not show at home simply because the mother will try and compensate for the loss of the father, or act in such a way that the child clearly understands that the father must not be mentioned. But teachers will notice a difference in the child's behaviour, and this may show up in the school report. CWO's rarely, if ever, check with the school, ask to see the school report, or get the child's teachers opinion.
Having alienated the child, the mother will then deny that she has had any influence on the child, though she will refuse to have contact with the father and his group. It makes it difficult to define PAS as a 'Syndrome' and in consequence the term 'Parental Alienation Syndrome' is recognised as a behaviour pattern but not accepted as a 'disease' in the ICD 10 (International Catalogue of Diseases vol. 10) the guide for medical practitioners. The most common argument by the authorities is that PAS is not in the ICD. Though this is irrelevant in recognising the behaviour, it does give the authorities a legal loophole.
This lack of definition of PAS as a 'disease' effectively gives the authorities a let out. By stating it is not recognised as a disease means that it cannot be recognised as a syndrome in the defined sense of the word. In spite of this, Stalking has been made a crime on the basis of being a form of emotional harassment (abuse), and 'Incitement to hatred' is also a crime if the incitement is against a person because of colour or creed. In spite of this, all the authorities dealing with 'Family Business' accept that the hostile situation common to divorce and separation leads to the children being deprived of a parent, and this in turn adversely affects the child.
The trauma of PAS Parents in hostile separations suffer depression, frustration, anger, and aggression. The expression of these feelings takes on the form of withdrawing love and communication. The custodial parent extends these feelings to the non-custodial parent via the children.
Though the Dept. of Health refuses to recognise PAS on the grounds that it does not appear in the ICD 10, the Dept. of Health does recognise behaviour pattern is common and that it constitutes emotional child abuse. Unlike other forms of child abuse 'Neglect, Physical abuse, and Sexual abuse' as defined in the 'Working together Under the Children Act 1989' emotionally abused children are not seen to be suffering in the respect that they may be registered by Social Services, and taken into care.
The Americans also use the term 'Hostile Mother Syndrome' for mothers who alienate children against fathers, but there appears to be no 'Hostile Father Syndrome' even though custodial fathers are often as guilty.
The 'Stockholm syndrome' has also been applied to this behaviour pattern. It refers to children who are effectively held hostage by the mother, and like hostages, are frightened of being rescued in case their captor harms them.
The fact that the mother claims the child rather than she hates the father falls into another category of 'false allegations'. These come up in various forms such as SAID (Sexual Allegations in Divorce) and allegations that the father is violent, stalks the children or mother, or even that the father himself is making false allegations against the mother. There are also aspects of 'False memory syndrome' whereby the child may be instilled with false memories of the father. The courts are now taking the question of false allegations more seriously.
Legal recognition of PAS
Legally, PAS is recognised as a behaviour pattern but often goes under other names such as 'Coaching, Prejudicing, Rehearsing' and synonyms of brainwashing. Although recognised by the courts it is rarely acted upon because as a form of emotional abuse it is very difficult to define. The other forms of child abuse are Physical, Sexual, and Neglect. As these result in the obvious suffering of the child, they relate the child being removed from the offending parent.
Lawyers are ambivalent about PAS. Some have done much good work in bringing about its recognition, yet many working in Family law appear not to have heard about it. And it is certain that some lawyers abuse the situation by creating hostility between parents who might otherwise have reached amicable agreements. The UK Family Law journal has published several articles on PAS, and this suggests that lawyers are now more likely to recognise the behaviour pattern and state it in court.
Though the governments document 'Working Together Under the Children Act 1989' (HMSO ISBN 0 11 321472 3 1991) defines Categories of Abuse Registration, these are primarily for the Child abuse register and statistical purposes. Four categories are listed:
Neglect: The persistent or severe neglect of a child.
Physical injury: Actual or likely physical injury to the child, or failure to prevent physical injury.
Sexual abuse: Actual or likely exploitation of a child or adolescent.
Emotional abuse: Actual or likely severe adverse effect on the emotional and behavioural development of a child caused by persistent or severe emotional ill treatment or rejection. All abuse involves some form of emotional abuse.
The Children Act document goes on to state:
These categories for the child protection register purposes do not tie in precisely with the definition of "significant harm" in Section 31 of the Children Act, which will be relevant if Court Proceedings are initiated.
Briefly this means that if a child is abused in the above categories, but there is little evidence of significant harm, then the child may not necessarily be registered. Though Neglect is more likely to be the fault of the mother, it is more typical of mothers who cannot cope, so to some extent she is not blamed. Physical injury can be by either parent. More typically seen as a father's offence, in fact the majority of child murders are carried out by women. In both cases it is common that the family as a whole needs help.
Sexual abuse is often seen as a crime by the father, but statistics are difficult to come by. The Dept. of Health Child Protection register of 1994 registers 28% of children registered for protection were in the Sexual abuse category, but no breakdown of who the abuser was.
ChildLine statistics of 1994 state the father as being the abuser in 32% of the cases and the mother in 4% of cases. The TV programme 'The Ultimate Taboo' dealing with sexual abuse of children by women suggested that possibly 25% of sexual abuse was by women.
There is also inconsistency on what constitutes 'Child abuse'. The Dept. of Health protection registry registered around 46,000 children in 1994, while the ChildLine Annual report for that year stated it was getting in excess of 10,000 calls a day from children. Though children will be alerted at schools of ChildLine, and encouraged to report physical and sexual abuse, they are unlikely to report their mother for stopping them seeing their father.
Emotional abuse is more typical of mothers. The giving or withholding of affection for the child's actions can quickly make the child realise what the mother wants from it. Also, the fact that the mother wanting to get rid of the father will go out of her way to show she can cope, overrides the argument of 'significant harm' required for registering child abuse. It is reason of proving 'significant harm' that courts are reluctant to accept emotional abuse, and hence PAS as evidence against the mother, even though courts are well aware that PAS behaviour is common.
Some courts will act upon it, but do so by simply ignoring the mothers claims of 'the childs wishes' and indicate that the mother is being obstructive. The more enlightened courts will order family therapy, and ensure that visitation rights are kept. Anyone claiming PAS should always look for Family therapy as a way forward.
Although PAS is currently recognised but not acted upon it is actually a crime to 'incite hatred on the basis of colour, religion, or creed' . Also the government is considering making 'Stalking' a crime on the basis of 'emotional abuse'. In the USA one father had Maintenance suspended on the grounds that his daughter 'hated' him even though he had made every reasonable effort to form a relationship with her. Such an approach by the courts here would prevent PAS being used as a loophole in the law.
OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON PAS
A spokeswoman for the Home Office 'Probation Service Division' states:
"Both the Home Office and the court welfare service are also aware of the fact that parents may seek to manipulate their children and encourage them to make statements designed to lessen the chances of the absent parent being granted contact with the child. Where an officer suspects that such coaching or manipulation has taken place, he or she will take this into account when preparing the welfare report and ensure that it is brought to the courts attention".
A spokesman for the Dept. of Health said:
"The potential for alienation by feuding parents is a commonly recognised problem."
"Parental Alienation Syndrome is and important phenomenon, but is not a medical disease; abusive behaviour by a parent can not be medical disorder or a syndrome with symptoms. Who has the disorder, the parent or the child? What are the symptoms, the abusive behaviour or the impact?"
A spokeswoman for the Inst. of Family Therapy said:
"With one parent gone, their fear is that they will be abandoned by the other, so they say whatever the present parent wishes to hear", and "When children under twelve are forced to choose, they tend to align with the parent they are living with".
A leading Child Psychiatrist states:
"...a child states that they do not wish to see the non-custodial parent happens far too frequently as a result of the bitterness between partners after the breakdown of their relationship".
In all, the behaviour pattern is recognised but defining it for medical purposes is difficult. This hurdle is the biggest to contend with.
WHAT IS THE BEST LEGAL APPROACH TO PAS?
A mother who disobeys a court order for Contact is in contempt of law. She may be jailed, fined, or have a penal notice attached to her order preventing her from repeating this behaviour. Though this rarely happens because the authorities state "It is not in the child's interest that the mother is jailed" it is increasingly recognised by the courts. A father took his case to the European court (case of Hokannen v Finland (23/09/94 Series A, 299-A, 19 E.H.R.R.) where a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention was found due to the inaction over several years in enforcing court orders for access.
There are now solicitors who specialise in this field. Find one that works in this field rather than one who simply claims to know about it. Get advice from FNF on this. Magistrate's courts tend to be dominated by lady magistrates. Experience has shown that they are less sympathetic to the father's case than judges in the higher courts. If possible, avoid a magistrate's court and go for a county court.
You can refuse to have a CWO who you feel is not reporting your case correctly or not dealing with essential facts. Don't assume they will ask you the right questions. Write down the questions that you would like them to ask, and prepare the answers. When you meet up with the CWO then have that information ready for them. If it is not included in your court report then question it. Also make sure you know the date when you can expect to receive the report, as some CWO's don't bother telling you.
Also, collecting articles and references to PAS will help your case in court. Mark out any similarities between cases quoted and your own case.
It is essential that you question ALL ERRORS AND OMISSIONS AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME. Notify the CWO of these before your case, and notify the court of the reply (or lack of one of the CWO). Have a listing of the errors and omissions available at the court.
It is also important to note that if you prove in court that the CWO has made errors, omissions, and shown bias, the court will do nothing about it. It is important that you report the CWO to his or her senior officer and send a copy to the Probation Service at the Home Office.
Some CWO's will accept and report PAS. You should keep a diary and copies of all communications between yourself, the mother of your children, and your children as evidence. Recognised evidence is typically:
The mother obstructs all attempts for you to communicate with her or the children in spite of saying 'she is not stopping the children seeing you'. She will also block all attempts of the children to communicate with you.
The children will suddenly start making excuses for not seeing you. They may say they do not want gifts from you. Gifts sent will not be acknowledged or even returned, signed by the child. Children may send hate mail.
Though the child supposedly doesn't want to see you, he or she will also suddenly stop seeing anyone connected to you. This will include close relatives, friends, etc. They will even stop talking to your relatives, friends, neighbours and anyone who might be in direct contact with you. The mother will also stop contacting anyone connected to you in spite of outwardly claiming not to be involved in the child's attitudes. All such instances should be recorded, as it is an indicator that the child is frightened rather than hateful.
The mother will pursue the strategy of obstruction by going to the school, clubs, and places where your children regularly visit, and state to the authorities that you are not to contact your children there.
You will find that others close to the mother will not communicate with you.
In all, the mother's strategy will be to totally isolate the children by gradually breaking every line of contact you might have with her or the children.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Paradoxically, the mother's strongest card is the fact that you love your children so much you will not harm her because it will indirectly harm the children. In some cases the situation is so extreme that the father feels he may never see his children again, or at least never have a meaningful relationship with them again. His efforts directed towards seeing his children change to those of getting revenge on the mother. This is where serious problems can arise. In the worse cases the fathers kill their children. This happens about 12 times a year in the UK. The father may attack the mother, abduct the children or commit some criminal offence due to his frustration. The father often just snaps, and these instances are not predictable. For this reason it is very important that you should not allow yourself to get into a situation where things seem impossible to resolve.
HAVING A PLAN
Your strategy has to be the opposite of the mothers, and to create every possible line of contact with your children, the mother, and anyone connected with them.
There are no rules as everyone's case is unique, but there are common sense actions you can take.
Work on the assumption that your child might turn up tomorrow. Ideally they will find you happy and leading a full life. They will want to see you as the father they knew. They will not want to be reminded of the past or of conflicts you have with the mother. Your first priority is to make sure you are not destroyed or undermined by the situation. If you are, then the mother has achieved her purpose.
You will go through a period of grieving for your child. It will be similar to someone who has lost a child through death. It will occupy all your waking moments and dreams. This will last until you can 'let go' of your child. You can best do this by keeping yourself as fully occupied as possible. If you have contact with other children such as relatives, or can be involved in children's activities at local schools or clubs this helps. Retain and develop your fathering skills.
Openly discuss the problem with anyone who will talk to you about it. You may be surprised to find how many other people have similar problems and have learned to cope. It will relieve the inner tension. Don't brood on it. Regard it in the way of men separated from their families during the war. Think positively.
Try to play an active part in FNF or similar self-help organisation. Helping others helps you. The worst feeling is of helplessness. Doing something gives a feeling that you have some control over the situation.
Make yourself knowledgeable about the situation. Collect articles, letters, etc. that deal with this problem. What initially is seen as a confused situation will soon be seen as a predictable pattern that helps you to assess your own situation. Having a plan gives you direction.
In spite of some women being the perpetrators of this problem, most women will be very sympathetic and supportive of your case. They will often be able to give you a good idea of why the mother of your child acts as she does. It is a great help to have women friends to discuss this with.
Try to form contacts with other FNF members. Don't just come to a few meetings or assume that there are clear cut answers. We find that each case has some new insight. It is only by becoming aware of new attitudes in the courts, government, etc. that we can look at new directions. Your case is important to us all. Make sure it is known, discussed, and reported. Your comments are valuable. Write letters to papers, write to your MP, and write to FNF.
Remember that things change day by day. What seems impossible today might seem resolvable tomorrow. Here are a few real instances of changes that have happened to bring children back to the father.
The mother died.
The mother was ill and required help from the father.
The mother left partner she went off with and wanted to come back to the father.
The child was ill and the mother needed help.
The mother needed money and used the children to get back to the father.
The father was able to put pressure on the mother by reporting his case in the media.
Chance factors bring the father and child together (in one case the father met a family who were friends with his child).
The father's job offered scope to meet his child (a father became a helper in his child's school. Another produced fly posters and advertised for his children using these).
Fathers have contacted their children via schools or friends email.
Fathers became friends with those close to the child. Common if he is a community helper.
Father was famous and his children are aware of his activities. They contacted him.
The child wanted something from the father.
The child followed the same interests as the father and related to him via this.
The father is able to help someone close to the mother. They had a debt to him and helped him.
The friends and relatives of the father constantly contacted the child and mother making it difficult for her to ignore the father.
The mother belonged to a community help group. The father joined it. She had to decide to leave or speak with him.
The father became friends with those close to the mother.
The father became friends with those close to his children.
The father set up a joint bank account for him and the child and was able to indirectly contact the child that way.
An affluent father bought his daughter a flat so she could move away from the mother.
A father making a Will make it clear to the child that she would have to decide whether she wanted to inherit from him or not. This put pressure on the mother to agree.
A father organised local companies to give surplus goods to his child's school. He made good school contacts this way.
There is no doubt that 'Where there's a will, there's a way'. If you look at all your own activities, all those of the mother, all those of the child there is sure to be overlaps somewhere that bring you in contact with people and places you have in common. How much will your chances increase if you go to the same parks, theatres, playground, school events, etc. You need to draw up a plan and look at the potential of all your resources.
There are also other ways that offer the child a chance to contact you.
Send the child stamped addressed postcards.
Send the child a phone card.
If the child is older and you have any sort of contact, and can afford it, buy them a mobile phone.
If the child has an email address and you know it, ask close friends or relatives of the child to make contact.
Set up a joint bank account and send your child the book so they can draw on it. Only put in amounts that are pocket money.
Buy your child Premium bonds but keep the bonds so those winnings come to your address. Notify the child if there are winnings, and put the amounts in a bank for the child.
If you have a website, let your child know the address.
If you have skills or facilities that can be used by schools, offer your services to your child's school for 'work experience'.
Check with your child's school if they require helpers on school holidays, school events, etc. and make contacts with school staff and other parent volunteers. You may well meet parents you know your child.
Involvement in local community work will often put you in touch with other parents who have children at your child's school.
Pursue every line that offers hope however slim that hope may be. The important thing is that you develope a way of positive thinking.
WHY DOES THE MOTHER WANT TO GET RID OF THE FATHER?
There is no clear-cut answer to this. In some cases the mother does it with intent to get rid of the father, while in other case the situation just gets out of hand and drifts to the point where PAS just becomes one more step in the wrong direction. A survey of FNF members showed the following variety of reasons. In many cases there will be several different reasons combined.
The mother wants to start a new life and wants the father out of the way. She may be more successful than he is. He is seen as an encumbrance.
The mother wants money/property from the father and uses the children as bargaining pawns.
The mother hates the father and uses the children as weapons.
The mother is possessive and wants all the children's love.
The mother is jealous of the love/gifts the father gives the child but not to her.
The mother cannot cope with her own life. Contact with the father in any form is difficult for her. It is a common statement by fathers that the mother suffers from depression. Sometimes PMT, when rows are likely to flare up over minor incidents, and lead to greater hostility.
She feels he is unworthy to be a father and doesn't deserve the children.
Other women hostile to men egg on the mother. Typically this occurs if she is in a group of single mothers.
The mother uses access to control the children (if you don't behave then you can't see daddy).
The mother can't compete with the father who may be able to give the children more treats in the short time he sees them. The children may boost him at her expense, and typically demand more from her.
The children may be the only line of control the mother has, so uses it to boost her own esteem rather than for the interests of the children. This is the power motive more commonly seen in men.
The mother may still like the father and uses the children as a means of controlling him, or even getting him back.
The mother may be punishing the father's new partner indirectly as the father may know that he could see the children if it wasn't for the new partner.
The mother may be independent and never wanted a man around anyway apart from fathering her children (entrapment). Or she may have gained independence during the marriage and now wants to exploit it.
As often quoted, the mother may see children as a way of getting a house, welfare money, and other benefits. The father was always incidental in the matter.
Some women actually believe that men are not interested in their children.
The mother assumes hostility by the father towards her is also towards the children, so 'protects' them by keeping him away. This is common when he may be violent towards her but not the children, but she claims the children are also hurt.
The mother has a different lifestyle to the father, and does not want the children to copy his way of life.
The mother may have no family of her own (typically foreign wives), whereas the father may have a family. The mother regards the child as 'her family'.
The mother may become emotionally dependent upon the child, and regard any affections the child has for the father as depriving her.
The mother simply regards the child as her property, and sees the father as making a claim on her 'possessions'.
The mother dislikes the father's new partner, who she sees as a rival 'mother', so prevents the child seeing the father.
The mother's new partner is the one who is preventing contact because he wishes to be seen as the 'daddy'.
The mother fears the children will leave her for him if they have too much time with him.
She wants to prove to her new partner that he is the only man in her life.
She may have come from a broken family, and not be able to sustain a relationship.
The father is a constant reminder of the failed relationship that she prefers to forget.
She may be starting a new involvement, or having difficulties with the existing one, and doesn't want the children to tell the father about her affairs.
She may have children by other fathers and be a 'serial mother' not seeing any of the fathers.
Her family may not like the father and encourage her to leave him.
THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING WHY THE MOTHER DOES IT.
If you know why the mother behaves as she does then you are in a much better position to deal with the situation. A mother who has another partner will want the father out of her life for the simple reason that it makes her life complicated to have him around. The child's needs are secondary. On the other hand a mother who lives in a house owned by the father and relies on his goodwill for extras over and above maintenance, might be alienating the children as a means of getting the property or getting more money. In such a case the situation might be open to negotiation.
Broadly speaking there are six categories:
The mother hates the father for whatever reasons and just wants him to go away.
The mother hates the father but doesn't want him to do away. She wants to punish him.
The mother does not hate the father but does not want him to have any control over her or the children.
The mother does not hate the father but wants something from him. The children are the means of getting it.
The mother does not hate the father, she simply doesn't need him.
The mother cannot cope with her own life. The father is simply another problem. She wants his money but not his presence.
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS TO CONSIDER?
As the main aim of the mother is to stop all contact, while the main aim of the father is to gain all contact there are a number of factors that can assessed to give the father an idea of his chances.
The age of the children. The older the better.
The locality of the children. The nearer the better.
The number of children. The more the better.
The independence of the mother. The less the better.
The friends and relatives of the mother and father. The more the better.
The resources of the father. The more the better.
The mobility and availability of the father. The greater the better.
It is a mistake of many fathers to assume that the matter is in the hands of the court, and decisions made there are the essential ones. The reality is that the courts decisions are only one aspect of the situation. The mother has her own life to live, and she will have the same problems as most people, probably more, so she will not want to add to those by devoting her life to being obstructive. She will only do it so long as she can get away with it without too much effort. The children also have their own lives to live and they will not want to give up the father just to please the mother. They may obey or reflect her wishes, but only as long as they have no choice. Experience has shown that in most cases where the father has kept in contact with his children he will see them again. The fathers own situation will also change, so what seems to be an insurmountable problem today may seem solvable in a year's time.
HAVING A PLAN IS IMPORTANT.
When a father first realises he is going to lose contact with his children his feelings go from disbelief, through despair, anger, depression, confusion, and a total sense of injustice. It is based on the assumption that 'everyone' knows how important it is for children to have the support of their father, and that he obviously loves them and they love him.
Such notions are unfortunately naive. The law is itself very confused. A court that refuses to send a single-mother to jail for stopping contact will send that same mother to jail for refusing to pay parking tickets or her TV licence. Such inconsistencies will be found throughout the law, and even when the law is clear, experience shows that its interpretation and application is more suited to the beliefs of the judiciary than the children.
Having a plan means looking at the situation logically rather than emotionally. You have to write out all the advantages and disadvantages of yourself, the mother, and the child.
You are highly motivated, and where there's a will there's a way.
You will be in the company of many other fathers who can offer advice and support.
There is a growing recognition by the courts and society generally of the importance of the father's role.
The situation is changing to your advantage as the children grow up as in almost every case known the child wishes to have contact with the father.
You will miss out on the childhood years of your child.
Other aspects of your life will suffer in many ways due to your distress.
You will be unable to plan for the future in any way that will include your child.
Much of your time, money, and resources, will be spent on the problem without much to show for it.
THE MOTHERS ADVANTAGES:
She has the children and the law backing her.
She is probably able to get legal aid and other forms of financial support.
She will be in contact with numerous other single-mothers who will support her actions.
THE MOTHERS DISADVANTAGES:
The nature of PAS is itself the behaviour of someone who is distressed, so she will not be a happy person.
She will know that the children will be mixing with other children who have fathers, and that her children will be aware of this.
She will not be able to offer the experiences and support of a father. The children will have a higher than normal chance of suffering educationally, emotionally, and socially. She will have to compensate for this in some way at the expense of her own life.
She will know that when the children reach an age of independence they will almost certainly try to contact the father, and she may even lose them altogether.
THE CHILDRENS ADVANTAGES:
There are no advantages for a child to have its parents separated, or if separated, not to have free access to both, but children get older, and with time, question the mothers behaviour.
The disadvantages are losing one half of its family and all the support and experience that represents. A higher than average chance of suffering from many social problems, which may include repeating the cycle over again.
OUTLINING A PLAN.
The first stage is looking for direct contact with the mother and child. Can you meet, write, or phone. If you can, then each instance should include some aspect of continuity. Give your child stamped addressed postcards to send before your next meeting. If the child is old enough give them a phone card. You can even get a 'family' phone card so your child can phone you from anywhere in the world at your cost. If the mother allows it, pay for comics and magazines to be sent to your child so that they are reminded of you regularly. Give your child a couple of phone numbers of people they trust who they can contact if they want to speak to someone.
If you are not allowed to contact your child, ask friends and relatives to do so on your behalf. Get them to send invites and gifts (even if you have to pay for them). If the mother's friends and relatives are still in contact with you, see if they will give you news of the situation. Try to retain good relations with them.
Apart from friends and relatives, the mother and child will have contacts at school, clubs, playgroups, and various local places where the mother and child go. There will be people who make contact with the mother and child and may be able to give you information about them. Remember, the mothers strategy is to block off all information to you. If you are aware that your child plays in the local football team on Saturdays at the park then this will give you some satisfaction from both seeing your child and not being controlled by the mother.
Can you participate in your child's activities? If you are not actually banned from seeing your child, or from seeing only on certain occasions, then you might be able to be a school or club helper. In spite of some mothers choosing to interpret 'defined contact' as the maximum, in fact it is the minimum. You would not be breaking a contact order if you went to a school play or sports event on days outside of your contact providing you went for the event and not to have a one-to-one contact with your child. The same applies if you were a helper in your child's school.
You can create situations that help you without meeting anyone directly connected to your child. Participating in local events will often enable you to get seen and known by people who know the mother and child. If you can involve yourself in activities that get the attention of your child or children who know your child then the chances are that it will get back to them. School and club outings, Council sponsored events, charity shows, library exhibitions, and the like are all places that require helpers. Being helpful and seen can pay off in unexpected ways.
You can also get known by having letters published in local papers and forming groups of other fathers locally. If the mother knows you are presenting your case in a public way (without crossing legal constraints) then she will know it reflects on her. What she wants is for you to disappear. If you have a high profile in the community then obviously you are not going to disappear, and she knows that it is a problem best resolved by acting with more regard for the child.
Chance is a factor. It is quite common for FNF members to meet their children by chance in local places. You can increase the chances by being in the right place at the right time. It is not a good idea to pursue this line, but simply be aware of it. There is also a reasonable chance that someone you know has children who know your child. The school photographer will have pictures of your child. Coincidence is based on probability. Increase your probability of getting information about your child by studying the situation as fully as possible.
Ultimately the answer is for better laws and a more enlightened court system. That will not come easily, but if it is to come at all then it needs all the help it can get. Most fathers finding themselves in this situation quickly learn that the 'legal path' doesn't lead anywhere most of the time. Some members have spent huge sums of money on legal fees without getting results. Just imagine that money being directed to advertising our case in papers, magazines, and letters to authorities. The results would be more significant. In spite of this it is easier to get most fathers to spend several thousand pounds on solicitors fees than to get them to write to their MP and complain. One of the best boosts you will get is knowing that someone in authority has read your letter and given it consideration. You can learn to write letters by reading what others have written. Even if your letter does not get published, the paper you write to will publish similar letters because it knows the subject is controversial. Also, you stand more chance of getting a letter published if it is a reply to something you agree with or disagree with; if it is faxed/emailed in as soon as possible, and is kept short and to the point.
PREDICTING PARENTAL ALIENATION.
The chances of it happening are increased in the following cases:
The mother is foreign.
The mother suffers from depression.
The mother is lonely.
The mother cannot cope with her own life.
The mother is herself from a broken family.
The mother has close friends who are single-mothers.
The mother supports feminist groups.
The mother is able to be independent of the father.
The father spends long periods away from home.
The father does not get on well with the mother's family.
The mother does not get on well with the father's family.
The father is unsupportive, emotionally or financially.
Be suspicious of any indication of the mother not informing you of the child's welfare when she would have previously done so.
As stated above, the mother's main strategy is to stop all communications with the father and anyone connected to him. That also extends to anything that has to do with him. Typically mothers will stop the children going to places he used to take them to. She will remove anything that is likely to remind the child of the father.
CHILDREN'S HATE MAIL
It is likely that you will get hate mail from your child. Children as young as five will send it, and if there is more than one child they will often send hate letters together. The following are examples.
I do not want to go and see you on Friday the 9th in December. Here is a picture. Hope you like it (picture of a train and carriages)
(from A. aged 6)
From two brothers aged 5 and 6
To Peter I am not coming J.
To peter I do NOT want to come with YOU B.
From a 10 year old girl
To my so called "father" Listen, you know what you did. If you don't stop lying then I will never see you again. Now you tell the truth. Now I am telling the truth. I HATE you. And you say that I tell mother about things. Well what about you and Grandman. I hate U! You are a sick man.
From your X daughter C.
I HATE YOU !
To Phil, I Just want to say I still don't want to see you. I haven't changed my mind sing the last court case,
From a 10 year old.
I don't want to see you because I live with my new dad in Germany. I was two and a half years old whey you and mummy broke up and I am ten now. I have lived longer with my new daddy then I did with you. You are a stranger to me. I don't want to see you any more.
Peter does not wont to see you any more. Just leave us alone please. I don't keep your letters or anything you send me. I rip up all your letter even if they have money in them, and any presents you sen, like at Christmas I break up.
Miss Hume knows this. I have not turned up today because I just don't want to see you, and the man at the Court told my mummy that I didn't have to, and that no-one could make me come to see you.
From Roland Bush
All the names have been changed but otherwise shown as written.
The common elements is that the children, even as young as six, put in correct times and dates, and often fairly correct spelling, so this indicates the letters are dictated or corrected. Some children will add "mummy has not asked me to write this letter".
The father is addressed as "To daady", "To John" and in some cases "To Mr Smith" making the letter impersonal.
Usually they sign off with just their first name, but some will sign off with their surname as though they are a stranger. They may even sign off with another name such as their mothers maiden name or her new partners surname.
Quite often presents will be returned unopened, or opened and repacked. The child, if it can write at all, is often made to write the address of the father as though the child had actually packed and sent it pack, though obviously it has not done so. In some cases the child will write something on the outside of the package like "I hate you".
The mentality of someone forcing a child to do this requires no further comment. The child having done this now feels they have cut off the father for good. How would they face the father again having written such a letter. This is all part of the mother's intent.
A common device used by mothers is to actually initiate mediation proceedings. Though outwardly this looks like she wants to resolve the problem, in fact she will use it to publicly state all the faults she finds in the father. He either lets her do this without much comment, in which case he effectively agrees with her, or he spends time denying it, in which case the mediator sees him as someone who is difficult to get on with. Either way the mediation will not lead to any resolution to the problem of him seeing his child.
BEHAVIOUR PATTERNS OF THE MOTHER
Another technique is provocation; to make the father to do or say something that will used against him. If the father can be made to lose his temper then a charge of violence or threatened violence can be brought. Here are a few examples commonly quoted.
The mother will impose very strict and often impractical conditions for the father to pick up, care for, and return the child on his Contact day. Any deviation from these is used against him. Even being a few minutes late in picking up a child might result in him losing the day's Contact.
The mother will arrange alternative activities for the child to coincide with the fathers Contact day and say "The child wants to do something else on that day, and not with you. Can you give up your contact day, or will YOU tell the child that you are stopping it doing the alternative event". This puts the father on the spot. The mother will then tell the child that it must miss the event because "daddy says so" or state that "daddy wants you to go to the other event and not see him". She will do similar things for events by the fathers family, so the child will share celebrations of birthdays, Christmas, etc. with his side of the family.
The mother will duplicate presents the fathers buys, or put the fathers presents out of sight, comment on them unfavourably, etc so that his gifts are ignored by the child.
If the father has holiday time with the child the mother may change arrangements at the last minute so bookings by the father cannot be easily changed.
The child will often be ill or sick on the Contact day, and the mother will assume that the child should stay at her home at such times. The father will not be invited to stay or help.
The father will not be informed of the child's educational progress or medical welfare, etc.
The father may be asked for extra money to buy such things as clothes for the child, but will not be allowed to buy the clothes for the child directly.
The mother will write to the father of changes in Contact times when a phone call could just as easily be made.
The mother will ignore or misinterpret any questions the father asks her about her intent regarding Contact and other issues related to the child.
The mother will use any excuse regarding the father's lifestyle, attitudes, friends, competence in child minding and the like, to deprive him of Contact time.
Anything the fathers says in questioning the mother will be interpreted as "Trying to start a row". This will often be done in front of the child.
Toys or equipment meant for the child's daily use such a bicycle, will not be allowed left at the mothers house for the child's use, making it virtually useless for the child. Or is left there, might get 'accidentally broken, yet the father will not be allowed to fix it.
The father will not be allowed to buy the child a pet to be left at the mother's house.
If a child requires something like a computer for school work, and the father is computer literate while the mother isn't, he will not be allowed to help the child or give the child access to his computer other than on Contact days, irrespective of the child's obvious need.
The mother may use the child to send messages to the father but not allow the father to send back messages via the child.
She will insist that you detail where you take the child and under what conditions. She will not inform you of anything she does with the child.
She may ask for extra money for the child, and present the request in such a way that it obviously implies you will lose out on contact if you don't make the offer.
If you do anything to help the child the mother may thank you in way she might thank a stranger doing a favour.
Should you buy the child clothes she will criticise your taste or understanding of the child's needs.
She will tell the child that the court 'doesn't allow it to see the father more that on the court order' when in fact the court order only states the minimum contact time.
She will allow the child to miss homework during the week so that it has to be done in your contact time, so vying with anything else you will have arranged.
She will interpret you contact time as being the total amount of time available for all purposes. If your parents want to see their grandchild it will have to come out of your contact time.
If she sees you in the street when she is with the child she will ignore you and force the child to do the same.
If you participate in school/club events and see your child there she will tell your that you are not allowed to do it. She may well contact the school and inform them (incorrectly) that the court has banned you from such events.
If you have a new partner she will insist that the new partner is not involved in contact times as it distresses the child.
If you send your child gifts on special occasions they will get 'overlooked' on the day.
If you phone your child and she takes the phone she will say the child is busy or out. If the child takes the phone she will listen in or interrupt the child.
The above are typical. Anyone who have been through the alienation process will recognise the pattern. The overall strategy is 'bloody mindedness' by the mother who will take every opportunity to make life difficult for the father whether or not it reflects upon the child's happiness.
The mother is showing that 'she is in control'. She will do that in a variety of ways ranging from ignoring you to humiliating you. Paradoxically she is able to do it on the basis that you love your child so much you will put up with it. If you didn't love your child you would walk away, she assumes you will not, so will push her control as far as she can. The pattern of behaviour follows the usual steps of:
(2) Hostile silence
(3) Restricted communication
(4) No communication
(5) Hostile action.
In all, the mother will look for any way of undermining your position in the knowledge that if you retaliate in kind she can stop contact and use your retaliation as evidence of your attitude towards her (not the child). It will be her intent to use such provocative behaviour to push you past your limits and act in a way that can be quoted against you.
THE FATHER'S STRATEGY
The fathers approach is to accept that this provocation will happen, and not let it have the intended objective of making him angry to the point where it can be used against him. Keep a record of it. Do not react in kind. At worst write to the mother pointing out the pattern of disruption and showing that it affects the child adversely. If she has a solicitor you might send it to him/her and ask for the mother to be reminded that such behaviour is disturbing to the child as well as provoking unnecessary rows. You may have to arrange to meet up in a neutral territory so that the mother has less chance of doing these things.
Overall your plan is to do something. If you can do something that directly contacts your child then do that. If you can do something that indirectly contacts your child then do that. If you can do something that keeps up your fathering skills do that. If you can do something that promotes the father's cause generally, then do that. If you can do none of these, then at least keep yourself busy so that you do not get depressed or in a state that leaves you open to the criticism of not being a capable father even if given the chance.
WILL YOU LOSE YOUR CHILDREN?
If you can retain some form of contact then it is unlikely, but it some cases it could be years before you see them again. From a survey taken on this, children usually start coming back to the father in early teenage years. There are several reasons for this.
They grow independent of the mother.
They want money.
They find they can control the mother with threats of seeing the father.
They have a natural curiosity and emotional need to know their father.
The father offers an alternative lifestyle that may well be inherent in the child.
FNF gets thousands of cases of PAS. The most common being a foreign wives or women with a history of emotional illness. In many cases the mother needs help. It seems that only a small percentage of mothers who indulge in PAS are normal, stable, and independent. These would more typically be professional women who have another partner and exploit loopholes in the law to get rid of the father. FNF also gets many letters from grandparents who lose their grandchildren, and second wives who suffer (often intentionally) from the mother's behaviour towards the father in using the children as weapons.
Part of the problem is that most studies of broken families are carried out by women for women. This is not to say they are carried out against fathers but simply the father's side has not been given full consideration. It is only now that this is happening, and is more the outcome of the Child Support Agency investigations than a study of fatherhood in itself. It is for this reason that FNF has to rely upon our member's own experiences to get the information needed for progress to be made.
Fathers who can stay in contact with their children somehow or other will almost certainly gain regular access to them again.
Fathers who can retain some form of communication with the mother will probably regain access.
Fathers who have some form of network, family, neighbours, friends, etc., who can keep in contact with the child or mother will probably regain access.
Fathers who rely on the court system to help them will certainly be disappointed.
This may seem an extreme action, but look at who is actually involved in your case.
Your solicitor. He will certainly have your best interests at heart, but it is still work for him whether he wins or loses.
The Court Welfare Officer. She will do at least one case a week. At most she will only have about three hours to discuss your case, and probably two days to write it up. It is likely that her decision will be made on her personal reaction to those involved rather than on the evidence. Court reports are notorious for being full of mistakes, misinterpretations, and omissions. Also, even though CWO may be well intended, sympathetic, and knowledgeable, in the end they carry no weight in court. The report may be completely ignored by the court. This hardly motivates the CWO to produce much more than an outline of the case. Apart from this, many CWO's take on the job as a second career. The 'no win' aspect of the job does not attract high flyers.
Many have very little experience or training in the area of Family law or child psychology. If they are women, then it is likely they have more experience at being mothers than being court officers. This is often reflected in their assessments. It is a very common experience for fathers to have the CWO tell him how well he can cope with his children, only to find the court report stating the very opposite.
A good CWO is probably your best friend. If they like you, and believe you have a good case they will give you better unbiased advice than anyone else. It is a pity that they have little power to help in a more practical way.
The Magistrate. Family law magistrates are predominantly women, and likely to be mothers. Though well intended, they may well feel that what is good for the mother is good for the child. A typical magistrate may well have been a legal secretary or similar occupation prior to becoming a magistrate. They have a background in legal technicalities, but not years of training that allow the broad interpretations of the law to be applied. Many apply the law in the sense that a traffic warden applies the Highway code. In all, you are better off if you can avoid having your case tried in a Magistrates court.
The Judge. At County Court level you will get a mixture of Judges. The worst are those who feel it is beneath them to deal with the 'litigant in person'. It is well known that some Judges will always turn down a father who presents his own case. Others are simply out of touch with what is going on, or use the court for their own performance. Because the court is what it is, one cannot act and say as one would in other circumstances, but a just look through a book of aphorisms relating to Law and Judges will show that they haven't changed all that much over the ages. Of course, a good Judge is one who can help. But as many know, the Judges insistence that a mother obeys the court order is no guarantee that she will.
The Mother's solicitor. He/she is your worst enemy. It is to his benefit if he can 'win' - by which we mean take your children away from you, or at least keep the matter going for years. The mothers solicitor represents the mother, not the child.
The Child Psychiatrist. These generally agree the problem is between the parents and not the father and child. Most will advise mediation. Most mothers refuse. Most Judges will not insist on counselling between the parents, though in the USA this is now a common approach and a successful one. Most child Psychiatrists and Psychologists agree that the courts are a waste of time in resolving family problems.
IS THERE HOPE?
Several ideas have been proposed, and some tried with success.
In some States in the USA make joint custody automatic. This has cut down divorce and PAS.
Arbitration services can be used instead of courts. These will only work though if the father owns property or something the mother wants, and they can make an agreement that includes child contact.
Mediation to the ends of amicable agreements between the parents on contact instead of for reconciliation.
Changes in the law that give unmarried fathers the same rights as married fathers, and gives married fathers the rights implied in marriage.
Enforcement of court orders on Contact.
Replacement of the Court Welfare Service with a service related to families rather than to criminal probation.
Virtual Family courts on the Internet whereby much of the paperwork can be settled quickly so that cases are not drawn out and hostilities increase.
The situation is basically that the father will have great difficulty in seeing his children unless:
The mother stands to gain by letting him see them.
The mother stands to lose if she doesn't let him see them.
Though the legal situation may not change, the circumstances do. Children grow up, want more, become independent, argue with the mother and feel deprived of the father and what he can offer. A father deprived of his children has lost more than can be put into words, but he is in a better position to start a new family (and very many do). He has more chance of following a career, more chance of development in his interests.
The mother has the children, and initially all the benefits, but without the father she has to devote all her time to the children, and in many cases this totally occupies her. Once the children are in their teens she may lose them and have little else in life. Even if she has another partner, the children rarely accept the new father totally. Put another way, a mother who alienates the children against the father has a short-term gain against a long term loss. She will never regain her children's confidence when they are adults, and many are bitter when they realise they lost the father due to the mothers attitude to father rather than the fathers attitude to them. There is also the aspect of the father's Will. The mother aware that she will not inherit anything from the father may dismiss his resources, but the children who find they have lost their inheritance from him due to her may feel cheated by her, not him.
IF YOU CANNOT GO TO THE COURTS, WHAT DO YOU DO?
In practice you cannot avoid the courts totally, but they should be used as a last resort.
Though you may not gain much by going to court, you can use the courts for your own purpose to some extent. Typically they are places that muddle along without much sense of purpose. Papers get lost, hearings are cancelled at the last moment, they fail to pass on Court Welfare reports to the father, fax and phone calls don't get answered, and any help you get from the court services will be incidental. All of this can be extremely frustrating, and the longer you go without seeing your children the worse the situation gets.
It is likely that the mother will get legal aid while the father does not. The mother's solicitor will generally assume that you will put your case forward in the court, but if you do not have a solicitor you can write many letters to her solicitor in such a way that much of the case is presented prior to it coming to court.
For example, if the mother has cancelled your contact time on trivial excuses you might write a stream of letters to him pointing out the various ploys she has used to stop contact. Having put these in writing he has to pass them onto your ex-partner who then has to refute them, explain them, or ignore them. Whatever she does can be used as evidence. It is also a way of stating her behaviour to her solicitor, which may well contradict her version of events to him. Though this is a psychological 'game' it is one that is part of the normal pattern of events.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
When fathers join FNF or a similar group they do so because of their own problem. They assume that others have been through the same problems and know the answers. It is a great disappointment to find that so often there are no simple answers, just help in making you more aware of what is to come. On the other hand, there is a constant demand by the media for people with problems to talk about them, particularly where it involves children. If you are prepared to write to the papers, appear on radio or TV you help the cause generally. Making yourself familiar with the laws and background relating to these problems generally means that you can bring the issues to the public, and make it that much easier to get things done.
Perhaps the biggest problem men have is their inability to discuss their emotions, how they feel about losing their children. Unlike mothers who have a similar situation, men rarely cry on someone's shoulder. It is something you have to learn to do. Not only does it help to discuss your feelings; just talking about a problem will often help resolve it.
For this reason the questionnaire is included. Fill it in and return it to FNF, it will help us see what patterns come up in various circumstances.
REPLY TO RELEVANT QUESTIONS, AND ADD ADDITIONAL MATERIAL AS YOU FEEL APPROPRIATE.
Make sure your answers are numbered.
1. Are you Married/unmarried to mother.
1.1 Your age.
1.2 Which county or country (if outside UK) do you live?
1.3 Do you have a new partner?
1.4 If so, do you have children by your new partner, or does she have children you look after?
2. ABOUT YOUR CHILD2.1 What are the ages and genders of your children?
2.2 If more than one child, do they act differently to the situation?
2.3 In which county/country do your children live?
3. NATIONALITY3.1 You
3.2 Your ex-partner
3.3 Your children
4. CONTACT (CURRENTLY)4.1 Reunited
5. FORM OF CONTACT5.1 Do you send letters/gifts? If so, how often?
5.2 Are these accepted, ignored, returned?
5.3 Do your children send letters to you?
5.4 If so, are they friendly or hostile?
5.5 If they are hostile, do they claim to be sent voluntarily (stating that the mother has not asked them to be sent)
5.6 Do you phone your children?
5.7. Are calls accepted?
5.8 If so, is it easy to speak on the phone (does the mother monitor calls)?
5.9 Do you meet your child? If so, how often?5.9.1 Are visits at your home, the mothers home, some neutral location?
5.9.2 Do you have privacy with your child. Is the contact restricted in some way?
5.9.3 Is the time with your child tense or open and easy?
6. OTHER CONTACTS6.1 Does your child have contact with any of your friends or relatives?
6.2 If so, is it voluntary on the part of the mother or is it part of your contact time?
6.3 Is your child uneasy with anyone you know?
7. INFORMATION7.1 Do you get easy access to information about your child's education, health, etc?
7.2 Are you prevented by the court from having such information?
7.3 If not, does the school or authorities accept your right to such information?
.4 If you have no direct contact, do you get information about your child from friends, neighbours, acquaintances etc?
7.5 Do you get information from anyone who is in direct contact with you ex-partner or child?
8. ABOUT YOUR EX-PARTNER8.1 Has your ex-partner deliberately stopped or disrupted contact, and in any way alienated your child against you?
8.2 How severe would you rate this?
8.3 Do you believe your ex-partner intends to get rid of you entirely from the childs life, or is it part of hostility between you and your ex-partner that the child is caught up in?
8.4 Do you have direct contact with your partner?
8.5 Does your ex-partner have a new partner she wishes to be seen as the childs father?
8.6 What do you think the REAL reason is for your ex-partners behaviour (there may be several reasons, and reasons may have changed over time).
8.7 Do you think you could negotiate with your ex-partner if she would listen?
8.8 Do you think your ex-partners behaviour is her own doing or is she persuaded by others (new partner, family, friends)?
8.9 Has your ex-partner offered to let you see the children but under unacceptable conditions to you?
8.9.1 Is your ex-partner foreign?
8.9.2 Has your ex-partner suffered from depression or emotional problems that prevent her from coping with her own life?
8.9.3 Has your ex-partner made false accusations against you regarding your treatment of her or the child?
8.9.4 Have these accusations been accepted without checking by the authorities?
8.9.5 Has your ex-partner ever provoked you into arguments or actions that have later been used against you?
9. THE LEGAL SYSTEM9.1 Do you have PRO?
9.2 How often have you taken your case to court?
9.3 Do you feel the CWO's, solicitors, social workers etc involved have understood your case or acted in a biased way?
9.4 Do you feel that matters could have been settled easier if not taken to court?
9.5 What do you think might have been the best course to take when you separated from your ex-partner?
10. OTHER ISSUES10.1 Were you or your ex-partner alienated against your own parents?
10.2 Do you have friends or relatives who give you emotional support?
10.3 If so, are they willing to act on your behalf in these matters?
10.4 To what extent has the loss of your children affected your life style, finances, etc.
10.5 Has this problem made you ill in any way?
10.6 With hindsight, is there anything you feel you should, or should not have done, that would have improved the situation.
11. Do you have any advice for others based on your experience?11.1 At what point do you feel the situation went out of your hands?
12. Do you feel that there might be alternatives to lawyers, Court Welfare Officers, Family courts that would be beneficial for Family disputes?12.1 Would you go to mediation, Family therapy, counselling if it was available?
Please add questions that you feel are relevant, and comment on the questionnaire.Replies (marked outside PAS) to be sent to FNF head office at:Stan Hayward, Research Officer
134 Curtain Rd
London EC2A 3AR
The following websites deal with various aspects of PAS
Extensive information on PAS at:http://custodywar.com
http://fact.on.ca/Info/info_pas.htm (corrected from original)
http://search.excite.com/relocate/sr=webresult\ss=+parental%2Bali (appears broken)