October 21st 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Reality of family unit must underlie tax system

EDITORIAL Christianity today: the challenges ahead

CANBERRA OBSERVED Xenophon: a Mr Fixit or a political yo-yo?

DRUGS POLICY Science elbowed aside in rush for latest silver bullet: 'medical marijuana'

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE Decoys to revolutionary laws redefining sex and marriage

FOREIGN AFFAIRS What is the way out of the Catalan crisis?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Our barmy Army: all politically correct

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The child as weapon in Family Court process

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Faiths and the global future

KOREA Hermit Kingdom versus the Land of Morning Calm

MUSIC Hi-tech lo-fi: Resistance is futile

CINEMA Blade Runner 2049: A cypher unlocking a mystery

BOOK REVIEW The rebels

BOOK REVIEW An attempt to break through the fog


HUMOUR More excerpts from the forthcoming revision of Forget's Dictionary of Inaccurate Facts, Furphys and Falsehoods


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE: George Christensen calls Parliament's attention to activists' end-game

EUTHANASIA Victoria mistakes killing for compassion

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The child as weapon in Family Court process

by Amanda Sillars

News Weekly, October 21, 2017

Next time you hear a parent denigrate or make claims of abuse against an ex-partner with whom they had children and, at one time, a loving relationship, think again. Be careful not always to accept these kinds of stories at face value.

Emotionally abusive parents often play the victim; they’re often very believable and good at convincing others to side with them and to believe their characterisation of people and events. We all know how gossip spreads quickly and allegations, once made, tend to stick.

These scenarios, known to many as “parental alienation”, have become rife in the Family Court system and children are being used as weapons and leverage to destroy targeted parents emotionally, financially and physically. The Family Courts say they are acting in “the best interests of children”, but how can they claim this when they are not even evaluating the outcomes of their own decisions? There is no follow-up at all on outcomes of court judgements.

The Family Court process makes these cases significantly worse by drawing them out over many years, allowing one parent to isolate a child or children from the other parent without any intervention or penalties. The child is left in emotional turmoil with no tools to cope and no support. Targeted parents spend their lives under the magnifying glass, having to defend and explain themselves in a legal system that has very little understanding of this insidious form of emotional abuse.

Family courts, child protection services and misused violence restraining orders allow an emotionally abusive parent to buy time to influence the child and their entire community. Interviewing, questioning and counselling techniques used with child witnesses are often so suggestive that they can substantially alter a child’s recollections of events and thus compromise the reliability of the child’s personal knowledge. By the time a case is heard, children have been deeply manipulated and the emotionally abusive parent has often developed a team (sometimes including school staff and other parents) who have sided with them. With the prolonged timescales of court procedures, children often get to an age where the courts want to hear “the voice of the child”.

These days, children of all ages, even as young as six, are being asked which parent they want to live with. There seem to be no age limits any more. Yet, international experts agree that this is harmful for the child.

During this process a child is often turned into a traitor, used to spy on the other parent, and subjected to many other alienating tactics. The targeted parent is portrayed as a bad or an abusive, “all bad” parent, everything they do or say is distorted into something bad: while the alienating parent is seen as the protective, “all wonderful” parent.

Over time the child is subtly manipulated and influenced to reject the other parent without legitimate justification. The parent-child relationship is severed and the child becomes angry, fearful and/or disrespectful towards the erased parent. Yet, alienated children grieve for the parent they’ve lost and they carry immense guilt for being forced to choose one parent over another.

Many children are interrogated for information about the other parent after every visit. Some children are giving in to the pressure and confess to abuse that did not happen to appease the controlling parent. In cases where false allegations of abuse or sexual abuse arise, the child often ends up with false memories while suppressing positive memories of the targeted parent.

Gone forever

Childhood cannot be relived. Once it is over it is gone forever. That sense of history, intimacy, lost input of values and morals, self-awareness through knowing one’s beginnings, cannot be recaptured. No more physical or emotional affection, special moments and fun times together, these memories are suppressed and often forgotten.

Often the extended family of the “erased” parent is also removed from the child’s life, so no more traditional family celebrations or gatherings for Christmas, birthdays, and Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. No more visits with grandma and grandpa.

Many children never recover from this form of emotional abuse. Those children and teens that do eventually reunite with the erased parent often leave siblings behind and end up alienated from them in turn. The months and years that follow reunification need to be spent unpacking the damage caused from the emotional and psychological manipulation of parental alienation.

Many alienated children who reunite with the targeted parent return suffering from depression, eating disorders, sleep problems, complex grief, poor body image, weight loss/gain, brain fog, physical fatigue, lack of friendships, substance abuse, social identity problems and loneliness. In the most extreme cases, various forms of self-harm even lead to suicide.

We need to keep children as far away from courts as possible. But, where courts do become involved, they need to step in and compel parents to co-parent and penalise those who won’t. They need to put protection orders in place so that children can reunify without the pressure and influences of the alienating parent or to transfer residency of children where required and make orders for therapy for those who need it.

Children desperately need judges to take the pressure off them by not forcing them to choose one parent over the other, and by identifying when a protective separation from an alienating parent is necessary to end this emotional and psychological abuse. Children otherwise have to live with this burden for the rest of their lives.

Amanda Sillars is a lived experience educator of parental alienation and founder of the Eeny Meeny Miney Mo Foundation, a charity committed to reducing the prevalence and impact of parental alienation. She also collaborates with the University of Tasmania on research into parental alienation. parentalalienation.org.au/research.html

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