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Parental Alienation Syndrome in Michigan Custody, Divorce Courts

Divorce is an emotional experience for everyone involved and this is especially true for children. In high-conflict divorces, the children often unfairly find themselves in the middle of the process, with some parents attempting to turn the child against the other.

In the 1980s, the late Dr. Richard Gardner introduced his theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). According to research published in the American Journal of Family Therapy, the concept of PAS involves a child aligning himself or herself with one parent and rejecting a relationship with the other without legitimate reasons.

In cases of PAS, Dr. Gardner noted that children may exhibit some or all of the eight characteristic behaviors:

  • The child will continue to disparage the alienated parent
  • Attempt to rationalize the criticism of the alienated parent
  • Lack of uncertainty in their feelings towards both parents
  • The independent-thinker phenomenon, where the child asserts that the reasons for animosity toward one parent are his or her own
  • Automatic support of the preferred parent against the alienated parent
  • An absence of guilt over exploitation and mistreatment of the alienated parent
  • Borrowed scenarios — where the reasons for the animosity actually belong to the alienating parent
  • The child’s animosity toward the alienated parent spreads to the extended family

According to research in the American Journal of Family Therapy, PAS has been noted in psychiatric literature for over 60 years, but only recently has it been considered for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM, as it is commonly known, is closely used by mental health professionals around the world as the standard classification tool for mental disorders.

PAS in Child Custody

PAS is a commonly discussed phenomenon in child custody and visitation disputes. Whether the parties’ dispute arises during the initial divorce process or a post-divorce child custody battle, a child’s behavior will often be a central focus in the legal conflict.

If you suspect or fear that your child is being alienated against you, it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney. While you should continue to comply with all child support and custody orders, an attorney can inform you of your options.