PARENTAL ALIENATION PROVIDES JUSTIFICATION FOR CHANGES TO CHILD ARRANGEMENTS
After divorce proceedings negative feelings often remain between the parties. In some cases, the parent with custody of the children projects those negative feelings towards the ex-spouse onto their children. Over time, the children adopt those negative feelings as their own. This process of projection and negative association is known as Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS.
Illinois courts and lawyers for children are increasingly taking a stand against PAS by protecting the rights of non-custodial parents in custody disputes after the divorce. In instances where PAS is proven, the family courts move quickly to enforce visitation and alter custody arrangements.
What Is PAS?
PAS is broadly defined as any action taken by a parent that negatively affects theperception a child has of the non-custodial parent or interferes with that parent’s access to visitation. Examples include:
- Manipulative language
- Insulting or belittling the ex-spouse
- Constant rejection of one parent by the child, such as refusal to attend visitation
The PAS Debate
Opponents of PAS claim the theory lacks sufficient scientific merit and testability to be considered legally admissible. They also claim PAS tends to target mothers as the alienators, giving the claims of PAS a gendered bias. Those in favor of PAS, including lawyers for children, argue that alienation is a form of mental and emotional abuse, and must be addressed in the interest of the children.
Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court set a legal precedent for using PAS as justification for modifying child custody. In the case, the mother repeatedly violated the father’s rights. She intentionally scheduled medical treatments during the father’s visit, causing the cancelation of visitation. She then informed the children that the father canceled and abandoned them. She sent the father and his lawyer pictures of a supposedly sick child and canceled a planned visitation, only to be caught faking the photographs. Later, she attempted to drive a wedge between the children and their aunt by filing an order of protection against the aunt, and forcing the children to testify at trial. As a result of her repeated violations of the court’s rulings, the appellate court awarded sole custody of the children to the father and allowed him to move the family to Florida.
Lawyers for children now have an additional tool to use when fighting for a change to custody arrangements. Modern custody decisions are far from written in stone, and the new tools provide better and more equitable custody for both parents.
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