In a recent blog I discussed the concept of “parental alienation”, and in particular how some separated or divorced custodial parents make concerted long-term efforts to influence (one might say, brainwash) a child so that he or she does not want to spend time with the other access parent. In many cases, it’s part of a parental plot to eliminate the access parent from the child’s life entirely.
From the custodial parent’s standpoint, the sanctions and repercussions for that sort of behavior can be severe. In an unusual-but-important case from several years ago, the court ordered that three children, ages 14, 11, and 9, who had been in their mother’s custody their entire lives, were nonetheless to be immediately placed in the custody of their father.
The couple had met while working as medical professionals in the same hospital. Even after realizing that they were expecting a child together, the mother and her extended family took steps to distance themselves from the father. Eventually, the couple married and had two more children, and when they later separated, there was no formal order obtained in order to deal with child custody. Instead, they went to live with the mother essentially by default. What followed was a concerted campaign by the mother to thwart the father’s every effort to see or maintain a relationship with them, as the court found.
Still – and despite the mother’s steadfast manoeuvers — the father persisted in asserting his legal rights over the years, culminating in a series of court orders and then a successful application to have custody switched to him outright.
The court explained some of the factual background, as well as its rationale for changing custody in such a dramatic way:
The three children of the marriage have been alienated from the [father] over a long period because [the mother] is unable to accept that it is in the best interests of the children to have a relationship with their father. She has been given several opportunities to change her behaviour over many years, and refuses to do so. I find that her unrelenting behaviour toward the children is tantamount to emotional abuse … The views and preferences of the two older children are not their own. And for the children to have any further contact with the [mother], significant therapeutic intervention is necessary.
It is remarkable that [the father] has not given-in to the [mother’s] persistence in keeping his children from him over the last fourteen years and simply gone on with his life without the children as, no doubt, many other parents in the same situation would have and, indeed, have done. It is now time for his and the children’s fates to be free from [the mother’s] control. She has shown that she cannot be entrusted with it.
The best interests of these children require an order for [the father] to have sole custody of them.
For the full text of the decision, see: