Mother shaming: the dynamics of the alienating father

It is often said that parental alienation is not a gender issue, by this people mean that the issue can affect either mothers or fathers. At first glance however, it would appear that alienated mothers are in the minority, but in reality they are not so small a group.  What faces alienated mothers however is something so deeply unpleasant and so deeply shaming, that it is small wonder that so many women in these circumstances do not reveal to the outside world what has happened to them.  Not only do alienated mothers face the loss of their children and all of the grief and suffering that goes with that, they face the hostile and deeply suspicious attitudes of society at large, where the belief that if a mother has lost her children, she must have done something dreadful to deserve it, is an obstinate and poisonous mindset.

This mindset is one that the alienating father is often quick to feed by exploiting the assumptions that other people make about mothers who are not the main carers of their children.  Manouvering a child into a position where he is expressing fear of his mother and making allegations about her behaviour towards him, is a key component of the strategy used by alienating fathers.  Whilst in this respect it is similar to those which are used by alienating mothers, the alienating father will seek to ensure that the belief structures held by many professionals, about the importance of mothering and its primary function in a child’s life are utilised to the full in the process of convincing the outside world that this mother is not fit to be a mother and this mother has caused her own child to reject her.

On another blog this week I read a comment in which it was asserted that non resident mothers are either drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes or dead.  I kid you not.  In taking this person to task on the matter it became clear that this belief system runs rife even through the mind sets of those who want a more egalitarian way of parenting after separation.  When men who seek shared care, loftily and without even blinking, proclaim that non resident mothers are to be thus described, is it any wonder that so many women fight to maintain the role of primary carer after separation and would not choose to share care even if they wanted to?  For alienated mothers, exploited, shamed and shoved to the outer margins of our society (as well as their own children’s lives) what hope is there when such horrible attitudes exist?

Alienated mothers are a group of people for whom there is very little support and very little written which is dedicated to them. In the UK there is one support group called MATCH which is lifeline for women in this situation and whilst Families needs Fathers welcomes mothers as well as fathers  this may not be readily apparent to mothers in this situation, (leading me to believe that they really should get their act together and call themselves Families need Mothers AND Fathers).

The truth of the matter is that parental alienation IS a gender issue.  It is a gender issue because the experience of being an alienated mother or an alienated father, whilst having much in common internally, in the endless loss and lack of completion of the process of grieving and the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that this brings, is a DIFFERENT experience externally.  This difference is caused by the gendered attitudes of the people around us, by the professionals who attempt to assist parents and by the internalised gendered expectations of the parents AND their children.  A good mother is ‘supposed’ to be a mother who is eternal and ever present.  A good mother is the parent who cares.  A good mother is there when her children get home.  A mother who is alienated and whose children are making allegations about her being not good, is a mother who faces first the horror of her own alienation and then the horror of other people’s suspicions about why her children have rejected her.  The final nail in the coffin of her self confidence and belief is then the disbelief of the professionals around her who, having fallen foul of their own assumptions about good mothers, walk blindly into the trap set by the alienating father in swallowing whole the projection of the mother as the cruel/evil/hopeless/ wrong doer.

This theme is very common in situations where children become alienated from their mothers and whilst many commentators will say that it is also true where children are alienated from their fathers, different attitudes about mothering and fathering, in the professionals around the family, act to create distinctly different outcomes.

For some professionals for example, the thought of a child being alienated from a mother by a father raises the question of whether this is a domestic violence situation in which the father is using the child as a weapon against the mother.  In others, the assumption that the child’s rejection is because of something the mother has done, is easier to go with, especially if the father does not readily present as the stereotype of the violent and aggressive man that they expect to see.  When a child is alienated against a father by a mother, it is often more readily accepted as being simply the collatoral damage of the separation itself, the assumption being that so long as the child is loved by the mother then that is all that is necessary.  In others a child alienated against a father has to have been abused by that man in order for the rejection to have occurred.  Some Judges may feel comfortable with the idea of removal of a child from a father, but removal of a child from a mother may be an anethema.  Similarly, the alienated mother who faces allegations from her child, may be more suspicious to professionals because her role is to be good and there in her child’s life and if she is not then she cannot deserve the intervention that will change the dynamic.  So much depends upon the outside world and the beliefs held about mothers and fathers that the alienating father, alive to the assumptions that other people make, will set up the child to confirm the worst of the negative stereotypes about the not good enough mother.

In many respects this is an issue which should be of deep concern to feminists given their focus on the rights of women and the ways in which they are exploited by men but it isn’t.  Alienated mothers seem to face the same kind of dismissal of their reality by feminists as they do by the population at large.  In a recent case I was astounded at how social workers who we consider to be working in a feminist industry, swallowed the whole of the tale of a mother who had caused her children to reject her by taking them on holiday to Cornwall instead of the Caribbean.  This ‘abusive’ act had even been cited as one of the reasons why the mother was not able to put her children’s needs before her own.  The lack of understanding and the complete lack of analysis of why children would use such frivolous reasons for rejecting wholesale a relationship with a mother they had been close to up until only 18 months previously, astonished me.  When I questioned them about their understanding of the Duleth Model approach to domestic violence and whether this might just be a case that fitted into this post separation as it likely had prior to it, it was their turn to be astonished.  Feminist approaches to post separation support appear to me to rely upon the presence of the stereotyped mother as carer and father as either hopeless and refusing payer of child maintenance or demanding and controlling absent parent. Reverse that dynamic and it is as if the ability to analyse the reality disappears out of the window. The truth is that much of the alienated mother shaming that I see happening is perpetuated by those feminist trained professionals who profess to care so much for women.  Which is another reason why this group of alienated parents is invisible and unable to share their experience widely.

Mothers AND fathers are alienated from their children and both suffer immensely.  For mothers the loss of the role of carer as well as the loss of the relationship with their children is a burden made heavier by the attitudes of people around them. That is not to say that alienated fathers do not suffer equally, they do and their burdens are made heavier by the attitudes of those around them too, only those attitudes are often different, more dismissive and less caring whilst those facing women are more inquisitive, judgemental and damning.

All of course made so much worse by the very attitudes that poison the world that post separation parenting takes place in. The notion that the only good non resident mother is a dead one, featured strongly this week. It is the other side of the belief that the only good resident father is a widowed one, which is also strong across our society.  It speaks of our deeply held societal beliefs about men and women and what they should be doing in the world.  It is outdated, it is shaming and it needs to stop.  When the only good separated mothers and fathers are those who willingly and co-operatively work together after separation, then we will live in a modern society in which alienation as a crime against children will be recognised and acted upon swiftly and decisively.  Until then we must work to eradicate the ignorance that causes the already deeply wounded to suffer even more.

59 Comments

  1. Yes, social conditioning stigmatises mothers more. As an example, I watched this YouTube video where it is clear to me that the mother has been alienated by the father. I commented that the boy needs his loving mother as much as his father and my comment was removed by YouTube because of too many negatives.
    Simply put, people abhorred the mother because her 14 year old son did not want her in his life.

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    1. This is a perfect example of parental alienation! In the end you can hear the dad praising his son for standing up to his mother! Shame on the dad. It is not the son’s fault. He is being brainwashed and likely he is greatly blowing the accusations of his mother out of proportion. my nephew was coached like this against his mom and told everyone how she “scratched” his arm, which was a complete accident. She was devastated by his refusal to visit her home after this, and encouraged by his dad, who only wanted more child support.

      The courts have no idea what is actually happening here!

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      1. I kicked this guy out of our group after he tried to show us “what a self enlightened child can do”
        Please do not make alienation a gender issue, it hurts us all. However, I do think national mothers group are not serving their members well enough by refusing to accept shared parenting as an option. And I also think mothers groups may have to lead the fight for shared parenting, or at least get out of the way. Here in Texas, judges have said they don’t have many options for joint custody. It is a “all or nothing” state. At our monthly meetings I hear tragic stories from both men and women. Believe me, Fathers also face the hostile and deeply suspicious attitudes of society at large. It is too late for me, but I dream of a day when child can have both parents in their lives, no matter how imperfect the parents are.

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    2. I decided to leave my husband when my kids were 14 and 18. We had been together for 20 years. He had always been a pretty selfish person and not a very good dad, I was always trying to build a bond with our kids and there dad. About 4 years before I left it had got to the point with our son where he was saying daily he doesn’t know why his dad hates him. I tried to make my husband understand what he was doing and him show our son that he loves him, but all he would do is get mad at our son for telling me saying that! Then the worst thing happened. My husband got cancer. . . The next 2 years were hell! I did everything to take care of my husband, I would have died for him! My kids were so scared that there dad was so close to dieing the loved him in a new way and wanted to do anything for him. After he got better I thought: “now he is going to appreciate his family and we are all going to be closer” but I was so wrong… SO SO WRONG! He became so very selfish and couldn’t careless what anyone else needed or wanted. He hurt me more then I could say. I had finally had enough. I couldn’t get him to move out, he absolutely refused. So I said I was going to stay with my brother till we figured this out. I thought he wouldnt be able to handle the kids and tell me i could stay in the house. But it turns out 14 and 18 can pretty much take care of them selfs! Uhg! He knew that I love my kids more than anything. When he knew I wasn’t going to go back to him he started in on our kids telling them I must being doing drugs to leave! That I left them.. I don’t live tgem enough to keep our family together. He has said the most horrific things to our kids… and anyone else who will listen! He went through my things one time and found some underwear he thought were new, put them up on the big wall mirror and wrote in lipstick “does he lick your pussy in these” but I didn’t see it… MY KIDS DID FOR 4 DAYS! And that’s not the worst thing he has done! It took almost a year but my daughter doesn’t believe him anymore and just learns to handle him. My son on the other hand has stopped seeing me and niw even stopped talking to me or responding to my text! I don’t know what to do! !

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    3. This video made me cry. I admire this mother so much for her love and patience. My heart goes out to her. The father should congratulate himself for making such a good job of poisoning his son against his mother, and destroying his young life.

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    4. Based on the court record on the internet, it appears that the father owes aound $250,000 in back alimony and child support for his 4 children. From this video, it appears obvious that he has been coaching Parker for some time – no doubt he is using his child as a pawn to demonstrate how unfit his mother is – so he can get out of his very real financial obligation as a “Father.”

      As far as Parker’s behaviour goes, it is in appropriate as a 14 year old to disobey your mother to come into the house. No doubt his mom’s “abuse” is her attempt to teach rules and boundaries to her children – which is obviously what the Father is intentionally undermining. Society has rules and laws, and it is essential that childern be taught to respect these rules and laws – else children will end up in prison as adults and cost all of us taxpayers money to support them whereas they should be productive members of society.As far as the police officers go,

      I do not blame the mother for calling the police; however, it is infuriating to have to see police officers show up to a scene to witness a 14 year old throwing a fit while his father encourages it – because the police have real work to do and this takes away from others who may really need the police. Note that the police did not side with the father, they just had better things to do – literally – and the father was eventually sentenced to 60 days in jail for this stunt.

      As far as how Parker is doing – on his 17th birthday with his Father he looks like a child who is too afraid to show any genuine emotion to his father and he starts of by making statment that he is closer to death, He also points out that he is not in prison yet. I would take the him at his word and interpret this as a call for help – sadly, I don’t know what can be done to help Parker at this point.

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      1. I’ve been through this with my oldest. His dad gave him no rules and bought him all kinds of stuff in order to bribe him into moving out and to not seeing me anymore. Also all of a sudden my son started coming up with false accusations against me even though his two brothers told him that it was ridiculous. And thankful for the relationship I have with two of my sons but I sure miss my oldest because I haven’t seen him in 5 years thanks to his dad trying to poison him against me.

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    5. For 6 years my sister has lost her children after divorce due to the brainwashing her ex husband has done to the boys. William is now 22 and miles is now 16 and they are not normal. They have so much anger towards jennifer and her family. They don’t know any of us but especially their mother Jennifer. She has lived in the gutter and starved because of this horrible abuse from her ex. My 85 yr old mother supports her and the ex should be. My name is debi if you want to hear more. Thank you.

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  2. Well done Karen…another great piece… Iwatched bits of the vid and couldn’t believe how well the mother conducted herself…she never lost it at any stage..a few very understandable tears but that was all. I felt really sorry for her…the father did nothing to assist then congrats his son for ‘standing up for his rights’! Poor woman….

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  3. yes that video is very controversial, I remember when it went up how much some fathers rights advocates were lauding the boy and how deeply worrying I found it. The truth of the matter is that we need to be family advocates, strongly supporting the child’s need for both parents and we need to be brave enough to tackle women AND men who actively support alienation of a child. We need to do it urgently and consistently.

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  4. I would unequivocally agree with the blogger who asserted that non-resident mothers are either drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes or dead.

    Take the case of prostitution, such non-resident mothers are usually in denial that they are prostituting themselves when they get undue attention (amorously and in particular financially) from their new or old (before they met the father of their child) boyfriends. How else would you describe a mother who presents the attitude described below?

    She told her son that she was away working nights in Gloucester UK, but that she would be back on the day after Mothering Sunday. On the Monday after the Mothering Sunday, the 5-year old, and his dad (who stayed with his son while the mother was ‘away working in Gloucester’) went twice to the mother’s residential address (a two-minute walk from the dad’s house), but for the mother not to be seen any where. Then the son leaves several messages on the mother’s mobile phone, but no reply came through. This prompted the dad to actually phone the mother, but only to find out that the ringing tone was from a foreign land.

    Before all these, the mother had paraded a man she called uncle Pat, who lived with them for 5 days. However, on a picture of the mother’s old boyfriend being shown to the son, the son said that that was the ‘uncle Pat’ that lived with them for 5 days.

    When the mother came back from ‘working in Gloucester’, she never told the son anything, but the little boy immediately sourced out that his mother was away in New York USA (when she told him she was going to work in Gloucester) by seeing many New York memorabilia when he went back to her. Two weeks later she told the son that she was away in New York, and that she would be abandoning him with his father. She had made this intention known to the court, and the latter tried to dissuade her from doing this by granting her some of her requests in a previous sitting. The dad also deferred asking for the partial cost (awarded to him) of the private law in getting the system agree to a shared parenting for the 5-year old son.

    Despite the court asking the mother to reconsider her stand, and that a complete non-contact with the son would not be to the best interest of the child, this mother abandoned the son to the dad, asserting that it is either the son lives with her alone, or he lives with the father alone. The father was very agreeable to having a full custody of his son, and this mother has not shown any interest till date on the son.

    Meanwhile she went back to the USA (again, just after 3 months of her first trip) for summer holiday, with her own 12-year-old child (from a previous dead husband), with no interest whatever on her 5-year old son. And neighbours of the mother report that ‘uncle Pat’ to her whom the mother told the dad (in ‘good’ times is an international drug-pusher) periodically comes to the mother’s residence. So it is a case of the mother preferring her drug-pusher boyfriend to her own son since co-parenting would compromise this illicit relationship

    I therefore fully understand the 14-year old in the You Tube video, who would not have anything to do with his mother, whose actions right from when he was a toddler may have been similar to the one described above. Meanwhile the 5 year-old, who recently turned six, has never asked about his mother, or his half-brother.

    Although the dad tries to fill the gap of the mother, and took the son to Disneyland Paris (to compensate for all his trauma in the past two and half years; for example, was initially told by the mother that he has no father, which prompted a DNA test, and later, that if he went to live with his father, that his father would kill him, and now abandoned to this father he was told that would kill him), a by-stander watching may describe this as the father alienating the mother. But giving the above circumstances some of the so-called father alienation may not be what it looks like when all the circumstances as documented above are laid bare to the by-stander.

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    1. sweeping gerenalisations about any group of people based on one experience are not acceptable. This is ONE story, it is not THE story and this is what we must guard against. It is not acceptable to label all people one thing or the other on the basis of one experience of them. That is what I am writing about in this article, that is what I do not wish to see on this blog. There is a word for the stereotyping of black people based on one experience of them it is called racism. There is a word for the stereotyping of women based on one experience it is called mysogyny. There is word for the stereotyping of men based on one experience, it is called misandry. I do not want anything of this nature on this blog. The purpose of writing about NR mothers is to articulate their struggle, it is not to invite stereotyping or the venting of hatred towards a group of people. This is a terribly sad story but it ia not THE story of non resident mothers.

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      1. Hi Karen

        It wasn’t a sweeping generalisation, as this sentence from the write-up clearly demonstrates:

        ‘But giving the above circumstances SOME (emphasised here) of the so-called father alienation may not be what it looks like when all the circumstances as documented above are laid bare to the by-stander.’

        It was a bit harsh to say that the article has no place in your blog; after all, most people who write to you do so from their personal experience.

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      2. Fair enough CA but your comment was a sweeping generalisation and the same could be said about mothers who alienate – when all of the circumstances are laid bare, perhaps some mothers who alienate do so for a reason – only people seem to get more annoyed by the idea that mothers might do it for a reason than the idea that fathers might do it for a reason. There is an undercurrent of mother shaming which goes on at times in this field which is not useful. We are not about championing the experiences of fathers over mothers or men over women here, we are about finding the core of how to stop men AND women alienating and how to protect children from it. That is why I am harsh when people exptrapolate from their personal experience in ways that are about upholding the notion that mothers do it because they are inherently bad and fathers do it for a reason. K

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  5. Spot on article Karen, hopefully soon the powers that be will actually acknowledge that Parental Alienation exists (and in fact seems common place in acrimonious separations) and take appropriate actions to protect the children involved from the appalling damage that it does.
    It constantly amazes me that people who at one point in time had enough in common (and hopefully loved each other) to bring a child into this world find themselves able to make the decision to act in such a disgusting manner with little regard for the child. Alienation is merely an extreme action of the selfish adult.

    The professionals attitude/assumption that “Mum is the one” is just as damaging to the child and just further enforces, maybe encourages, alienation by the resident parent as they are then presented with the “power” to continue with the behaviour when a Court gives them a piece of paper telling them they are the most important parent in the child’s life??

    One error in your article that I must correct however, is that Families Need Fathers is actually called FNF BPM – Both Parents Matter – at least it is here in Cymru!

    Recently I was looked at with astonishment (by the women involved) when I stood up during an inter parent charity function and stated “I do not want to be a Father – I want to be a Parent”.
    The sooner that both sexes are recognised as equal parents the better, so bring on Shared/Equal parenting, surely every Child, let alone every Parent is entitled to that right?

    Alienation is the cruellest action anybody can partake in, but surely at times even the best of us have done the minimalist of this despicable behaviour, maybe without even knowing it, in response to the far more serious disruptive behaviour of the alienator? The human emotions that make us act in this way are surely a response, albeit a wrong one, to the alienators extreme behaviour which at times may seem like a constant barrage of abusive inhumane behaviour by the alienator and then furthered by using the child as a tool of cruelty!

    So what do we do??? just continue striving to be the better person/parent…… and learn to ignore the behaviour of the alienator and just ensure that we give our children the positives that they need from us – that is if the alienators behaviour has not resulted in the complete separation of Parent and Child as sadly is so often allowed to happen in this mixed up twisted country of ours!

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    1. Hi Dexter, elsewhere it is Families need Fathers and whilst BPM is tagged on in Cymru it is still FNF to a lot of people. I just don’t know why FNF is not Families need Fathers and Mothers myself, it makes better sense to me. It is important in my view to me a mother or a father not just generic parents. Mothers and fathers do different things and mean different things to children. It would be a terrible shame to lose that difference and make everyone the same, we can never be the same, we are different but equal. K

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  6. As an alienated father I’ve discovered that my status carries surprisingly little social stigma. The failings of the family courts are fairly common knowledge, as is the vindictive and vengeful nature of some mothers post-separation. I have an acquaintance who is an ardent supporter of the local Women’s Aid refuge, and even she acknowledges that a woman’s allegations of abuse against her ex can’t always be taken at face value. Campaigners like Fathers4Justice can take some credit for this state of affairs, but much of the understanding is personal: so many people seem to know a father in my situation.

    I hear much less about alienated mothers, though, and I can imagine that their isolation and stigma are much greater. If we accept that the benefits and legal systems favour mothers over fathers post-separation, a consistent and well-argued theme of this blog, it’s all too easy then to jump to the conclusion that a mother who has been rejected by her children or otherwise lost contact with them must have done something seriously wrong. Not so. There are fathers who are able to work the system in their favour. Money and ruthlessness help, no doubt, if you have these (I had neither). Thank you, Karen, for redressing the balance here.

    The Cornwall-not-Caribbean case is truly shocking. How do professionals manage to be such suckers for projection? Is it that hard to spot? And do children’s social workers really hold such a marketised view of family life, that a child can cancel the contract with mum if she fails to deliver the goods demanded? Next time your child demands to go to Disneyland, refuse at your peril….

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    1. btw, alienated fathers also suffer societal violence but in another way, ‘he must have done something wrong’, ‘he’s probably violent’ and many many more manhating cowshit, good mothers don’t divorce, stop mothermafia&gov’t-violence, femini$$m is a beast!

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      1. yes `i agree but this post is about mother experience not father experience, there are thousands of words about dads in this site, this post is for mums. K

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      2. can’t reply on ur latest comment?
        karenwoodall
        29/09/2014 at 8:33 pm
        yes `i agree but this post is about mother experience not father experience, there are thousands of words about dads in this site, this post is for mums. K

        i reckon in general 50 years gender articles about/for women only (misandry&misogyny) have already f*cked up the system, society and people’s hearts&minds more than enough!!
        i reckon there is no article with this societal violence perspective regarding children&fathers, yet, thereby, PA-Pas is not gender neutral, thereby, symptomizing doesn’t solve the problem, divorce IS child abuse, postmodern femini$$m is an abnormal devastating sickening&maddening mindcontrol program, mothermafia&gov’t-violence by ‘choice’..

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      3. well you don’t have to read stuff about mums on here but if you come here it is NOT just for dads it is for mums as well and it is a place where the different experience of mums and dads is discussed. If you don’t like my perspectives you are on the wrong blog K

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      4. so one has to ‘like’ a blog and otherwise shut up?
        it feels u’r playing ‘ad hominem’ to compensate out of proportion perspectives? i can smell sectarianism from far 😉

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      5. NO idea what you are talking about AdVader but if you don’t like what I am saying you are free to disagree with it but my perspective is that mothers and fathers suffer different things because of our different gendered perspectives, I write buckets about dads and next to nothing about mums and sometimes I will write about mums and their particular experience because they are ignored and overlooked or someone is always trying to see things from the alienating father’s perspective when I do write about mothers. I am emphatically NOT an MRA and neither am I a father’s rights activist. I work from a true equalities perspective and the wellbeing of children and I will not veer from that and if you don’t like that you don’t have to be here. Also, as many of my other readers know, I am absolutely not about letting people run riot with their opinions on here, I write this blog because it is a way of me righting the wrongs I work with, I am good at what I do because I have strong opinions and I know how to hold boundaries and I don’t agree with your perspective and so I say so. And if that is sectarianism then you can either like it or lump it or jog on and find another place to do your stuff. If you have a read around the blog you will see I am not picking on you for this kind of approach, I use it with everyone. K

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      6. okay, “buckets about dads and next to nothing about mums”, thats what i meant with proportion, so thats not ‘out of proportion’ so i smelt sectarianism wrong, mrm/frm are indeed weakminded and so is equality as we are not gender equal, and also okay is (developing human) well being of children and not welfare and/or feeling good cq. having fun, like it or not believe it or not (btw either way u’r welcome), divorce/separation IS child abuse, despite ‘framing’ and ‘opinions’ i just say it as it is, i’m not impressed if u block me, if u do that says all about u and not about me.

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      7. Frankly Ad vader your opinions are not of interest to me nor is debating with you nor is blocking you your thoughts are not that important or interesting to me.

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      8. you are saying it like it is in your world not here….my blog…my world…simple.

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  7. Which only goes to show that post-separation it is a huge mistake to pit mother against father and vice versa. We keep saying that both mother and father should somehow maintain their relationship with the children and yet we talk of the battles; the deviousness of parents attempting to manipulate the situation to their advantage. The desperate and sometimes irrational behaviours of parents faced with the real prospect of loss and change are something we need to embrace and accept as par for the course but not let those emotions interfer with a good inclusive parenting plan.

    The video.

    Although I accept you could use the video to demonstrate a father manipulating his son to favour more time with him there is much more going on here.

    I don’t like the fact that the mother parades the young son under her arm as she attempts to seduce the fourteen year old from the car. Other salient points might include her saying to the Ex. “You have 40 days visitation rights” as if this is some kind of concession that he should be grateful for. She also says to the fourteen year old, “this is your home”, as if to emphasise the place where her son belongs is exclusively with her. Isn’t this an attempt (perhaps subconsciously) to alienate the father?

    We know through research that parents who are still in a functioning relationship (for want of a better word) share the childcare roughly equally. It is often the nonsense that assigns nearly all childcare over to the woman leaving the man nothing more than a visitor or p/t entertainer to his children that exacerbates the rift which has already developed between mother and father. In our society there is a complete lack of understanding that these two parents (who temporarily despise one another) could actually function well as a parenting team even though they now live at separate addresses.

    Perhaps not so uncommonly teenagers who have seen very little of one parent through childhood tend to shift their allegiance to the parent they have seen so little of.

    You could say this mother is self-centred and smothering, or conversely caring and protective, depending on your own experience and point of view. What can’t be denied is that she, for the moment, will be feeling a great deal of pain. And what is the father feeling…….relief, a sense of justice being done, winner in a power struggle, vindicated, happy to be able to spend more time with his son?

    Don’t you just want to bang the heads of the parents together and introduce them to a good parenting course? I hate to see the children persuaded (sometimes against their will) to favour one set of parenting circumstances over another.

    Kind regards

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  8. As much as I dislike seeing parents alienate children, and agree that it is an offence just as bad as anything else, I think it is very dangerous to suggest that crime and punishment are the only answer here, and that the government and police be invested with even more powers and control over the populace. That just leads to abuse of people by their own government, and a serious amplification of the problem, inviting all kinds of allegations and more hostility.

    You need to look past what is on the surface, and understand where alienation comes from. It may be that it comes from different places for men and women. It may in some cases be motivated by power and domination, and the desire to punish the other parent for some perceived transgression. And that is pretty pathetic. Equally though, it may be motivated by fear of losing one’s children or one’s financial benefits.

    My assessment is that further state involvement will lead to more parental alienation, not less. Clearly the answer is to remove all financial incentive to being a resident parent, to develop a fairer child maintenance system that is not based on criminalizing and punishing fathers, and rewarding mothers for helping to criminalize and punish fathers. This would be one where child benefit is split and where parents are helped accordingly, not on the basis of their gender, to share the care and balance employment and parenting commitments.

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  9. The after effects of being alienated from my child’s life and the attitudes and assumptions from other people have been all too real for me. Its like a new stage of the suffering. The head on fight and the court battle is over but the new battle of ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’ to the outside world is there. ‘You must have done something bad or the court wouldn’t have left it like that “, and people not letting me hold their new baby like I’m some kind of child abuser.
    I’ve started lying to the question of how many children do you have just to avoid trying to justify where the missing child went. That leads to a whole new internal guilt.
    The finger pointing even from family…
    Alienation is a never ending raw torture.

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  10. Reblogged this on PARENTS HEALING FROM ESTRANGEMENT and commented:
    Not only do alienated mothers face the loss of their children and all of the grief and suffering that goes with that, they face the hostile and deeply suspicious attitudes of society at large, where the belief that if a mother has lost her children, she must have done something dreadful to deserve it, is an obstinate and poisonous mindset. – So true

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    1. So the argument here is??? What that when Mothers have their children removed from their lives it is any different than when it happens to Fathers…. Bullshit! It is just the outdated view that a child is better off/should be with their Mother! It is views like this that keep the gender Mum/Dad Maternal/Paternal arguments alive. No child should have either parent alienated from it, it is the cruellest action any adult can ever do. Even if a child is not seeing one parent for some deserved reason the other parent should never belittle the absent parent to the child. No human being should have this happen to them it is the most destructive of behaviour not just to the Parent/Child relationship but to the Mental Health of the those it is happening to. My heart goes out to anybody that has had this happen to them.

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      1. No, the argument is not that, you are the person who has analysed it as such. The article is about the way in which mothers who are alienated are under the kind of pressure that fathers who are alienated are not, because of the gendered expectations of the societies we live in. A mother who is not the primary carer of her children will face all manner of assumptions and unpleasantries, a father who is not will be accepted more readily by others. Thus the shame that faces mothers in this situation is not the same for fathers. The article is written to acknowledge the different pressures on mothers and fathers. Interestingly, every time I write an article to support mothers we get this kind of reaction, why is that I wonder?

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      2. Hi Karen
        Yes that is how I analysed it, and that is how I see things. The problem is just one of the many problems in this world caused by gender differences which I think now impede equality rather that aid it. With regards to alienation it is primarily from Mothers because they are usually the main carers (96%). The stigma that is associated with a Mother who is not the main carer should be dismissed in this day and age as should the” waste of space” stigma that is attached to many men who are seen to be not seeing their children. From my own personal experience I would never blame anyone from walking away from what seems like an endless stressful unwinnable battle that seems so often the norm in this day and age. I fought tooth and nail to ensure that my young Daughter had her Paternal family in her life. Simple fix really isn’t it? Presume Shared Parenting when Parents split up. It is the Parents that use the Children in the battle of separation that are the cause of most of the problems in the aftermath of separation. As I said before my heart goes out to anybody who has had to experience alienation from their Child.

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  11. Thank you. I have lost friends when I needed them most — they hurt me deeply when they were the ones with the power to help me & my daughter. They did not bother to listen to the complexity, the dilemma, the no-win situation I was put in — the more I tried to reach out & love & protect my own daughter, the more her father would twist it into his purposes & maintain mental control & otherwise. This happened to his mom, & because of the silence & judgement, she is still alienated & suffering. Her granddaughters (my daughter once was affectionate toward her) are now alienated from her. Thank you so much for speaking out against this cruelty.

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  12. Omg…..this article is spot on!! I have lost both my kids to the dad and gf. I am scratching my head because I feel like I have done something wrong but can’t figure out what. I feel like I am being viewed as a bad parent. Plus I have no financial resources to seek justice. I have never felt so sick I’m my entire life!

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  13. Hello. My situation is one of Domestic Violence by Proxy. Not only have I been cut off from my now 17 year old daughter for two and a half years, I must endure knowing that she is being severely emotionally abused by her father and I can’t seem to stop him. The family court personnel are poorly trained in understanding how domestic violence as well as sexual abuse is perpetrated. My not-yet-ex is very manipulative and obsessed with removing me from my daughter’s life. He wants emotional ownership of her. He has been labeled as “boundary less”. The fact that he is destroying her means nothing to him.

    I am in the process of divorcing my very disturbed, controlling, abusive husband. Over the years, my daughter and I were subjected to his severe emotional abuse and his threatening behavior. When he began therapy 8 years ago I learned that he had been severely abused as a child, including having an enmeshed, sexualized relationship with his mother. He then conned his therapist into believing that he had “worked through” all of his past issues. For 4-5 years now he has vehemently denied that he is abusive and claims that I am just saying bad things about him even though others have witnessed his strange behavior and abuse.

    Two and a half years ago, just after the divorce papers had been filed, my daughter suddenly left my house. She felt that Dad would give her more freedom and fewer rules. He then took over and began the brainwashing. She immediately became non-functional in school and was put on anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds. Up until the time that she went to live with her dad she had maintained a near 4.0GPA and had never been on any medication. All during this time, she was completely cut off from me. Her father insisted that it had nothing to do with him and that it was what she wanted. He conned the poorly trained GAL into believing that I was the one at fault. He enlisted his own therapist to say derogatory things about me to the GAL. Due to fear and uncertainty, my daughter was now completely under her father’s control. To stay “safe” she has to do what her father wants. Her father wants her to say negative things about me.

    I’ve been told that due to her age (17 years old), the court will do nothing about the fact that she has been alienated from me. It will be looked at as though she is old enough to make up her mind about who she wants to live with. The reality is that she is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and is being severely emotionally abused by her father. Two of the psychologists who have been involved with us say that he is recreating his enmeshed, sexualized relationship that he had with his mother, now with his daughter. My first two attorneys were very ineffective as to how to stop him. I am now on my third attorney.

    Knowing that my daughter is being severely abused by her father is tremendously hard on me as it would be for any mother. He gets sadistic satisfaction out of my pain. The family courts as well as the mental health community have little training or understanding in the daily reality of how domestic abuse is perpetrated. I fear that my daughter will not survive this.

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    1. Oh my goodness — I am in your situation. My daughter is almost 18 & was put on an antidepressant & anti-anxiety med within 5 months of being lured by her predatory dad’d promises of freedom, etc.at 14. Obvious signs of sexual abuse are present & my ex got away with getting caught with underage porn on his real estate school’s computer — the evidence disappeared & I can only conclude it was because his business partner’s son-in-law was the assistant DA at the time. The step”mother” aka 5th wife is classmates with the school counselor. The GAL was a joke & the judge did not want to take time to look at hard evidence. My daughter, our family continues to suffer & be cut off by the obsessed manipulations of her dad.

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  14. Apologies in advance for a very long post, but there was no short way to get this across:

    I am a UK mother who lost her child to the father during the divorce and custody battle which ensued. When faced with two statements, one by him and one by a close family member, basically ripping my character apart, piece by piece, I stepped back and asked for a defined contact order to be made. We had had an interim order made at an earlier hearing which the father announced to me via email wasn’t worth the paper it was written on and that he didn’t have to stick to it. When this was produced in chambers the judge decided that the matter should be formalised and a defined order was made. The father continued not to stick to it. I then had to live with the stigma of being a mother who lost her child and all the ‘oh why would a court find in favour of a father? It’s usually the mother who gets to keep the children…’ Plus all the other unfinished sentences and concerned looks as to why my child might not be with me. To protect my child, I am not using any gender indicators here.

    My child was coming to me telling me that father was never positive about me, how I would rather go out partying than care for them. I spent over a year demonstrating to my child that this wasn’t the case, however the father took it upon himself to continue to not make our child available for contact, refusing to answer my phone calls, being out when I went to collect child. This went on until I told him that the court order meant that was the minimum contact I should have. He then went by the book, and I mean by the book. If I wanted to change day for whatever reason due to other commitments, he refused, waving the order in my face pretty much (but funny how if he needed to change a day it was always ok). I made the most of all the time I had with my child and our relationship thrived. By the time they turned 9 years old, they were wanting to spend more time with me and father was refusing this.

    After an altercation on their doorstep, which left our child very upset and hurt, I took child home with me. Apart from a spurious welfare check from the police late one night, he did nothing to try to get child back home. His partner had my child’s mobile phone blocked – which was a strange thing to do on a PAYG contract, also leaving him with no way of making contact, apart from through me. Partner was saying hateful things to child on messenger chats, calling them a brat and a nasty little child. We had to block that contact as it was upsetting child. Eventually, after 5 months, I took it back to the court to get the order reversed. He was asked what contact he would want if my application was successful, he said it was all or nothing with him. Our child wrote a letter to the court (by this time 10 years of age) and what was requested in that letter became the basis of what the court order would be, to reside with me, with myself to positively promote contact. It was also mentioned in court, although not formally recorded, that the child’s passport be passed to me, which he agreed to. After court, he refused to give it to me and said he had posted it to the passport office. They said it never arrived and it was another year before I could apply for another as he also refused to write a letter declaring it lost (as he had applied for the passport). Child missed out on a family holiday because of this.

    We even went back to court as the father was trying to find out which school my child attended. My child did not want this to be told as they had had no contact for 3 years by that point and did not want the stress and embarrassment of Dad just turning up there. He admitted at the court he already had found out which school it was and on our way out of the court room, I spoke to him and told him I was willing to try and work something out to rebuild their relationship and he said that he was grateful of this and we went our separate ways. My child had come to the court building with me and we went into a nearby shopping centre and then announced that she wouldn’t actually mind finding their Dad to see him and talk to him. We searched the centre and found him and I told him of the wish and guided him over to where our child was standing. It had been a few years since last contact and our child was considerably taller at 12 years of age and he was surprised by their appearance. They chatted for a while and when they had finished, I had a chat with child and they felt that it had been ok, not as bad as thought it would be and would like to see him again. Great! Sadly, when we returned to court a few weeks later, he had done a U turn and told the judge he had moved on with his life and unless contact was at a contact centre (something child was set against) he would not be happy to meet up ‘in case any allegations were made which might affect his partner’s CRB check.’ I think it was at this point our child gave up on wanting to pursue contact.

    Since then, I have encouraged contact. Always made sure father had email address and mobile numbers and encouraged child to maintain contact. Child would text, no reply. Emails would get a short email back after a few weeks, generally saying how busy he was and talking about work things. As time has gone on, child is less and less inclined to initiate contact and aside from a two word message on birthdays and Christmas, father does not bother.

    I try and talk positively about father, mention funny things which happened when child was younger even saying things like ‘your father would find that hilarious if you told him’ but it’s to no avail. I cannot force my child to write or text as they are now 15 and certainly capable of making up their own mind. Yet I do still try, I just can’t force it to happen, especially when he takes so long to reply.

    Yet I am being accused of parental alienation by his partner now in a passive aggressive way online as they constantly tweet veiled accusations in the form of links to PAS articles (and it is always her, never the father who does all this. Why is he never attempting contact of any form himself?) How does that work? Having had it done to me, and seen the damage it caused my own partner when his estranged wife did it to him, I know how much it hurts and the damage it did to our child and even now, I want our child to have a relationship with their father. My child has even stated that it’s not him they have a problem with, it’s his partner and all her passive aggressive nonsense. Yes, this has been raised with him at court last time, and reams of evidence were provided, but still he is with her! I realise I may be talking to a wall with some people but this is honestly how it is. Everything I have done these past almost six years has been to my child’s wishes and keeping their happiness and security at the centre of it all. I do not want to upset the apple cart further and insist they see their father and I do not understand how or why this should reflect badly on me. I want my child to have a relationship with their father. Time and time again any attempt I have made, and my child has made, to forge links has been rejected by him. How on earth can we move on from this?

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  15. This situation could have been I loved my children so much! My ex NEVER did any physical care of them. Never tucked them to bed, or read them a book, or gave them a bath at night, always “too tired”.

    Once when I did have the kids, we were on the way to a museum, and before we left their father told them, “I had planned to take you there, but your mother found out our plans, so she is taking you before I get a chance”. They acted so terrible that day, I asked them why they were so angry. Then they told me what their father had said. there is no way I could have read his mind! He never would have taken them there anyway. He hates driving in traffic. I begged him to go with us there all the time we were married and he refused! The kids don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.

    He told the kids they couldn’t take their clothes to my house, I couldn’t drive up his driveway. He was terrible! He made up lies, lies, lies… And, of course he let them start watching all kinds of R rated movies I would have never let them watch. He is a very sick person….

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  16. I am an alienated mother and I am appalled at your generalizations. I did nothing to deserve this. I was raised in state care and dysfunctional home life and that was used against me to make me look unstable. Toddlers fall when they are learning to walk yet each mark was documented as abuse. I never have done drugs yet was ordered to take 9, which I passed, I was given 2 back to back no contact orders. I again petitioned for my son and was told too much time had gone by, yeah because of him. Oh yeah, the father is a heroine addict and the family is in a gang, information he hid well. Me? I was just a dumb young girl.

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  17. Ty for this article! I lost two friends who were witnesses to the last few years, the worst of it, of the alienation before my ex and his wife succeeded in gaining custody. And they still said it was my fault! Talk about feeling betrayed and dumbfounded. It’s been almost 8 years now and 2 since my last attempt at reunification. And we no longer have any contact whatsoever with her. She turns 15 this year.

    That advader guy is well know in fb circles, he is blocked but quite a lot of people! He doesn’t believe in divorce at all and trolls any and all groups, pages, blogs he can find surrounding the subject of pa.

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  18. No Mother or Father should be alienated from their Children as it is abusing the Child never mind the damage to the Family as a whole.

    The difficulty for Fathers is that they have also to overcome woman’s organisations such as Woman’s Aid and Social Work lean towards the Mother.

    For me one of the most saddest aspects of Parental Alienation is in certain circumstances where woman’s organisations are over enthusiastic results in the Children wrongly being left to be damaged by the female Alienator. Certain organisations believe everything the Mother says and do not listen to the Father.

    Any form of alienation is simply wrong and cruel.

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  19. I don’t think gender should be brlught into it at all, but in all honesty, only the custodial parenting really has the power to alienate a child. It usually them who have been given the authority and the time to brainwash the kid. The parent who never sees the kid should be able to see the kid more. It should be equal! Problem solved.

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  20. Thank you for this article Karen – the confusion and hurt I feel at the moment is overwhelming. My ex partner and I d custody went to court a few years ago regarding contact and custody of our daughter who was at the time refusing to see her father so I contacted social services for advice. The outcome was that we have a court order regarding contact arrangements and I am the resident parent. The arrangements have been going fine for a few years and there has not been any problems or breaches of the court order from either parent.However recently after an argument my daughter went to stay with her father who is now refusing to encourage her to return back home. I know he blames me for the lack of contact a he had a few years ago and I feel he is now having his revenge. I have hoped that my daughter would soon want to return home of her own accord but am now starting to worry that there are some alienating tactics going on. I am no expert of course in parental alienation but there are times when she has said she would like to come home but this has not materialised yet. The last time she said she would come to me for the weekend well this did not happen ,and I am unsure as to why as I have not seen her alone since then. My mind is doing overtime wondering why she has not missed me and why she doesn’t want to come home . I just want it to go back to how it has been for the last few years sharing contact but worry that the longer that she is with him the less likely that is to happen.

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  21. It is critical to understand that alienating behaviours are not only associated with divorce. Disrupted attachments due to the pathological parenting practices happen in intact families as well.
    It is also critical to understand that a parent doesn’t have to be present or even active in a child’s life to plant the seeds of alienation. They can communicate the seeds of alienation through a variety of modern technological means. Frequently, they do so covertly through the eldest child, who then becomes the alienated proxy.
    It’s also critical to understand that once the seeds of alienation are planted, they can be covertly watered and nourished, the alienation waiting patiently in the background to exact the ultimate revenge against the person who humiliated him (or her) and exposed his (or her) shame. In essence, the alienation becomes crystallized. It might take months, years, or decades. But, for the obsessed alienator determined to shame the mother, time is in his side.

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