Some North Carolina parents who have gone through a bitter divorce may unfortunately be familiar with the term “parental alienation syndrome”. Coined by a psychologist in the 1980s, it refers to a situation in which one parent intentionally turns a child against the other parent during and after a hostile breakup. It gained some notoriety several years ago during a custody and visitation battle between actors Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.
More recently, a dispute in Michigan made national news when a judge initially ordered three children to be detained in a juvenile facility when they refused to comply with a visitation order with their father. The judge then recanted, and the three children were ordered to participate in a five-day reunification therapy program with their father. They did so, and they are now living with him, his current wife and their stepbrother. The father recently filed a petition asking for sole legal and physical custody. He has also asked the court to bar his ex-wife from contacting the children for a 90-day period. His ex-wife has alleged that the father previously abused one of the children, although he has denied it.
Reunification therapy is not without its critics. Some point out that it may force children into a situation where they have to live with a parent who has been abusive in the past. Its advocates, however, believe that it promotes the best interests of the child by allowing children to regain a healthy relationship with an alienated parent.
While this case may seem to be somewhat bizarre, child custody disputes can often be bitter. They can end up being a battle between the parents that has an adverse effect on the children in question. A family law attorney might provide assistance to a parent who is in one by attempting to negotiate an agreement that will remove some of the conflicts and promote the child’s well-being.
Source: Yahoo, “The Controversial Therapy That’s Shaping Custody Battles”, Beth Greenfield, Sept. 10, 2015