PAS Case Survey

Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project

CASE LAW ADDRESSING PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

I. REJECTING ADMISSIBILITY

 

A. APPELLATE COURT

D.M.S. v. I.D.S., 2015 WL 926777 (La. App. Ct. 4 Cir, 3/4/2015) (Appeal of PO upholding trial court’s refusal to allow testimony on PAS on grounds that it was not recognized as accepted medical syndrome and therefore irrelevant to issue of whether abuse occurred *** not direct ruling on evidentiary admissibility and DID allow that PAS evidence might be relevant to custody case).

M.A. v. A.I., 2014 WL 7010813 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., Dec. 15, 2014)(finding trial court erred to the extent it based its custody ruling on PAS criteria, which fail Frye’s ‘general acceptance’ test because not recognized in DSM nor been found under NJ precedent to meet the test.)

People v. Sullivan, 2003 WL 1785921 (Cal.App. 6 Dist. 2003) (upholding trial court’s exclusion of PAS testimony only on the ground that the testimony was not beyond common knowledge/experience of fact finder per CA rules; appellate court did uphold trial court’s grounds that not scientific enough to satisfy the Kelly-Frye rule, but specifically noted (footnote 4) that the Kelly-Fyre rule was not applicable.

People v. Fortin, 289 A.D.2d 590, 735 N.Y.S.2d 219 (2001 N.Y. Slip Op. 11029)(upholding trial court’s finding that defendant failed to sustain burden of showing that PAS was generally accepted in the relevant scientific community, city to Frye).

 

*Noteworthy non-binding statements in dicta/dissents re: PAS

C.J.L. v. M.W.B., 879 So.2d 1169 (Ala.Civ.App. 2003) (upheld trial court’s finding that mom was engaging in alienating behaviors; custody evaluator did not make a formal PAS diagnosis, did not reach admissibility issue. In dicta indicated that if faced with that issue, court “might be inclined” to find that PAS was not generally accepted by scientific community). 

Hanson v. Spolnik, 685 N.E.2d 71 (Ind.App. 1997) (majority does not address PAS, dissent decries its failure to acknowledge clear PAS evidence mislabeled as alienation that should have been disallowed due to lack of scientific acceptance and reliability).

 

B. TRIAL COURT:

Mastrangelo v. Mastrangelo2012 WL 6901161, 55 Conn. L. Rptr. 245 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2012) (rejected under CT’s Porter-Daubert standard because irrelevant to the motions before the court, noting PAS focuses only on child rather than a parent’s strategies that have alienating impact on child; **resounding affirmation of PA (not the syndrome), including that it does pass the Porter-Daubert standard). (unpublished)

Snyder v. Cedar, 2006 WL 539130 (Conn. Super. Ct. Feb. 16, 2006)(rejects PAS under Port-Daubert no scientific validity and therefore incompetent; resounding rejection of PAS and recognition of expert’s alignment with father.)(unpublished)

NK v. MK, 17 Misc.3d 1123(A); 2007 WL 3244980 (N.Y.Sup. Ct. 2007)(one line in conclusion that court doesn’t believe PAS exists-not determination or discussion re: admissibility).

 

II. POSSIBLY RULING ADMISSIBLENone, no legal precedent exists holding PAS admissible.

Kilgore v. Boyd, 13th Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, FL, Case No. 94-7573, 733 So.2d 546 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000); Boyd v. Kilgore, 773 So.2d 546 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000) is sometimes cited by PAS proponents as ruling that PAS has gained general acceptance in the scientific community. However, we have been unable to obtain any written opinion, and it appears one was not issued. See Jenifer Hoult, The Evidentiary Admissibility of PAS: Science, Law and Policy,  26 CHILDREN’S LEGAL RIGHTS JOURNAl 1, 4 (Spring 2006.)

 

III. DECLINING TO ADDRESS ADMISSIBILITY

 

A. Avoided on Procedural Grounds

Chatman v. Palmer, 761 S.E.2d 616 (Ga. Ct. App. 2014)(trial court used PAS to come to its decision of awarding the father primary physical custody. Appellate court did not discuss PAS)

Martire v. Martire, 822 N.W.2d 450 (N.D., 2012)(court leaned pro PAS)

Grove v. Grove, 2011 Ark. App. 648 (2011) (Neutral-- court of appeals did not address PAS because it had not been preserved for appeal. Trial court had relied on expert witness testimony re: PAS).

L.F.W. v. J.R.W., 10 Misc.3d 1067A (N.Y Fam. Ct. 2005) (neutral—trial court refused to address PAS because mother had raised this at a prior hearing and the court had rejected it)

In re T.T., 681 N.W.2d 779 (N.D. 2004) (neutral—North Dakota supreme court held that mother was precluded from making PAS argument because she did not make the same objection at trial)

In re Paternity of A.M.C., 768 N.E.2d 990 (Ind. 2002) (court leaned pro).

Perlow v. Berg-Perlow, 816 So.2d 210 (Fla.App. 4 Dist. 2002) (neutral- appellate court refused to consider PAS argument because it was not made at trial).

People v. Bimonte, 185 Misc. 2d 390 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 2000) (court leaned con PAS)

State ex rel. George B.W. v. Kaufman, 483 S.E.2d 852 (W.Va. 1997) (court leaned con)

In re. N.W., 2013 WL 5302716 (Tex. App., Dec. 19, 2013) (neutral- appellate court refused

Mother’s arguments re: PAS expert because at trial she had stipulated that the expert was qualified and had not objected to the reliability of the expert’s testimony)

Damaj v. Sakaj, 2012 WL 3822015 (D. Conn. Sept. 4, 2012) (court leaned pro/ mother’s motion in limine was moot. Father’s expert could testify about “the very tailored and limited issue” of coaching, but not PAS.)

Weyker v. Weyker, 2010 WL 4721306 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 23, 2010) court leaned con.

Beam v. Beam 2010 WL 4609356 (Haw. Ct. App. Nov. 15, 2010) reconsideration denied, 2010 WL 5275783 (Haw. Ct. App. Dec. 23, 2010) (appellate court leaned pro; affirmed trial court’s denial of mother’s motion in limine which sought to exclude PAS testimony)

Oates v. Oates, 2010 Ark. App. 345, 2010 WL 1608865 (Ark.App., 2010) (Court of Appeals refused to reach admissibility of PAS because issue was not preserved).

In re Marriage of Blake, 2007 WL 1154057 (Cal.App. 1 Dist. 2007)(court leans pro; appellate court upholds trial court’s refusal to allow father to introduce evidence of PAS and takes note of dispute within legal and scientific community).

In re Marriage of Alvarez, 2007 WL 1057029 (Cal.App. 4 Dist. 2007) (netural--court of appeals does not reach admissibility of PAS testimony)

Costley v. Benjamin, 2005 WL 1950114 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2005) (neutral)

In re Marriage of Arthur, 2004 WL 1732709 (Cal.App. 3 Dist. 2004) (neutral)

Marriage of Conde v. Krueger, 266 Wis.2d 1060 (Wis.App. 2003) (neutral)

In re Marriage of Idelle C., Ovando C., 2002 WL 1764181 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. 2002) (neutral)

In re Spencley, 2000 WL 33519710 (Mich.App. 2000) (court leaned pro)

Williams v. Transcender, 1998 WL 204949 (Wash.App. Div. 1 1998) (neutral)

In Re Marriage of Trainor, 1996 WL 312488 (Wash. App. Div. 1, June 10, 1996)(neutral)

People v. Loomis, 658 N.Y.S.2d 787 (N.Y.Co.Ct. 1997)(court leaned anti)

 

 

B. Avoided on Factual Grounds

Eisenlohr v. Eisenlohr, 43 A.3d 694 (Conn. Ct. App. 2012) (court leaned pro)

Palazzolo v. Mire, --- So.2d ----, 2009 WL 103957 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2009) (complicated decision—neutral?)

In re Marriage of Bates, 819 N.E.2d 714 (Ill. 2004) (mixed decision; Illinois Supreme Court asserted that it did not need to decide whether PAS was an accepted scientific theory, but accepted the premises of alienation (that the mother’s allegations of abuse interfered with the child’s ability to build a close relationship with the father)).

Zafran v. Zafran, 740 S.2d 596 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2002) (court leaned pro)

Hughes v. Hughes, 588 N.W.2d 346 (Wis.App. 1998) (neutral)

In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) (neutral)

In Interest of T.M.W., 553 So.2d 260 (Fla.App. 1 Dist. 1989) (DICTA) (neutral)

O’Malley v. O’Malley, 2013 WL 6221091 (Ohio Ct. App. Nov. 27, 2013) (court leaned pro)

McRoberts v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2012 WL 2317714 (June 19, 2012)(court leaned pro)

Cone v. Cone, 2010 WL 1730129 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2010) (court leaned pro)

Bothur v. Bothur, 2010 WL 4610955 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 22, 2010) (court leaned pro)

L.S. v. B.S., 2010 WL 4366367 (Ky. Ct. App. Nov. 5, 2010) (court leaned pro)

Marinozzi v. Goss, 2010 WL 3516924 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Sept. 1, 2010) (neutral)

Linder v. Johnson, 2006 WL 3425021 (Ark.App. 2006) (court leaned pro)

Ignatiuk v. Ignatiuk, 2006 WL 933490 (Ark.App. 2006) (neutral)

In re Marriage of McCord, 2003 WL 23219961 (Iowa App. 2003) (court leaned pro)

Pisani v. Pisani, 1998 Ohio App. Lexis 4421 (Ohio App. 1998) (court leaned pro)

Martin v. Martin, 120 Nev. 342 (Nev. 2004) (neutral)

 

C. Trial Court Rulings

J.F. v. L.F., 694 N.Y.S.2d 592 (N.Y.Fam.Ct. 1999)

Bowles v. Bowles, 1997 WL 639491 (Conn.Super. 1997)

 

D. Allowing Evidence of PAS Without Addressing Admissibility (Or just include in PAS mentioned in facts?)

Case v. Richardson, 1996 WL 434281 at *2-3 (Conn. Super. Ct.  16, 1996)(Trial Court) (unpublished)

In re John W., 41 Cal.App.4th 961, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 899 (1996)

White v. White, 655 N.E.2d 523 (Ind. App. 1995)

 

 

IV. DISCUSSING PAS UNFAVORABLY (Note that Discussion May Be in Dicta)

 

C.J.L. v. M.W.B. 879 So.2d 1169 (Ala.Civ.App. 2003)(DICTA)

Wiederholt v. Fischer, 485 N.W.2d 442 (Wisc. 1992)(DICTA re: “cure of transferring custody to hated parent)

Cichanowicz v. Cichanowicz, 2008 WL 4292724 (Ohio App. 3 Dist. 2008)(found custody evaluator’s PAS diagnosis unreliable because the evaluator did not interview the child)

 

V. DISCUSSING PAS FAVORABLY

 

A. APPELLATE COURT

In re Marriage of D.T.W. & S.L.W., 964 N.E.2d 573 (Ill. 2012)

Noland-Vance v. Vance, 321 S.W.3d 398 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010)

In re Marriage of Hatton, 160 P.3d 326 (Colo. 2007)

M.W.W. v. B.W., 900 So.2d 1230, 1233 (Ala.Civ.App. 2004)

Barton v. Hirshberg, 767 A.2d 874 (Md.App. 2001)

Hundal v. Beard, 2013 WL 5493310 (E.D. Cal., Oct. 2, 2013)

Habo v. Khattab, 2013 WL 6869804 (Ct. of App. Ohio Dec. 31, 2013)

K.T.D. v. K.W.P., 2012 WL 5458549 (Ala. Civ. App. Nov. 9, 2012)

Arello v. Rich, 2011 WL 3856158 (V.I.Super. March 17, 2011)

Curie v. Curie, 2006 WL 3350734 (Ohio App. 11 Dist., Nov. 17, 2006)

Doerman v. Doerman, 2002 WL 1358792 (Ohio App. 12 Dist. June 24, 2002)

 

B. TRIAL COURT:

Matter of Karen B. v. Clyde M., 574 N.Y.S.2d 267 (N.Y. 1991)

 

VI. ACCEPTING PARENTAL ALIENATION (NON-SYNDROMEBUT NOT RULING ON ADMISSIBILITY

 

A. Rejecting PAS but Affirming Parental Alienation

Broadway v. Broadway, ---So.3d --- (2014), 2014 WL 4798974 (Ala. Civ. App., Sept. 26, 2014)

In re Matthew M., 2013 WL 4734892 (Conn. Super. Ct. Aug. 12, 2013)

Rice v. Lewis, 2009 WL 1027544 (Ohio App. 4 Dist. Apr. 10, 2009)

In re Jamie S., 2009 WL 939852 (Conn. March 9, 2009)

Krukiel v. Krukiel, 2007 WL 241257 (Conn. Jan. 18, 2007)

Coleman v. Coleman, 2004 WL 1966083 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2004)(Trial Court)

 

B. Affirming Parental Alienation without Discussion of PAS

S.D. v. B.D., 962 N.E.2d 702 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012)

In re Marriage of Benhart, 810 N.W.2d 533 (Iowa App. 2012)

Balaska v. Balaska 25 A.3d 680 (Conn. App. 2011)

Dufner v. Trottier, 778 N.W.2d 586 (N.D. 2010)

Hanna v. Hanna, 377 S.W.3d 275 (Ark. Ct. App. 2010)

Bittick v. Bittick, 987 So.2d 1058 (Miss. App. 2008)

Sharp v. Keeler, 256 S.W.3d 528 (Ark. Ct. App. 2007)

P.M. v. S.M., 17 Misc. 3d 1122(A). (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2007)

Bledsoe v. Cleghorn, 993 So.2d 456 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007)

In re Marriage of Rohlfsen, 720 N.W.2d 193 (Iowa App. 2006)

In re Marriage of Oostenink, 705 N.W.2d 107 (Iowa App. 2005)

In re Marriage of Little, 698 N.W.2d 336 (Iowa App. 2005)

Lisa B. v. Salim G., 7 Misc.3d 1011(A) (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 2005)

In re Marriage of Simms, 695 N.W.2d 42 (Iowa App. 2004)

John A. v. Bridget M., 4 Misc.3d 1022(A) (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 2004)

Lasater v. Lasater, 809 N.E.2d 380 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004)

Ruggiero v. Ruggiero, 819 A.2d 864 (Conn. App. 2003)

Zafran v. Zafran, 306 A.D.2d 468 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2003)

Carver v. May, 81 Ark. App. 292 (Ark. App. Ct. 2003)

In re Marriage of Crotty, 584 N.W.2d 714 (Iowa App. 1998)

Turner v. Benson, 953 S.W.2d 596, 598 (Ark. 1997)

In re Preston C.G., 2012 WL 5830584 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov 15, 2012)

In Re Jonathan S., 2012 WL 3112897 (Ct. App. Tenn. July 31, 2012)

Maynor v. Nelson, 2006 WL 3421288 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 27, 2006)

Hopkins v. Whittemore, 2004 WL 539085 (Mich.App., Mar. 18, 2004)

Faucher v. Bitzer, 2002 WL 432750 (Ark.App. 2002)

In re Marriage of Kajtazovic, 2002 WL 575713 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 13, 2002)

In re Marriage of Gallmeyer, 2002 WL 536044 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 10, 2002)

In re Marriage of Seavey, 2000 WL 1826046 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 13, 2000)

Krieger v. Krieger, 1999 WL 33453292 (Mich.App., Mar. 26, 1999)

Bell v. Bell, 1998 WL 760251 (Ark. Ct. App. 1998)

 

VI. Rejecting Parental Alienation without Discussion of PAS

 

J.R. v. N.R. 929 N.Y.S. 2d 200 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2011)

T.N.S.R. v. N.P.W., 2014 WL 7008922 (Ala. Civ. App. Dec. 12, 2014)

Rousos v. Boren, 2014 WL 4217415 (Ct. of App. Tenn. Aug 26, 2014)

In re Marriage of Crystal and Shawn H., 2013 WL 2940952 (Cal. Ct. App. June 17, 2013)

 

VII. PAS MENTIONED IN FACTS

 

A. APPELLATE COURT

Hatmaker v. Hatmaker, 998 N.E.2d 758 (Ind. Ct. App., 2013)

New Jersey Div. of Youth and Family Services v. I.S., 422 N.J. Super. 52 (App. Div. 2011)

In Re L.J.S., 247 S.W.3d 921 (Mo.App. S.D. 2008)

Goetsch v. Goetsch, 990 So.2d 403 (Ala.Civ.App. 2008)

Ellis v. Ellis, 952 So.2d 982 (Miss.App. 2006)

In re Marriage of Kimbrell, 119 P.3d 684 (Kan.App. 2005)

Marquard v. Secretary for Dept. of Corrections, 429 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. (Fla.) 2005)

State v. Fuller, 160 N.C.App. 250 (N.C.App. 2003)

White v. Kimrey, 847 So.2d 157 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2003)

Smith v. Bombard, Supreme Court, App. Div., 741 N.Y.S.2d 336 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept. 2002)

Hollingsworth v. Semerad, 799 So.2d 658, 660 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2001)

Pearson v. Pearson, 5 P.3d 239, 243 (Alaska 2000)

 Blosser v. Blosser, 707 So.2d 778, 780 (Fla. 1998)

Fischer v. Fischer, Ct. of App. of WI, Dist. Two, 584 N.W.2d 233 (Wis. 1998)

Janell S. v. J.R.S., 571 N.W.2d 924  (Wisc. App. 1997)

John W. v. Phillip W., 41 Cal.App.4th 961 (Cal. 1996)

White v. White, 655 N.E.2d 523 (Ind. App. 1995)

McCoy v. State of Wyoming, 886 P.2d 252 (Wyo. 1994)

Krebsbach v. Gallagher, Supreme Court, App. Div., 181 A.D.2d 363 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 1992)

In re Violetta, 568 N.E2d 1345 (Ill.App., 1991)

Schutz v. Schutz, 522 So.2d 874 (Fla 3rd Dist. Ct. App. 1988)

Coursey v. Superior Court, 194 Cal.App.3d 147 (Cal.App. 3 Dist., 1987)

N.D. v. M.D.,  2012 WL 5969672 (N.J. App. Div. November 30, 2012)

Eartherton v. Behringer, 2012 WL 5507090 (Ohio Ct. App., Nov. 13, 2012)

Gendich v. Whiteman, 2010 WL 2595085 (Mich. Ct. App. June 29, 2010)

Ex Parte S.C., 29 So.3d 903, 2009 WL 2477938 (Ala.Civ.App., Aug. 14, 2009)

Horning v. Wolff, 2006 WL 3505864 (Ohio App. 5 Dist. Dec. 4, 2006)

D.M.W. v. T.V.W., 2005 WL 3557436 (Delaware June 6, 2005)

In re S.G., 2003 WL 125122 (Ohio App. 8 Dist. 2003)

In re Marriage of Shen, 111 Wash.App. 1046 (Wash.App. Div. 1, May 20, 2002)

Pathan v. Pathan, 2000 WL 43711 (Ohio App. 2 Dist., Jan. 21, 2000)

Chambers v. Chambers, 2000 WL 795278 (Ark.App. 2000)

Ange v. Ange, Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1998 Va. App. Lexis 59 (Feb. 3, 1998)

Bielaska v. Orley, 1996 WL 33324080 (Mich.App., July 19, 1996)

State v. Koelling, 1995 WL 125933 (Ohio App. 10 Dist., Franklin County, Mar. 21, 1995)

Conner v. Renz, 1995 WL 23365 (Ohio App. 4 Dist., Jan. 19, 1995)

Zigmont v. Toto, 1992 WL 6034 (Ohio App. 8 Dist., Jan 16, 1992)

 

B. TRIAL COURT

Tabner v. Cessario, 2008 WL 366637  (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 28, 2008)    

Metza v. Metza, 1998 Conn. Super. Lexis 2727 (Sept. 25, 1998)

 

C. Conflicting Opinions about Presence of Parental Alienation Syndrome

K.B. v. Cleburne County Dept. of Human Resources, 897 So.2d 379, 383 (Ala.Civ.App. 2004)

Truax v. Truax, 874 P.2d 10 (Nev., 1994)

Hamilton v. Hamilton, 2008 WL 2861705 (Ohio App. 2 Dist. July 25, 2008)

Bates v. Bates, 2001 WL 1560915 (Ohio App. 11 Dist. Dec. 7, 2001)

Sims v. Hornsby, 1992 WL 193682 (Ohio App. 12 Dist., Butler County, Aug 10 1992)

 

D. Parental Alienation (not PAS)

Davis v. Davis, 973 N.E.2d 109 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012)

A.M.L. v. J.W.L., 98 So.3d 1001 (Miss. 2012)

In re Paternity of A.S., 948 N.E.2d 380 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011)

Zafran v. Zafran, 28 A.D.3d 753 (N.Y. 2006)

Wade v. Hirschman, 903 So.2d 928 (Fla. 2005)

Appel-Meller v. Meller, 285 A.D.2d 430 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 2001)

In re Mackenzie F., 2010 WL 3623656 (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 20, 2010)

In re S.E.K., 294 S.W.3d 926, 2009 WL 2648263 (Tex.App, Aug. 28, 2009)

Lopez-Negrete v. Lopez-Negrete, 2009 WL 1506668 (Mich. App., May 26, 2009)

Ostermann v. Ostermann, 2005 WL 2323410 (Mich.App., Sept. 22, 2005)

Case v. Richardson, 1996 WL 434281 (Conn. Super. July 16, 1996)(Trial Court)

CASE LAW ADDRESSING PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME[1]

Note: Cases marked unpublished are formally unpublished but obtainable as cited.

Last updated April 2015

 

I. REJECTING ADMISSIBILITY

 

A. APPELLATE COURT

 

C.J.L. v. M.W.B., 879 So.2d 1169 (Ala.Civ.App. 2003) (Dicta)

Appellant C.J.L. and appellee M.W.B. were married and had three minor children together. They divorced in 1999. The parties received joint custody of the children with primary physical custody to the mother-appellant. In post-trial motions concerning the mother’s allegations that the father abused their minor child, the trial court appointed Dr. Karl Kirkland, a psychologist, to perform a custody evaluation. Despite statements from all three children indicating their desire to no longer visit their father, Dr. Kirkland recommended the father be given sole physical custody based on his finding that the mother alienated the children from their father. The trial court granted a change in custody to the father based on Dr. Kirkland’s recommendation.

The mother appealed the trial court’s ruling in part because PAS is not generally accepted in the scientific community and as a result does not meet the Frye test for admissibility. The Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama held that Dr. Kirkland’s testimony on PAS is not subject to the Frye test because 1) he did not make an explicit diagnosis of PAS in the children and 2) the trial court did not explicitly rely on a finding of PAS in their ruling. The Appellate court went on to note however, that “if faced squarely with the question [of] whether evidence concerning an actual diagnosis of PAS was admissible under Frye's “general acceptance” test, [they would] be inclined to agree with the mother and find that PAS had not been generally accepted in the scientific community.”

 

Hanson v. Spolnik, 685 N.E.2d 71 (Ind.App. 1997)

DV LEAP COMMENTPlease note that the “rejection” of PAS is in the dissent.

Dissent, Chezem, J.

In a scathing dissent of the majority’s mischaracterization of PAS, Judge Chezem rejects PAS as a theory and likens it to “cult” theories like the “Peter Pan Syndrome” or the “Cinderella Complex”” that are “more suitable in a pop psychology venue rather than in a court of law.” He concludes that the majority erroneously permitted PAS evidence because of problems of causation, scientific reliability and admissibility as scientific evidence.

Majority opinion:

The majority affirmed a trial court’s modification of custody order granting the father sole physical and legal custody of the couple’s daughter. The trial court based its decision in part on the testimony of Dr. Richard Lawlor, a child psychologist who testified that the mother’s “comments and allegations against [the father] were directed at alienating [the couple’s daughter] from [the father] and that [the mother’s] behavior endangered [the child’s] emotional and psychological development.” Although the trial court did not specifically use the term PAS, the testimony and analysis indicated that they heard evidence of PAS without examining it for admissibility. On appeal, the majority affirmed the trial court’s decision also without addressing the admissibility of PAS. They found that there was a change in circumstances based in part on the mother’s repeated allegations of sexual abuse by the father. However, in a footnote, the majority noted that allegations of sexual abuse will not always support a change of custody.

 

D.M.S. v. I.D.S., 2015 WL 926777 (La. App. Ct. 4 Cir., 3/4/2015) (unpublished)

Father appealed the entry of an order of protection which also awarded temporary sole custody to mother arguing in part that the trial court abused its discretion in not allowing his expert witness to testify about PAS. The trial court determined that PAS is inapplicable/irrelevant in a protection case and if it applies at all, it is in a child custody dispute. The appellate court upheld trial court’s decision refusing to allow witness to testify stating, “PAS has not been recognized as a relevant medical syndrome or diagnosable mental disorder by the medical community, any professional association, or Louisiana courts.”

 

M.A. v. A.I., 2014 WL 7010813 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., Dec. 15, 2014) (unpublished)

Trial court awarded sole legal and residential custody to mother to engage in reunification with the children. Father appealed; at the time of the appellate court’s decision father had not had authorized contact with the children for over two years. Appellate court reversed and remanded with instructions for an expeditious determination of father’s parenting time. The trial court, in support of its decision, referenced the evidence of PAS in the case and stated that the eight criteria of PAS were more probative in determining whether there had been alienation and what to do about it that the statutory best interest factors. The appellate court found that the trial court erred in basing its decision on PAS criteria as at the time of trial PAS was not recognized by the DSM-IV and is also not in the DSM-V. The appellate court refused to opine on whether PAS could ever be properly admitted, but held that in this case proper foundation was not established.

 

People v. Sullivan, 2003 WL 1785921 (Cal.App. 6 Dist. 2003) (unpublished)

(Criminal Case)

Defendant Charles Sullivan was convicted of six counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of forcible lewd or lascivious acts on a child, acts he committed against his two minor daughters after divorcing their mother. Defendant appealed the conviction, in part on the grounds that the trial court erred in excluding testimony by Dr. Randy Rand on parental alienation syndrome. The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in part, finding that the trial court appropriately excluded Dr. Rand’s testimony because “(1) the behavior was not beyond common experience within the meaning of [California Rule of Evidence] section 801, subdivision (a); (2) the testimony was not scientific enough to satisfy the “Kelly-Frye” rule; and (3) Dr. Rand's name was not included on the witness list.” Without examining PAS directly, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court was within its discretion to exclude the evidence and find that “[e]xpert opinion is not admissible if it consists of inferences and conclusions which can be drawn as easily and intelligently by the trier of fact as by the witness.”

 

B. TRIAL COURT

 

Mastrangelo v. Mastrangelo, 55 Conn. L. Rptr. 245 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2012)

Parties were divorced in 2007 and agreed to share joint custody of their eight-year-old triplets. Father filed numerous motions in 2011 arguing mother should be held in contempt and that a substantial change had occurred due to mother’s alienation of father from children’s lives. Mother challenged father’s expert’s admissibility. The court conducted a “Porter” hearing, which is similar to the Daubert standard. The court discussed that while parental alienation and PAS are sometimes conflated, the two are different and the court’s focus here was on whether PAS is scientifically reliable under Porter. The Court held that PAS testimony was inadmissible. It reasoned that even if it disregarded the legal and scientific precedent rejecting the scientific validity of PAS, PAS evidence is irrelevant because it focuses solely on the actions of the children rather than the entirely family dynamics—such evidence is at best incomplete and thus irrelevant.

 

People v. Fortin, 706 N.Y.S.2d 611 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 2000)

(Criminal Case)

Defendant Michael Fortin was charged with various counts of sexual assault of his wife’s 13-year-old niece. At trial, Fortin sought to introduce expert testimony by Dr. Richard Gardner regarding parental alienation syndrome to support his claim that the child fabricated the allegations of sexual assault against him due to “interfamilial discord.” After a Frye hearing on the admissibility of evidence of PAS, the trial court rejected Dr. Gardner’s testimony on PAS, holding that it was not shown to be a theory generally accepted in the scientific community and thus was inadmissible.

 

Snyder v. Cedar, 2006 WL 539130 (Conn. Super. Ct. Feb. 16, 2006)(unpublished)

The plaintiff Daniel Snyder and the defendant Deborah Cedar were married on January 26, 1985. Their daughter Aviva was born soon after on October 21, 1985. In July 1990, Cedar instituted divorce proceedings in response to a violent encounter with the plaintiff. The pair engaged in a hotly contested divorce, specifically on the issue of custody and visitation of their daughter. Ultimately, both parties agreed to joint custody of Aviva with the child’s primary residence to be with Cedar and bi-weekly visitation rights with Snyder. In the years following, Snyder’s relationship with his daughter declined, culminating with a verbal argument in April 1997. Soon after, a social worker at Aviva’s school voiced concern that Aviva had been sexually abused. However, it was not until the following year that Aviva herself alleged sexual abuse by her father. Snyder maintains that the sexual allegations originated not with Aviva, but with Cedar in her efforts to turn Aviva against her father. As evidence of his theory, Snyder presented the testimony of Aviva’s childhood psychotherapist, Dr. Diane Rotnem. Dr. Rotnem testified that Aviva suffered from parental alienation syndrome. Although the court ultimately found the allegations of sexual abuse against Snyder were without merit, it rejected Dr. Rotnam’s testimony on PAS. Specifically, the court found that PAS lacked “any scientific basis” and that the syndrome had not been the subject of credible scientific studies. The court also found that PAS “lacks any methodological underpinning,” and as such, is inadmissible because it is “incapable of helping the fact finder determine a fact in dispute.”

 

NK v. MK, 17 Misc.3d 1123(A); 2007 WL 3244980 (N.Y.Sup. Ct. 2007) (unpublished)

Former spouses each seek, inter alia, a disproportionate equitable distribution in a contested divorce based on allegations by each party of egregious conduct. The wife cites a long pattern of domestic violence on the part of the husband while the husband alleges the wife engaged in conduct resulting in the alienation of the child from him. The Supreme Court of New York ultimately refuses to grant the father economic relief and finds there is no “generally accepted diagnostic determination or syndrome known as ‘parental alienation syndrome.’” Furthermore, the court notes that courts “cannot just accept the opinion of an expert and must evaluate it and then determine its efficacy or application to the case before it…especially [in cases] where there are allegations of domestic violence which must be considered in the context of a custody dispute.”

 

 

 

 

 

II. POSSIBLY RULING ADMISSIBLE

 

DV LEAP COMMENT: The following case is sometimes cited as holding PAS admissible – but a published decision has been impossible to obtain.

Kilgore v. Boyd, 13th Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, FL, Case No. 94-7573, 733 So.2d 546 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000); Boyd v. Kilgore, 773 So.2d 546 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000)

Court ruling that the PAS has gained general acceptance in the scientific community and thereby satisfies Frye Test criteria for admissibility.

 

III. DECLINING TO ADDRESS ADMISSIBILITY

 

A. Avoided on Procedural Grounds

 

Chatman v. Palmer, 761 S.E.2d 616 (Ga. Ct. App. 2014)

Trial court transferred primary physical custody to father, mother appealed. Mother had filed for and was granted a protective order which provided that father’s visitation with the child would be supervised until child could, according to therapist, visit father without fear of physical or mental injury. Trial court held a visitation hearing and transferred primary custody to father relying heavily on the testimony of a psychologist who had not examined the child but stated that a change in custody is the remedy where a child is suffering from PAS. Although the trial court used PAS to come to its decision, the appellate court did not discuss PAS, and instead remanded the case holding that the trial court lacked the authority to modify permanent custody under the family violence protective order.

 

Martire v. Martire, 822 N.W.2d 450 (N.D., 2012)

Mother and father appealed decision awarding joint custody. Father argued he should have been grated sole custody based on mother’s alienation. Mother argued that she should have been granted sole custody because father committed domestic violence and PAS should not be used by the court as it has been discredited and harms children when it is used to place them in the custody of domestic violence perpetrators. The court declined to resolve debate over PAS because it found the trial court was not clearly erroneous in finding father had not committed domestic violence acts and the trial court had properly based its decision not on PAS but on the statutory best interest factors and precedent on alienation which provides that “a parent who willfully alienates a child from the other parent may not be awarded custody based on that alienation.” (alteration in original).

 

Grove v. Grove, 2011 Ark. App. 648 (2011)

The mother appealed an order awarding sole physical custody of her two children to their father. The mother argued that the trial court abused its discretion by relying on expert witness testimony about parental alienation syndrome, which does not meet the Daubert test for admissibility of scientific evidence. Dr. Paul Deyoub conducted a court-ordered psychological evaluation, requested by the Father. Dr. Deyoub concluded that the mother was “poisoning” her children against their father. The mother requested that an expert of her choosing evaluate the children. Dr. Warren Seiler performed a psychological evaluation and found that the children had been “regularly pressured and brainwashed”. After these evaluations and several hearings the trial court placed custody of the children with the father and ordered temporary supervised visitation to the mother. The Court of Appeals did not address the Mother’s argument in regard to PAS because it had not been preserved for appeal.

 

L.F.W. v. J.R.W., 10 Misc.3d 1067A (N.Y Fam. Ct. 2005)

Cited J.F. v. L.F., 694 N.Y.S.2d 592 (N.Y.Fam.Ct. 1999) for the proposition that if one parent alienates the children from the other the best interests of the children may be served by a transfer of custody to the non-alienating parent. In this case the mother tried to allege alienation on the part of the father in order to stop paying child support but the court determined that the mother had raised this point at a prior hearing and the court had rejected it.

 

In re T.T., 681 N.W.2d 779 (N.D. 2004)

On appeal, The Supreme Court of North Dakota precluded a mother’s argument that the trial court erred in admitting testimony regarding PAS arguing that it is not a recognized scientific term in the scientific community. The Court held that the mother was precluded from making this argument, because she did not make the same objection in the trial court.

 

In re Paternity of A.M.C., 768 N.E.2d 990, 998-99 (Ind. 2002)

The father appealed the trial court's order regarding custody of and visitation with his three-year old. The father claimed that daughter was being sexually molested. The trial court consulted a number of psychologists and other professionals dealing with custody and visitation. One such evaluator, Dr. Watson, said that the child should remain in the custody of the mother with a further recommendation that the father should be denied all visitation rights with the child. The father contended that Dr. Watson's evaluation was based on PAS. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The appellate court claimed, “there is a difference between basing a recommendation upon a theory and making a diagnosis of a syndrome." They further differentiated between a diagnosis and being "at risk" for PAS - Dr. Watson claimed that the child was merely "at risk." Finally, the court notes that they are prohibited from reviewing Dr. Watson's credibility on procedural grounds because Father failed to challenge the admissibility of Dr. Watson's opinion at trial or on appeal.

 

Perlow v. Berg-Perlow, 816 So.2d 210 (Fla.App. 4 Dist. 2002)

Appellant father contends that the trial court erred in allowing expert testimony regarding PAS because the testimony did not meet the Frye standard. The District Court of Appeal of Florida refused to consider appellant’s argument because appellant did not make the same objection at trial.

 

People v. Bimonte, 185 Misc. 2d 390, 395 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 2000)

(Criminal Case)

The defendant was charged with taking sexually suggestive photographs of his children. He argued that an expert should be allowed to testify about PAS because if the children are allowed to testify they “will say bad things about him because of PAS.” The defendant acknowledged that generally PAS is applicable in custody cases but argued that since he and his ex had gone through a bitter custody fight it was relevant. The defendant argued that the testimony must be admitted and sought to cite People v. Fortin, 706 N.Y.S.2d 611 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 2000) for that proposition – the court notes that this is not applicable because in Fortin the court found that PAS was not admissible. The court decided that the issue was moot because the people’s motion to have the children testify was denied. The court also noted that since this was not a custody case the evidence would be irrelevant.

 

State ex rel. George B.W. v. Kaufman, 483 S.E.2d 852 (W.Va. 1997)

Father alleged that mother’s new boyfriend was sexually abusing the parties’ child and sought emergency custody. The court placed the child in emergency custody with the child, but did not schedule a hearing on the allegations. Mother challenged actions of the trial court and sought a court order requiring father to bring child to be evaluated by Dr. Richard Gardner for PAS. The Supreme Court of Appeals held that a full hearing was required on the abuse allegations, the appropriateness of changing custody, and that the trial court must consider the six Delaney factors before ordering the evaluation with Dr. Gardner – (1) the nature and intrusiveness of the exam, (2) the age of the child, (3) the resulting physical or emotional effects of the exam, (4) the probative value of the exam, (5) the remoteness in time of the exam to the alleged acts, and (6) the evidence already available for the parties’ use. The Court also noted that Dr. Gardner’s work is debated, “Critics maintain that there is scant empirical evidence supporting many of Dr. Gardner’s theories.”

 

In re. N.W., 2013 WL 5302716 (Tex. App., Dec. 19, 2013) (unpublished)

Mother appealed an order awarding primary custody of the parties’ daughter to father; the appellate court modified the order but affirmed the change in custody. The trial court relied on the testimony of several experts, including at least one who testified about parental alienation (the court did not distinguish between PAS and parental alienation). Mother appealed arguing in part that court appointed counselor’s testimony should not have been admitted because (1) the expert was not qualified to testify on PAS, (2) the expert’s testimony was inherently unreliable, and (3) because father did not disclose he would present evidence on PAS. The Appellate court refused to address this issue finding that mother had waived any objections to the expert by stipulating that the expert was qualified and by not objecting to the reliability of the expert’s testimony or father’s alleged failure to disclose. 

 

Damaj v. Sakaj, 2012 WL 3822015 (D. Conn. Sept. 4, 2012) (unpublished)

Magistrate Judge ruled that mother’s motion in limine to exclude evidence related to parental alienation or PAS was moot as nothing in the prior order would permit father to introduce testimony on PAS, but only on “the very tailored and limited issue” of potential coaching by mother. Court also discussed that “in the volumes of published decisions under ICARA and the Hague Convention, there is not one published decision that relied to any degree on the ‘parental alienation syndrome.’” Judge held that Dr. Benjamin Garber’s testimony would be limited to the opinions in his report regarding coaching and only coaching.

 

Weyker v. Weyker, 2010 WL 4721306 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 23, 2010) (unpublished)

In a divorce proceeding, the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision to award sole legal and physical custody of minor children to the wife. The husband argued that the district court abused its discretion by failing to recognize “parental alienation syndrome”. The court found that the district court did “not abuse its discretion by failing to address this alleged syndrome,” because the husband presented no evidence at trial regarding the syndrome, and therefore, could not complain of a ruling on appeal where he did not provide the district court with evidence needed to rule in the his favor.

 

Beam v. Beam 2010 WL 4609356 (Haw. Ct. App. Nov. 15, 2010) reconsideration denied, 2010 WL 5275783 (Haw. Ct. App. Dec. 23, 2010) (unpublished)

In a divorce proceeding the mother appealed the district court’s decision awarding the father temporary custody in response to his “Motion for Award of Temporary Sole Legal and Physical Custody, for Establishment of a Parental Alienation Case Management Protocol, and for Immediate Psychological Evaluation of Children.” The trial court found that the material change in circumstances since the Divorce Decree was that the mother had failed to facilitate a positive and harmonious relationship between the children in common and the father. The mother appealed and argued that the court erred in denying her motion in limine, which sought to exclude testimony from Dr. Marvin Acklin and any and all testimony positing that the case involved “parental alienation syndrome” or “parental alienation”. The court denied the motion in limine with respect to PAS testimony and Dr. Acklin’s testimony. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Dr. Acklin to testify and in denying the motion but did not discuss the admissibility of parental alienation syndrome further.

 

Oates v. Oates, 2010 Ark. App. 345, 2010 WL 1608865 (Ark.App., 2010)(unpublished)

On appeal, Ms. Oates contended that Dr. DeYoub's testimony should have been excluded because his opinions were based on the widely discredited psychological theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). The Court of Appeals refused to reach the admissibility of the issue, arguing, “[the admissibility of PAS testimony] is not preserved because it was not raised in a timely manner to the trial court.”

 

In re Marriage of Blake, 2007 WL 1154057 (Cal.App. 1 Dist. 2007) (unpublished)

In a divorce proceeding, the Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s refusal to allow the plaintiff-father to introduce evidence of PAS in the children with respect to custody and visitation issues. While the Court of Appeals takes note of the dispute within the legal and scientific community regarding the validity of PAS, they do not directly examine its validity. Instead, the Court upholds the trial court’s ruling on procedural grounds (the father did not offer a qualified expert on PAS, only a reference to a law journal article in his trial brief).

 

In re Marriage of Alvarez, 2007 WL 1057029 (Cal.App. 4 Dist. 2007) (unpublished)

Mother appeals a child custody order restricting her to supervised visitation because the trial court erred in admitting the testimony on PAS by therapist John Parker. The California Court of Appeals did not reach the admissibility of testimony on PAS and instead found that the therapist “did not offer any opinions about PAS and therefore the statements were not inadmissible on this basis.”

 

Costley v. Benjamin, 2005 WL 1950114 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2005) (unpublished)

“We need not determine whether Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the psychological community or establishes a reliable basis for expert testimony” because the trial court did not rely on evidence of PAS.

 

In re Marriage of Arthur, 2004 WL 1732709 (Cal.App. 3 Dist. 2004)(unpublished)

In a high conflict divorce, the mother of two minor children appealed a final custody order granting the father primary physical custody (and both parents joint legal custody) of the children on the grounds that, inter alia, the trial court inappropriately permitted testimony on PAS. Without examining the admissibility of PAS, the Court of Appeals overlooked the mother’s claim because the trial court did not rest its ruling on a PAS theory.

 

Marriage of Conde v. Krueger, 266 Wis.2d 1060 at *1 (Wis.App. 2003) (unpublished)

The trial court found, based primarily on an expert's report and testimony, that the mother had subjected the child to "parental alienation syndrome." The counselor who testified that PAS was present told the Court: "I don't have any degree in parental alienation. I have attended a number of seminars and trainings, but I haven't researched it. I haven't done my own research. I haven't authored any peer review journal articles on the subject. I rely on those things that are produced by those who have studied and done their own research." However, the trial court concluded that the counselor's claims of PAS, plus claims that the mother had slapped the child, were enough to constitute a substantial change in the child's circumstances. The trial court placed the child with the father. The Court of Appeals affirmed. In response to the mother’s challenge to the testimony on alienation, the Court of Appeals noted “…assuming that expert testimony was necessary, [the mother] has waived her challenge to the court's reliance on [the counselor] by not objecting to her testimony on alienation with any degree of specificity.”

In re Marriage of Idelle C., Ovando C., 2002 WL 1764181 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. 2002)(unpublished)

Same as Costley.

 

In re Spencley, 2000 WL 33519710 (Mich.App. 2000) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals of Michigan rejects appellants arguments that the trial court erred in relying on psychologist’s testimony regarding PAS because “the psychologist's use of this theory at trial was merely a way to explain appellant's behavior” and furthermore that “appellant did not challenge the admission of the evidence concerning ‘parental alienation syndrome’ at trial” and is therefore precluded from doing so on appeal.

 

Williams v. Transcender, 1998 WL 204949 (Wash.App. Div. 1 1998) (unpublished)

In a one-page opinion, the Court of Appeals of Washington declines review of the validity of PAS because the respondent “cited no legal authority in support of his arguments.”

 

In Re Marriage of Trainor, 1996 WL 312488 (Wash. App. Div. 1, June 10, 1996) “In his opening brief, Dr. Trainor raises issues involving the “Child Abuse in Divorce Syndrome” and the ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome.’ We decline to address these issues. First, Dr. Trainor failed to raise the ‘Child Abuse in Divorce Syndrome’ at trial, and he is thus precluded from raising the issue for the first time on appeal. Berg v. Ting, 125 Wn.2d 544, 555–56, 886 P.2d 564 (1995)Second, expert testimony at trial established that the “Parental Alienation Syndrome” had not occurred in this case.”

People v. Loomis, 658 N.Y.S.2d 787 (N.Y.Co.Ct. 1997) Noted PAS evidence is admissible in some states, but no precedent for allowing in NY and ultimately rejected because NY doesn’t allow expert testimony on ultimate issue.

 

B. Avoided on Factual Grounds

 

Eisenlohr v. Eisenlohr, 43 A.3d 694 (Conn. Ct. App. 2012)

In this case the court affirmed the trial court’s change of custody to the plaintiff based partially on the defendants attempt to alienate the child from the plaintiff. The defendant argued that the court abused its discretion in relying on parental alienation syndrome; however, the court dismissed this finding that the trial court did not rely on alienation syndrome and instead based the decision on specific acts where the defendant alienated the plaintiff. In a footnote the court noted that Connecticut courts have yet to address whether PAS is a reliable theory.

 

Palazzolo v. Mire, --- So.2d ----, 2009 WL 103957 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2009)

Ms. Mire and Ms. Palazzolo, a lesbian couple residing in California, had a child by artificial insemination after nearly 17 years together. Ms. Mire was the birth mother while Ms. Palazzolo was the adoptive mother. When the child was nearly five years old, the couple separated due, at least in part, to allegations that Ms. Mire engaged in lesbian affair while traveling for work. Due in part to special circumstances created by Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Mire enjoyed physical custody of the child for several months after the split. Ms. Palazzolo filed a petition for custody and visitation, alleging Ms. Mire denied her communication and access to the child. In her response, Ms. Mire alleged that she did so in part because Ms. Palazzolo refused to discontinue inappropriate conduct, including watching the child undress and bathe. In a court ordered custody evaluation, court-appointed evaluator Dr. Brian Jordan found that Ms. Palazzolo has “engaged in sex abuse of her adopted daughter.” The trial court thereafter granted the parents joint physical custody. A long custody battle ensued, with a series of psychologists examining the child’s relationship with her parents. The trial court acknowledged the concept of PAS without examining its admissibility. The Court of Appeals discussed PAS at length in its opinion and acknowledged the confusion within legal and scientific circles as to whether or not PAS is a valid scientific theory. Ultimately, the court relied on testimony by the experts in the case to make its ruling, one of whom noted that “her recommendation was not based on PAS; rather, her recommendation was based on the unique facts of this case.” Therefore, despite discussing and defining the court’s understanding of PAS, the majority never reached the issue of whether PAS is scientifically valid. Further, it failed to reach the issue of the admissibility of evidence of PAS due to the fact that the experts claimed they either did not subscribe to PAS or did not make their recommendations based on a finding of PAS.

 

 

In re Marriage of Bates, 819 N.E.2d 714 (Ill. 2004)

When Norma and Edward Bates divorced, Norma was granted custody of their daughter, with visitation for Edward. Less than a year after the divorce, Norma sought modification of the arrangement, in part because the daughter was “experiencing extreme anxiety and distress following contact with her father.” She alleged that Edward abused alcohol while the daughter was in his care, and that he abused the daughter. Edward argued that Norma’s accusations of abuse were an intentional attempt to alienate the daughter from him.

Edward presented several expert witnesses, including Dr. Richard Gardner, who testified that the daughter suffered from Parental Alienation Syndrome. The court refused to find that the daughter had been abused, and instead followed the recommendation of Edward’s experts, granting sole custody of the daughter to Edward, though it purported to “throw out the words ‘parental alienation syndrome.’” When Norma appealed the decision, arguing that PAS was not scientific and not reliable, the Illinois Supreme Court asserted that it did not need to decide whether PAS was an accepted scientific theory because the trial court did not rely on PAS in reaching its decision. Like the trial court, the Supreme Court accepted the premises of PAS while purporting to decide the case without reliance on the theory. The court explained that the trial court’s decision rested on the finding that Norma’s allegations of abuse “interfered with [the daughter’s] ability to build a ‘close and continuing relationship’ with her father.”

 

Zafran v. Zafran, 740 S.2d 596, 600 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2002) The Court of Appeals talks in length about PAS in this case - noting that there have been numerous law review articles and a number of cases that have dealt with PAS. However, the Court notes that "[g]enerally, the New York Courts, in the context of a custody/visitation case, rather than discussing the acceptability of “PAS” as a theory, have discussed the issue in terms of whether the child has been programmed to disfavor the non-custodial parent, thus warranting a change in custody.” The Court sua sponte permitted the defendant to proceed with a “Frye” type hearing prior to the trial of this matter, at which time they held that the defendant will have the opportunity to establish admissibility of expert testimony on the theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

 

Hughes v. Hughes, 588 N.W.2d 346 (Wis.App. 1998)

Mother appeals a trial court order modifying physical placement of her child and awarding physical placement with her ex-husband because the trial relied on expert testimony of PAS which, she argues, is inadmissible because it is scientifically invalid. The Court of Appeals of Wisconsin does not examine the scientific validity of PAS because they find that “there is other evidence in the record that supports the trial court's findings.”

 

In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994)

“We do not pass upon the issue of whether parental alienation syndrome is a reliable theory. Rather, we look at the evidence induced and draw our own conclusion. Because this is a de novo review, we look only at the evidence we deem admissible.”

 

In Interest of T.M.W., 553 So.2d 260 (Fla.App. 1 Dist. 1989) (DICTA)

In an appeal seeking review of a court order compelling a minor child to submit to a psychological evaluation, the court did not address the admissibility of PAS. The court does note, however, that “[n]o determination was made [at the trial court level] in the order or on the record as to general professional acceptance of the “parental alienation syndrome” as a diagnostic tool.”

 

 

 

O’Malley v. O’Malley, 2013 WL 6221091 (Ohio Ct. App. Nov. 27, 2013) (unpublished)

Mother appealed trial court’s award of residential and legal custody of the parties’ children to father; appellate court affirmed. After the parties divorced, father was convicted and served 15 months in prison on an obscenity charge. The custody dispute resumed when father was released. Mother alleged father physically and mentally abused the children, father alleged that mother had programed the children. The trial court did not find the abuse allegations credible, found that mother had alienated the children, modified custody to be with the father, and did not allow mother visitation until the children were successfully transitioned into father’s home. Appellate court found no error in the trial court’s decision and affirmed. Mother specifically argued that the court appointed expert erred in diagnosing the children with PAS when he was not licensed to practice in Ohio, but the appellate court found that expert never made this diagnoses, he simply concluded the children were alienated from their father based on mother’s behavior.

 

McRoberts v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2012 WL 2317714 (June 19, 2012) (unpublished)

Trial court awarded sole custody of the parties’ three younger children to father for 30 days without visitation or contact from mother during those 30 days. Mother appealed arguing that father had molested the two daughters. The appellate court affirmed the trial court on the basis of a court appointed evaluator’s statements that it was very unlikely the daughters were molested. Amici Curiae and mother argued that the trial court improperly considered testimony on PAS and parental alienation as such testimony is inadmissible under the Kelly/Frye test. The appellate court rejected this argument stating the court appointed expert did not offer an opinion based on PAS or any syndrome or diagnoses, but testified to a dynamic he frequently observed during his practice.

 

Cone v. Cone, 2010 WL 1730129 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2010)(unpublished)

The mother challenged an order of the trial court that awarded the father sole custody of their son. Mother alleged sexual abuse by the father and the department of social services found that the child had been sexually abused. However, during the trial to determine custody the court found the allegations of sexual abuse were not sufficiently proven. Mother argued on appeal that the trial court did not properly consider the DSS’s finding of sexual abuse. Justice for Children, a child advocacy group filed an amicus curiae brief asserting that the trial court improperly relied on parental alienation syndrome. Contrary to the claim by Justice for Children the Court of Appeals did not find that the trial court based their decision in any way on parental alienation syndrome. The Court of Appeals noted that none of the experts mentioned PAS and when asked about it by the mother’s attorney one expert answered that it did not pertain to this case. The court determined that evidence of PAS was not admitted in this case. The court's determination that father was the more suitable parent was primarily based on the fact that mother had been unwilling to encourage a close and continuing healthy parent-child relationship between the child and the father.

 

Bothur v. Bothur, 2010 WL 4610955 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 22, 2010)(unpublished)

Following an order from the dissolution of marriage granting the father supervised visitation with their three youngest children, the mother moved to terminate the order and move for sole custody. The family consisted of nine children, six of which were children in common. In the divorce proceedings the mother and father agreed to a psychological evaluation of all the parties by Dr. James J. Connolly, who would provide recommendations for the custody agreement. Dr. Connolly found that the oldest six children were dedicated to not participating in meaningful visits with their father. Dr. Connolly noted that the mother had engaged in alienating behavior toward the Father by saying and doing things in the children's presence that had the effect of causing their estrangement from their father. However Dr. Connolly testified that he did not believe that the mother’s conduct was the principal cause of the father’s estrangement from his six oldest children. The family relations counselor Paul Lorenzo found that “mother has made numerous overt and covert attempts to physically alienate and emotionally control the boys from their physical and emotional connections with their biological father.” He recommended, “that the courts no longer tolerate the aforementioned alienating behavior.”

The court concluded that “This case is no garden variety instance of ‘parental alienation syndrome,’ but an example of a considerably more complex, resilient, and intractable phenomenon revolving around the children's perceived abandonment and sense of betrayal . . . as well as the individual children's expectations of their father's behavior.”

The court addressed the mother’s accusations of “a horrendous story of threats, violence to herself and the children, and wildly excessive physical disciplining of the children that, if true, would warrant her concerns.” The father was arrested in 1999 for abusing one of the children and assaulting the mother. The court did not credit all of the mother’s testimony regarding abuse, citing the conflicting testimony of the two oldest sons and psychological evaluations of the children. The court was not persuaded by the mother’s testimony that the father was a present danger to the children. The court found that “the contradictions are too many, the prior inconsistent statements too credible, the evidence of her children's loyalty to her and her influence over them too powerful.” Concluding that, “it is the best interest of these three children to have a good parental relationship with their father,” and therefore, denied the Mother’s motion for modification of visitation

 

L.S. v. B.S. 2010 WL 4366367 (Ky. Ct. App. Nov. 5, 2010) (unpublished)

Mother appealed from an order that designated the father as the primary residential parent of two minor children. The mother argued that the family court improperly relied on the theory of “parental alienation syndrome.”

The mother and father’s divorce settlement ordered joint legal custody but the arrangement became unworkable when the mother contacted child protective services after incidents of the father hitting their son. This began a pattern of the mother accusing the father of abuse towards the children and the father accusing the Mother of trying to alienate the children. The parents entered into an agreed order in which Dr. Ronda Mancini was appointed to undertake counseling and treatment of the children. Dr. Mancini testified that she was concerned about the “apparent parental alienation created by the mother,” which she stated had a negative impact on the children and interfered with the father’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship with his children. The parenting coordinator also submitted a memo to the court stating that the mother was emotionally harming the children. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court had permissibly based its decision on the evidence offered at trial, not on an abstract theory of parental alienation syndrome. The Court of Appeals cited approvingly that the trial court’s decision was based on the fact that the mother “demonstrates no real understanding that it is important and desirable that both children feel free to love and enjoy their father as well as their mother.” The trial court also cited that the children suffered from poor dental care and lice but that the father had taken the initiative in securing speech therapy for the daughter.

 

Marinozzi v. Goss, 2010 WL 3516924 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Sept. 1, 2010) (unpublished)

The mother appealed an order denying her motion to modify parenting-time schedule. The mother argued that her son was experiencing parental alienation syndrome from his stepmother and that her request for a third party interview to investigate if “PAS” should have been granted. The Court of Appeals found that the mother’s argument lacked merit and affirmed the lower court’s denial of the relief sought but did not discuss parental alienation syndrome.

 

Linder v. Johnson, 2006 WL 3425021 (Ark.App. 2006) (unpublished)

When Jennifer Linder and Deron Johnson divorced, they were granted joint custody of their two children – then seven and five years old. Three years after the divorce, Johnson sought a change in custody, alleging that Linder had “systematically ‘poisoned’ the children’s minds” against him. Linder argued that the children feared visitation with Johnson because he physically abused them. Both children testified at the trial that their father physically abused them. But a court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Paul DeYoub, interviewed Linder, Johnson, and the children. During the interviews, the children—then twelve and fourteen—both “expressed fear for their lives and threatened to run away if [Johnson] was awarded custody.” Dr. DeYoub diagnosed the children with “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” explaining that Linder “made the children believe that [Johnson] had abused them. . . systematically alienating the children from [Johnson].” DeYoub recommended that Johnson be granted sole custody. A therapist who had been seeing the children for two years recommended that Linder retain custody. The court granted Johnson sole custody. Ms. Linder refused to comply. The court found her in contempt and ordered her to serve a one-year sentence, a ruling she successfully challenged. She appealed the change of custody.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling based on Dr. DeYoub’s recommendation and PAS finding. The Court did not examine the admissibility of Dr. DeYoub’s testimony on PAS, but instead deferred to the trial court’s finding. Although the Court of Appeals examined testimony by the children and mother regarding abuse by the father to determine whether the mother alienated the children from their father, the Court of Appeals was “convinced that Dr. DeYoub's conclusions regarding the parties' behavior are consistent with the statements the parties gave to Dr. DeYoub and the testimony offered at the hearings.”

 

Ignatiuk v. Ignatiuk, 2006 WL 933490 (Ark.App. 2006) (unpublished)

Appellant Kimberly Ignatiuk appealed a judgment changing custody of her two daughters to their father, Appellee Michael Ignatiuk. The parties were divorced in 1999 at which time they agreed to joint legal custody of the children with appellant having primary physical custody. In 2001, the children began therapy to deal with alleged sexual abuse by father, among other things. The father was acquitted of criminal charges related to allegations of sexual abuse by one of the children. In 2002, and in response to motions by both parties regarding visitation, the trial court ordered psychological evaluations of the children by a court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Paul DeYoub. Other psychologists conducted several subsequent psychological evaluations as well.

After the appellant remarried and moved to Florida with her children, the appellee filed for a change in custody alleging appellant’s move to Florida frustrated his visitation rights. After denying appellant’s continuance, the court ordered a change in custody based in large part on the testimony of Dr. Lowitz, a court-appointed psychologist who recommended a change in custody and Dr. Dyer, a guardian ad litem appointed by the court who alleged PAS. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling without examining the admissibility of testimony on PAS.

 

In re Marriage of McCord, 2003 WL 23219961 (Iowa App. 2003) (unpublished)

“We have not passed upon the issue of whether parental-alienation syndrome is a reliable theory. We find it unnecessary to do so now. Rather, we look at the evidence introduced and draw our own conclusion.” (Court found that mother had sought to remove father from daughter’s life:” We find her conduct as disturbing and devious as those cases where custody was modified because of one parent's behavior.”)

 

Pisani v. Pisani, 1998 Ohio App. Lexis 4421 at *15-16 (Ohio App. 1998) (unpublished)

Carol Pisani, the mother, argued the trial court committed prejudicial error when it failed to consider the testimony/report of Dr. Weinstein who concluded the children suffered from "Parental Alienation Syndrome." The Court of Appeals noted that it believed that the trial court had correctly considered the evidence of PAS and affirmed the trial court's decision to award custody to the father. The Court of Appeals did not address the admissibility of PAS because, “there is nothing in the record before this court to indicate that the trial court did not fully consider the evidence in the record.”

 

Martin v. Martin, 120 Nev. 342 (Nev. 2004) (Doesn’t really address PAS)

The Supreme Court of Nevada notes in a footnote that “interference by a custodial parent with a non-custodial parent's visitation privileges does not necessarily give rise to parental alienation syndrome” and cites Carol Bruch’s article. 

 

C. Trial Court Rulings

 

J.F. v. L.F., 694 N.Y.S.2d 592 (N.Y.Fam.Ct. 1999)

In this New York Family Court (not appellate) case, the court notes that while PAS is controversial, “generally the New York Courts, in the context of a custody/visitation case, rather than discussing the acceptability of PAS as a theory, have discussed the issue in terms of whether the child has been programmed to disfavor the non-custodial parent, thus warranting a change in custody.”

 

Bowles v. Bowles, 1997 WL 639491 (Conn.Super. Ct. 1997)(unpublished)

The Superior Court of Connecticut dismisses as unnecessary an examination of whether or not PAS is a reliable theory because “[w]hether [PAS] is legitimate or not is not a determination necessary for a proper determination of the custodial orders in this case.”

 

D. Allowing Evidence of PAS Without Addressing Admissibility

Case v. Richardson, 1996 WL 434281 at *2-3 (Conn. Super. Ct.  16, 1996)(Trial Court) (unpublished)

This is a lower court decision where the court noted “[the] mother has demonstrated a clear and continuing pattern calculated to prevent a relationship between… the minor child and her father, to the detriment of the child.” Trial court heard evidence of PAS without addressing admissibility.

 

In re John W., 41 Cal.App.4th 961, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 899 (1996), Brief mention of PAS in expert’s report during the trial.

 

White v. White, 655 N.E.2d 523 (Ind. App. 1995) Mention of PAS in custody evaluator’s report during the trial. Appellate court affirmed award of sole custody to the father. Error of trial court in refusing to allow child to testify on behalf of former wife during custody hearing to rebut testimony of witnesses for former husband that they had seen wife kick child was harmless where even if allegations had been rebutted determination that sole custody with husband was in best interests of children was supported by expert testimony that wife was engaging in pattern of behavior described as parental alienation syndrome and by evidence that wife had volatile temper and that five-year-old daughter was not yet fully potty-trained while under wife's supervision.

 

IV. DISCUSSING PAS UNFAVORABLY (DISCUSSION MAY BE IN DICTA)

 

 

C.J.L. v. M.W.B. 879 So.2d 1169 (Ala.Civ.App. 2003)(DICTA)

Mother argued that the trial court erred by admitting and relying on a doctor’s testimony because he, according to the mother, based his recommendation on his diagnosis of PAS which the mother contends is not widely accepted as a syndrome or diagnosis in the psychological community and therefore does not pass the “general acceptance” test for the admissibility of scientific evidence under Frye. The Court of Appeals notes that the doctor did not make an actual diagnosis of PAS – rather the doctor’s report was “based on the mother's repeated and admitted inability to promote, or to at least be neutral concerning, the father's role as parent.” The Court of Appeals notes, “Although we might, if faced squarely with the question whether evidence concerning an actual diagnosis of PAS was admissible under Frye's “general acceptance” test, be inclined to agree with the mother and find that PAS had not been generally accepted in the scientific community, we do not need to make that decision in this case.”

 

Wiederholt v. Fischer, 485 N.W.2d 442 (Wisc. 1992)(DICTA)

The trial court found that the children were alienated from their father and that the alienation was attributable to both parents. The court denied the father’s motion to change primary placement because it found that it was not in the children's best interest. The Court of Appeals noted, “the cure [for PAS] is controversial and that there is limited research data to support the success of transferring the children to the ‘hated’ parent.”

 

Cichanowicz v. Cichanowicz, 2008 WL 4292724 (Ohio App. 3 Dist. 2008)(unpublished)

Father appealed a magistrate order naming his ex-wife and mother of their children the residential parent of the children. The Court of Appeals of Ohio upheld the magistrate’s finding that the expert testimony offered on PAS “was unreliable because [the expert] reached this conclusion without interviewing [the child].” This is fact specific. This may indicate that PAS testimony would have been permissible if the expert had met with the child prior to articulating her report.

 

 

V. DISCUSSING PAS FAVORABLY

 

A. Appellate Court

 

In re Marriage of D.T.W. & S.L.W., 964 N.E.2d 573 (Ill. 2012)

The mother cited In re Marriage of Bates, 819 N.E.2d 714 (Ill. 2004) for the proposition that before the court awarded sole custody to the father on the basis of PAS the court had to give her a chance to change her behaviors. The court ultimately rejected this contention.

 

Noland-Vance v. Vance, 321 S.W.3d 398, 402 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010)

In a divorce action the trial court determined custody of the couple’s six children. Sole custody with supervised visitation was ordered for the four youngest children. The court ordered psychological evaluations for all parties by Dr. Alan Aram and appointed a guardian ad lidem for the children. Dr. Aram determined that there was domestic abuse between the father and the mother but did not find evidence that the father had physically abused the children. Dr. Aram also found that the mother had alienated the children from their father. The court cited Dr. Aram’s testimony explaining the ten indicators and his conclusion that all ten indicators were present in this case, which he described a one of the worst cases of he had seen. The mother brought her own expert, clinical psychologist Dr. Adelman, to evaluate the children. Dr. Adelman concluded the children had experienced trauma, not parental alienation. However, when asked by the court how one could differentiate between trauma and , Dr. Adelman answered that it was difficult because of the similarity in symptoms. After the guardian ad lidem investigation, he concluded that the children were severely traumatized by and not by any physical abuse from the father. The lower court made a specific finding that “all the children have been alienated from their father by their mother.” The court also relied upon Dr. Aram's conclusion that it was unlikely individual counseling would change the mother's alienating behavior.

 

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court's finding of parental alienation by the mother was appropriate as it was amply supported by evidence from Dr. Aram's testimony and the findings of the guardian ad lidem. The Court of Appeals also stated that, “Given the court's finding of extreme parental alienation in this case, the court gave “little weight” to the testimony of the children or Mother. It was well within the trial court's discretion to accept or reject all, part or none of the testimony it hears.”

 

In re Marriage of Hatton, 160 P.3d 326, 334 (Colo. 2007)

The court cites an "extensive longitudinal study" that notes that “parental alienation hasbeen found to occur in twenty percent of cases involving custody and parenting time.” However, the only mention of PAS is in string cite which does not mention admissibility or validity, but rather cites to a law review article which says, “Remediation [for parental alienation syndrome] should almost never consist of excluding a relationship with the problematic parent.”

Barton v. Hirshberg, 767 A.2d 874, 891 (Md.App. 2001)

The mother challenged a doctor's report which she claimed was based on "the so-called parental alienation syndrome." The Court of Appeals held that there was adequate basis for the doctor to have come to the conclusions that he did. The Court of Appeals found the doctor's report that the child was at risk for parental alienation syndrome persuasive and upheld the trial court's decision to award joint custody.

 

Hundal v. Beard, 2013 WL 5493310 (E.D. Cal., Oct. 2, 2013) (unpublished)

(Criminal Case)

Father was charged with committing lewd acts on his daughter, he was found guilty and filed for habeas relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court permitted father’s expert to testify about PAS, but held that he could not testify to the facts or circumstances of the case or anyone’s credibility. The appellate court did not address this holding, but favorably described PAS as “what some health care professionals call a disorder that arises primary in the context of child-custody disputes in which a child belittles and insults one parent without justification, resulting, in part, from the indoctrination by the other parent.”

 

Habo v. Khattab, 2013 WL 6869804 (Ct. of App. Ohio Dec. 31, 2013) (unpublished)

Mother appealed divorce decree which granted custody of the parties’ three children to father and gave mother only supervised visitation. Mother suffered from severe OCD which manifested in excessive cleaning and fear of germs. Mother apparently stopped taking her mediation on 1-2 occasions. Mother alleged father had abused her and was fearful that he would hurt the children. Father was convicted of a domestic violence offense against the younger daughter. Mother’s own expert, as well as father’s experts, testified that mother engaged in alienation and the children actions were consistent with PAS. Mother’s expert suggested mother could be receptive to counseling. The trial court, in awarding custody, found mother’s mental health to be the most significant statutory best interest factor and mother’s alienating behavior to be the second most significant factor. Mother did not directly challenge the admissibility of parental alienation or PAS, but argued, in part, that the court did not give enough weight to the domestic violence conviction and history of abuse, and that if the GAL had filed a report mother would have had time to find a better expert. Appellate court rejected all of mother’s errors and held the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

 

Arello v. Rich, 2011 WL 3856158 (V.I.Super. March 17, 2011) (unpublished)

Plaintiff-father filed a motion to compel seeking a court order for his child to be examined by Dr. Richard Sauber. Plaintiff called Dr. Sauber to testify as a forensic psychologist specializing in family related cases. Dr. Sauber testified that he would perform an assessment on the child, which would “not focus solely on the issue of “parental alienation syndrome,” but on the child’s overall mental and emotional condition.” The father argued that examination was necessary to determine whether the child was suffering from parental alienation syndrome. The court determined that hearing Dr. Sauber would be helpful in determining the best interest of the child because of the divergent testimony that had been heard. The court ordered Dr. Sauber to provide an assessment of the child including a discussion of any syndromes or other concerns revealed.

 

Curiev. Curie, 2006 WL 3350734 at *2, 4 (Ohio App. 11 Dist., Nov. 17, 2006) (unpublished)

The trial court believed that “the children [were]neglected or dependent because of the parental alienation on the part of their mother, the Defendant, towards the Plaintiff, their father.” Furthermore, a psychologist reported extensive PAS. The trial court terminated all visitation rights of the mother. The Court of Appeals only mentions that PAS wasf ound to be present by the trial court.

M.W.W. v. B.W., 900 So.2d 1230, 1233 (Ala.Civ.App. 2004) (unpublished)

The trial court awarded custody to the father; a decision that was partially based on the finding of PAS. The Court of Appeals affirmed: “The trial court had a compelling reason for separating the daughters because of the older daughter's current inability to get along with the father and the mother's negative influence on the younger daughter in regard to the father.” The Court of Appeals noted that there was also a compelling reason for the trial court to split up the children because “the older daughter's alienation from the father arose out of unproven sexual-abuse allegations and the mother's influence on her.”

 

Doerman v. Doerman, 2002 WL 1358792 at *6-7 (Ohio App. 12 Dist. June 24, 2002) (unpublished)

The trial court found the testimony of Dr. Dix of "the utmost importance in reaching its decision." Dr. Dix found that there was moderate parental alienation syndrome on the part of the mother. The doctor differentiated severe cases of PAS versus moderate cases. In moderate cases the doctor noted that the children should stay with the mother and attempts should be made to foster a good relationship with the father, while in severe cases the children should be taken away from the mother. The Court of Appeals notes while Dr. Dix may have felt that the PAS was moderate, the trial court decided that the PAS had become severe by the time the court made their decision. The trial court decided that the father should have physical custody of the children, and the mother was given limited visitation. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.

 

K.T.D. v. K.W.P., 2012 WL 5458549 (Ala. Civ. App. Nov. 9, 2012) (unpublished)

The court cited C.J.L. v. M.W.B., 879 So.2d 1169 (Ala.Civ.App. 2003) for the proposition that even if a parent’s behavior does not rise to the level of PAS the court could consider evidence by one parent designed to alienate the other. In this case the court found that the mother’s alienating behavior toward the father supported a change in custody.

 

B. TRIAL COURT

 

Matter of Karen B. v. Clyde M., 574 N.Y.S.2d 267 (N.Y. 1991)

The parties were never married and had one child, age four. Mother filed motions seeking sole custody and supervised visitation, a permanent order or protection, and sanctions for father’s violations of the temporary order of protection. Father sought sole custody, an order of protection, and sanctions for mother’s violation of the custody order. Mother’s request was based on her statement that the child had disclosed sexual abuse, based on that allegation the Court issued a temporary order of protection and placed custody with the mother. The child was interviewed twice by a child sexual abuse therapist who found that there was no information that would suggest the child had been sexually abused by her father—the therapist placed emphasis on mother’s vested interest in the outcome as she wanted full custody. Social services found the allegations unfounded. The Court also heard from another expert, Dr. Sack, who believed the child had been sexually abused. Several other witnesses testified that the child appeared unafraid of the father. The Court relied heavily on the writing of Dr. Gardner on PAS in coming to its conclusion, using Dr. Gardner’s criteria for determining whether the child’s allegations were falsified. The Court concluded the mother had “programmed her daughter to accuse the father of sexually abusing the child so that she could obtain sole custody and control or even preclude any contact that the father might have with his daughter.” The Court granted full custody to the father with no visitation for the mother and ordered the Probation Department to create a treatment program and report to the Court if it determines that visitation between mother and child should begin.

 

VI. ACCEPTING PARENTAL ALIENATION (NON-SYNDROME)

BUT NOT RULING ON ADMISSIBILITY

 

A. Rejecting PAS but Affirming Parental Alienation

 

Broadway v. Broadway, ---So.3d --- (2014), 2014 WL 4798974 (Ala. Civ. App., Sept. 26, 2014)

Father appealed denial of his petition to modify custody, appellate court affirmed trial court’s refusal to find a change in circumstances and change custody. Parents divorced in 1999, father alleged mother was engaging in alienating the child from him in 2003 and 2009. The trial court heard from numerous mental health professionals who testified about parental alienation and recommended custody be changed to the father, mother’s witnesses were primarily non-expert witnesses like child’s teachers. The appellate court found that the trial court was free to assign whatever weight to the expert testimony and thus the appellate court would not substitute its judgment for the trial court’s here. The court did not specifically distinguish parental alienation from PAS and cited cases discussing PAS although apparently the experts in this case testified only to parental alienation.

 

In re Matthew M., 2013 WL 4734892 (Conn. Super. Ct. Aug. 12, 2013) (unpublished)

Trial court granted the commissioner of children and families’ motion to modify the disposition of protective supervision with mother and granted father’s motion to appoint a new therapist. Minor child was adjudicated neglected and placed in protective custody with mother. Court held a six day trial on the motions and heard testimony from numerous experts. Child has made numerous allegations of sexual abuse by father, but the only allegation substantiated by DCF was overturned internally. Child witnessed abuse committed by father against mother. Child’s current therapists believe child has good reason to be afraid of his father and has PTSD. All the court appointed experts testified that child has been a victim of mother’s alienation and that he must be removed from mother’s custody and placed in foster care with the goal of residing with his father. The court gave lesser weight to the child’s therapists finding that they did not sufficiently understand the concept of parental alienation and its effects. Although basing its decision on parental alienation, the court specifically held that “Nothing in Dr. Humphrey’s testimony or reports of the court’s findings here, however, should be seen as endorsing the concept of a ‘parental alienation syndrome’ rejected by Dr. Humphrey and most courts.”

 

Rice v. Lewis, 2009 WL 1027544 at *10-11 (Ohio App. 4 Dist. Apr. 10, 2009) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals stated that the "trial court abused its discretion to the extent it considered ... Parental Alienation Syndrome when determining the best interest of the child." The Court of Appeals found that the trial court abused its discretion when it "[e]ssentially, started with the assumption that [the mother] had Parental Alienation Syndrome and placed the burden on her to prove that she did not." However, the Court of Appeals noted that there are two circumstances under which to consider parental alienation: (1) whether a “parent is more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights” and (2) whether “the residential parent has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with and order of the court.”

 

In re Jamie S., 2009 WL 939852 at *10 (Conn. March 9, 2009) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals in a footnote in this case differentiated between parental alienation as a factual issue and parental alienation syndrome as "an alleged psychiatric disorder not listed or set forth in the American Psychiatric Association's current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual." The Court of Appeals notes that the trial court made a factual finding that the plaintiff had engaged in parental alienation. The Court of Appeals further notes that the trial court did not address any potential health condition. As a result, the Court of Appeals asserted that they were making "no decision concerning the validity of such a syndrome."

 

Krukiel v. Krukiel, 2007 WL 241257 at *6 (Conn. Jan. 18, 2007) (unpublished)

Lower court decision where they differentiated between "a state of alienation" and PAS. The court found the "state of alienation" argument by one doctor more persuasive than another doctor's critique of parental alienation syndrome, ultimately awarding custody to the father.

 

Coleman v. Coleman, 2004 WL 1966083 (Conn.Super. 2004)(Trial Court)(unpublished)

The lower court notes “Connecticut courts have not, as a matter of law, recognized parental alienation syndrome.” They did however cite to Ruggiero v. Ruggiero, 819 A.2d 864 (Conn. App. 2003) in a footnote, “the court made a factual finding that the plaintiff had engaged in parental alienation. The plaintiff's claim concerning parental alienation dealt with the issue of the validity of a finding of parental alienation syndrome. The court did not address any potential mental health condition. This opinion utilizes the court's factual conclusion that the plaintiff's activity as a parent alienated the defendant, and this court makes no decision concerning the validity of such a syndrome.” The lower court claims “[t]he issue [of the validity of PAS] remains one for another date and need not be reached here.”

 

 

 

 

 

B. Affirming Parental Alienation without Discussion of PAS

 

S.D. v. B.D., 962 N.E.2d 702 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012)

The father argued that the trial court erred by awarding the mother custody of their child based partially on allegations of parental alienation syndrome. The father cited to Hanson v. Spolnik, 685 N.E.2d 71 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), for the proposition that parental alienation can be detrimental to the welfare of the child. The court found that the few incidents of parental alienation here (the mother helped the child make a family collage and didn’t include any pictures of the father, and the mother enrolled the child in day care over the summer even though the father was available to watch the child) did not rise to the level of endangering the welfare of the child. However the court did say “we acknowledge the mother’s actions appear adverse to father and she should be mindful not to repeat such behavior in the future. Parental alienation is a serious problem and can have lasting implications.”

 

In re Marriage of Benhart, 810 N.W.2d 533 (Iowa App. 2012).

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court found that the mother had not established that the father or stepmother was seeking to alienate the children from her and refused a modification in custody.

 

Balaska v. Balaska, 25 A.3d 680 (Conn. App. 2011)

The Court of Appeals upheld the finding that the mother had alienated child “A” from the father. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the trial court’s consideration of treatises and articles regarding parental alienation were not grounds for reversing the order, which increased the father’s visitation with respect to child “C”. The mother argued that modification of the father’s visitation to C was improper because the court erroneously found that she engaged in parental alienation with respect to child A. The trial court found that the mother’s “virtually radioactive” hatred toward the defendant had “poisoned” child A. However, the Court of Appeals found that reliance on treatises and articles regarding alienation was not reversible error. In addition, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court made its decision with regard to visitation with child C based on the relationship the father and C enjoyed, not on the findings in regard to child A. The Court of Appeals included a footnote to define their discussion of parental alienation, noting that the syndrome “occurs when one parent campaigns successfully to manipulate his or her children to despise the other parent despite the absence of legitimate reasons for the children to harbor such animosity.” I. Turkat, “Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Review of Critical Issues,” 18 Am. Acad. Matrimonial Law 131, 133 (2002–2003).

 

Dufner v. Trottier, 778 N.W.2d 586 (N.D. 2010)

Court cited In re T.T., 681 N.W.2d 779 (N.D. 2004) for the proposition that continually exposing a child to parental conflict is not in the child’s best interests. In this case the court upheld an order reducing the mother’s visitation in part because of all of the conflict between the parents.

 

Hanna v. Hanna, 377 S.W.3d 275 (Ark. Ct. App. 2010)

In this case the court transferred custody from the mother to the father, finding that the mother had engaged in parental alienation. The evidence of alienation by the mother included reports of sexual abuse, calling the father names in front of the children, and her proposed move. The appellate court affirmed despite the fact that there was evidence that the mother had never actually interfered with the father’s visitation, the fact that the children wanted to stay with their mom, and evidence that the children’s relationship with their father had actually improved while they were living with their mom.

 

Bittick v. Bittick, 987 So.2d 1058 (Miss. App. 2008).

Court cited Ellis v. Ellis, 952 So.2d 982 (Miss.App. 2006) for the proposition that interference with visitation may constitute a material change in circumstances justifying a change in custody. In this case the appellate court found that the trial court did not err by failing to find a material change in circumstance despite evidence that the mother had interfered with some of the father’s visits and telephone calls.

 

Sharp v. Keeler, 256 S.W.3d 528 (Ark. Ct. App. 2007).

In this case the court affirmed a transfer of custody from the mother to the father based on the mother’s alienation of the father. Evidence of alienation included refusing to tell the father about the son’s medical condition, interfering with visitation, refusing to let the father baby-sit when she was unavailable to care for the son, and refusing to call the son by the father’s last name. The court however did reverse the part of the order requiring the mother’s visits to be supervised.

 

P.M. v. S.M., 17 Misc. 3d 1122(A). (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2007).

It does not appear that there was any expert testimony on parental alienation in this case but the father did allege that the mother alienated him. The court however found the allegations to lack credibility and that the father would be more likely to alienate the children from their mother if he was awarded custody.

 

Bledsoe v. Cleghorn, 993 So.2d 456 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007)

Court cited C.J.L. v. M.W.B., 879 So.2d 1169 (Ala.Civ.App. 2003)

for the proposition that problems with visitation coupled with one parent’s attempts to alienate the child from the non-custodial parent can warrant a change in custody. In this case the court overturned a trial court’s decision to transfer custody to the father. The court concluded that the trial court’s decision was not based solely on problems with visitation but that it was based on an erroneous finding that a modification would be in the child’s best interests.

 

In re Marriage of Rohlfsen, 720 N.W.2d 193 (Iowa App. 2006).

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that stepparents’ actions in seeking to alienate the children from the non-custodial parent can be taken into account when determining whether to modify custody. In this case the court transferred custody from the mother to the father based in part on the actions of the child’s stepfather attempting to alienate the child from her father.

 

In re Marriage of Oostenink, 705 N.W.2d 107 (Iowa App. 2005)

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court affirmed a change in custody from the mother to the father based partially on the mother’s failure to foster a relationship between the child and the father.

 

In re Marriage of Little, 698 N.W.2d 336 (Iowa App. 2005)

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court concluded that the father had shown that the mother had alienated him.

 

Lisa B. v. Salim G., 7 Misc.3d 1011(A) (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 2005)

Cited J.F. v. L.F., 694 N.Y.S.2d 592 (N.Y.Fam.Ct. 1999) for the proposition that that court must consider the effect that an award of custody to one parent might have on the child’s relationship to the other parent. In this case the court used the fact that an abusive father attempted to alienate the children from their mother as partial justification for awarding custody of the children to the mother.

 

In re Marriage of Simms, 695 N.W.2d 42 (Iowa App. 2004).

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court affirmed a grant of custody to the father based partially on the fact that the mother and her family sought to impede the child’s relationship with his father.

 

John A. v. Bridget M., 4 Misc.3d 1022(A) (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 2004)

Cited J.F. v. L.F., 694 N.Y.S.2d 592 (N.Y.Fam.Ct. 1999) for the proposition that that court must consider the effect that an award of custody to one parent might have on the child’s relationship to the other parent. In this case the court awarded custody to the father after they found that the mother had alienated the children from the father by coaching them to make false sexual abuse allegations.

 

Lasater v. Lasater, 809 N.E.2d 380 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004).

The appellate court held that the trial court properly considered evidence of the mother’s animosity towards the father in restricting the mother’s visitation.

 

Ruggiero v. Ruggiero, 819 A.2d 864 (Conn. App. 2003)

The Court of Appeals states, “[t]he [trial] court made a factual finding that the plaintiff had engaged in parental alienation. The plaintiff's claim concerning parental alienation dealt with the issue of the validity of a finding of parental alienation syndrome. The court did not address any potential mental health condition. This opinion utilizes the court's factual conclusion that the plaintiff's activity as a parent alienated the defendant, and this court makes no decision concerning the validity of such a syndrome.”

 

Zafran v. Zafran, 306 A.D.2d 468 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2003)

A father appealed the court’s decision to award custody of the youngest daughter to the mother. The court upholds the decision finding it amply supported by the evidence. One of the things the court notes is evidence presented at trial that the father alienated the couple’s two sons from their mother.

 

Carver v. May, 81 Ark. App. 292 (Ark. App. Ct. 2003)

In this case the court affirmed a transfer of custody from the mother to the father based on the mother’s alienation of the father. Evidence of alienation included reported sexual abuse that was determined to be unfounded, interfering with visitation, and making unfounded allegations of drug abuse.

 

In re Marriage of Crotty, 584 N.W.2d 714 (Iowa App. 1998)

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that third parties’ actions in seeking to alienate the children from the non-custodial parent can be taken into account when determining whether to modify custody. In this case the court did not find that the mother’s parents were seeking to alienate the children from the father.

 

Turner v. Benson, 953 S.W.2d 596, 598 (Ark. 1997)

The Court of Appeals upheld the finding of alienation, stating "[w]hether one parent is alienating a child from the other is an important factor to be considered in change of custody cases, for, as the chancellor noted, a caring relationship with both parents is essential to a healthy upbringing." However, they never mentioned PAS, its admissibility or validity.

 

In re Preston C.G., 2012 WL 5830584 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov 15, 2012) (unpublished)

Court cited Costley v. Benjamin, 2005 WL 1950114 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2005) for the proposition that it is the public policy of the state that the best interests of the child will be served by having a close relationship with both parents. The court noted that while this was important the trial court was not required to place greater weight on this factor than the other enumerated factors. In this case the court affirmed an order denying the father’s petition to modify custody based on the mother’s allegedly alienating behavior

 

In Re Jonathan S., 2012 WL 3112897 (Ct. App. Tenn. July 31, 2012) (unpublished)

In this case the trial court found that the best interests of the child were served by being placed with his father because the mother made repeated allegations of sexual abuse that the court determined were unfounded. The court noted that the mother’s hostility towards the father was detrimental towards the son. The appellate court affirmed.

 

Maynor v. Nelson, 2006 WL 3421288 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 27, 2006) (unpublished)

Court cited Costley v. Benjamin, 2005 WL 1950114 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2005) for the proposition that it is the public policy of the state that the best interests of the child will be served by having a close relationship with both parents. In this case the court affirmed a denial of the father’s petition to modify custody. In support of his petition the father had argued that the mother was unwilling to allow any extra visitation than that provided for in the initial agreement. The court stated that the mother had no obligation to allow extra visitation although they did note that it is the public policy of the state to foster a relationship between the child and both parents.

 

Hopkins v. Whittemore, 2004 WL 539085 at *1-2 (Mich.App., Mar. 18, 2004) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals affirmed trial court’s decision to order a custody evaluation due to “possible parental alienation." However, the case never mentions PAS, its admissibility or validity.

 

Faucher v. Bitzer, 2002 WL 432750 (Ark.App. 2002) (unpublished)

Appellant Denise Faucher and appellee Lon Bitzer divorced in 1995. Ms. Faucher was awarded custody of the couple’s four children. During the next several years, the children’s relationship with Bitzer deteriorated. Three separate child abuse reports were filed with the state department of human services during this time, though the department determined them to be “unfounded.” Mr. Bitzer filed for a change of custody in 1999 alleging Ms. Faucher alienated the children from him. The court found his allegations credible and awarded full custody to Mr. Bitzer. On appeal, Ms. Faucher argued, among other things, that evidence presented was insufficient to support a finding that the strained relationship between the children and their father was a result of her actions.

The trial court based its ruling on the testimony of Dr. Paul DeYoub and Dr. Glenn Lowitz, both court-appointed psychologists. Both doctors recommended a change of custody to the father based on their finding that Ms. Faucher alienated the children from their father. The Court of Appeals cited Turner v. Benson, noting “[w]e have held that whether one parent is alienating a child from the other is an important factor to be considered in change of custody cases because a caring relationship with both parents is essential to a healthy upbringing.” The Court of Appeals noted that they were “not convinced that the chancellor's findings [in regards to parental alienation] [were] clearly contrary to the preponderance of the evidence.”

 

In re Marriage of Kajtazovic, 2002 WL 575713 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 13, 2002) (unpublished)

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court overturned the district court’s decision to award an abusive father custody of the child based in part on his attempts to alienate the child from the mother.

 

In re Marriage of Gallmeyer, 2002 WL 536044 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 10, 2002) (unpublished)

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court found that the mother’s inability to support the child’s relationship with his father justified modifying a the custody arrangement from joint custody to the father having custody.

 

In re Marriage of Seavey, 2000 WL 1826046 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 13, 2000) (unpublished)

Court cited In re Marriage of Rosenfeld, 524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994) for the proposition that a parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is an important consideration in custody case. In this case the court overturned a district court’s denial of the mother’s petition to modify custody based on the father’s attempt to alienate her from the child.

 

Krieger v. Krieger, 1999 WL 33453292 at *2, 5-6 (Mich.App., Mar. 26, 1999) (unpublished)

There were a number of evaluations performed by doctors that favored the father over the mother based on "best interest factors," which took into consideration alienation. However, Richard Gardner testified on behalf of the mother saying that there was no alienation present and recommended awarding her custody. The trial court found for the mother and the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. While parental alienation was mentioned a number of times, parental alienation syndrome was never discussed.

 

Bell v. Bell, 1998 WL 760251 (Ark. Ct. App. 1998) (unpublished)

In this case the court found a material change in circumstances justifying a change in custody based partially on the fact that mother was alienating the child from her father. Evidence of alienation included the fact that the mother had told the child that her father was not her real biological father.

 

VI. REJECTING PARENTAL ALIENATION WITHOUT

DISCUSSION OF PAS

 

J.R. v. N.R. 929 N.Y.S. 2d 200 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2011)

The court denied father’s motion for visitation of his two children and enjoined the father from filing further petitions against the mother or children without prior approval of the court. The court credited testimony of the mother and two children regarding an extensive history of domestic violence against the mother, which the children witnessed, as well as physical abuse against the children. The father testified that the mother had “brainwashed” and actively worked to alienate the children from him. The court found that there was no evidence that the mother attempted to alienate the children and that it was in fact the father’s conduct towards the mother and the children that resulted in their refusal to visit with him.

 

T.N.S.R. v. N.P.W., 2014 WL 7008922 (Ala. Civ. App. Dec. 12, 2014) (unpublished)

Appellate court found that trial court’s award of sole physical custody to father based solely on the determination that mother had alienated the child was plainly wrong and reversed. Child was born out of wedlock and parents separated when the child was about one year old. Mother moved to Colorado with her new husband, child, and child’s half-sibling and father then filed a paternity and custody action. Mother alleged father had been physically abusive to her during their relationship. Appellate court found trial court failed to consider the effect on the child of disrupting the current custody status and failed to give proper weight to mother’s years as the primary caretaker. Appellate court also found that mother had agreed to and followed a visitation plan, and that although trial court had based its decision on alienation, the father never presented evidence that the child had been manipulated by the mother nor did father suggest mother had done so. Appellate court conflated parental alienation and PAS providing the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of PAS in its discussion of parental alienation.

 

Rousos v. Boren, 2014 WL 4217415 (Ct. of App. Tenn. Aug 26, 2014) (unpublished)

Both parents sought to be named primary residential parent; the trial court awarded primary residential custody of the older son to father and continued equal parenting time for the two younger sons with mother as the primary residential parent. Both parties appealed and the appellate court affirmed.   One of mother’s assignments of error was that the trial court erred in naming father primary residential parent of the older son after making numerous findings regarding father’s negative alienating behavior. The children’s therapist testified that although father had acted to influence the children, the children had not actual been alienated and had retained an openness to their mother.

 

In re Marriage of Crystal and Shawn H., 2013 WL 2940952 (Cal. Ct. App. June 17, 2013) (unpublished)

Father was convicted of forcible oral copulation of mother and sentenced to six years in prison; during the criminal proceedings he was to stay away from and not contact mother or the parties’ sons. Trial court denied father any visitation or telephone contact with children while in prison but ordered that upon father’s release from prison in three years, there would be immediate reunification concurrent with father’s personal rehabilitation. Appellate court reversed finding trial court abused its discretion. Court appointed expert had specifically testified that children were legitimately fearful of father, but trial court relied on outside communication with Joan Kelly, a non-testifying lecturer on parental alienation whom the trial judge had met at a conference, who stated that sending the children to therapy by themselves and allowing them to determine when they want to reunite is a waste of time and doesn’t work. Appellate court found it was inappropriate for the trial court to rely on Joan Kelly’s statements, especially as Joan Kelly’s work specifically separates alienated children from those who are estranged based on abuse. Appellate court also found trial court abused its discretion in assuming reunification will be in the children’s best interest three years in the future.

 

 

 

 

VII. PAS MENTIONED IN FACTS

 

A. Appellate Court

 

Hatmaker v. Hatmaker, 998 N.E.2d 758 (Ind. Ct. App., 2013)

Father was convicted of committing battery upon mother and given only supervised visitation with the child, contingent upon his completion of domestic violence counseling. Two years after the divorce father filed a motion seeking unsupervised parenting time and alleging that child was suffering from PAS. Mother testified she was afraid of father, that he sent her letters, and that she suspected he had placed a decapitated rabbit on her doorstep. The trial court denied father’s motion; the appellate court reversed. The appellate court did not discuss PAS, but instead focused on the requirement of Indiana Code 31-17-4-1(a) which provides that a court may not restrict parenting time without finding that parenting time would endanger the child’s physical health or emotional development. The appellate court thus remanded to the trial court to either enter an order with findings which support restricted parenting time or without restricted parenting time.

 

New Jersey Div. of Youth and Family Services v. I.S., 422 N.J. Super. 52 (App. Div. 2011)

The Division of Youth and Family Services filed abuse and neglect complaints against divorced biological parents of twins. Subsequently, the father filed a petition for custody and was granted custody of one child and the mother appealed. The mother expressed a desire to retain a “parental alienation syndrome” expert. The court delayed the trial to give the mother an opportunity to bring such an expert but one was never offered. The Court of Appeals upheld the decision to award the father custody. The court credited Dr. Ronald Gruen’s testimony, a psychologist retained on behalf of the girls by the law guardian, who conducted a bonding evaluation.

 

In Re L.J.S., 247 S.W.3d 921, 928 (Mo.App. S.D. 2008)

Therapist claimed that if the mother was “not kept in check” that she might be diagnosed with PAS. The trial court awarded joint custody partially based on the report that the mother might alienate the child. The Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling, without addressing PAS.

 

Goetsch v. Goetsch, 990 So.2d 403, 409 (Ala.Civ.App. 2008)

A psychologist held that the children in this case were suffering from PAS towards their father and recommended that the father be awarded custody. However, the trial court found against the father and awarded custody to the mother. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's decision, arguing that it had enough evidence on which to base its factual findings and that it was better suited to determine custody.

 

Ellis v. Ellis, 952 So.2d 982 (Miss.App. 2006)

Court allowed expert testimony of PAS without ruling on its admissibility or validity as a scientific theory. There was only a factual discussion of experts’ findings about PAS.

 

In re Marriage of Kimbrell, 119 P.3d 684 (Kan.App. 2005)

In this case, Dr. Gardner finds the children DO NOT suffer from PAS and that the mother is not engaging in alienating activity.

 

Marquard v. Secretary for Dept. of Corrections, 429 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. (Fla.) 2005)

Briefly mentions that a death row inmate suffered from PAS as a child. The Court does not address PAS, its validity or admissibility.

 

State v. Fuller, 160 N.C.App. 250 (N.C.App. 2003)

(Criminal Case)

Allowing expert testimony of PAS without ruling on its admissibility or validity as a scientific theory.

 

White v. Kimrey, 847 So.2d 157 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2003) – same as State v. Fuller

 

Smith v. Bombard, Supreme Court, App. Div., 741 N.Y.S.2d 336 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept. 2002)

Father claimed PAS was present. Two psychologists found that PAS was not present. The trial court found for the mother. Court of Appeals affirmed.

 

Hollingsworth v. Semerad, 799 So.2d 658, 660 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2001)

The trial court found that the evidence did not support a finding of PAS (despite the one court evaluator’s assertion that it did). The Court of Appeals did not address PAS, just affirmed inter alia trial court’s finding of no alienation.

 

Pearson v. Pearson, 5 P.3d 239, 243 (Alaska 2000)

Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the mother was not attempting to alienate her child. Trial court allowed testimony of 2 experts who both believed in PAS, but had differing opinions as to whether PAS was present. The court found the expert who did not think PAS was present to be more credible and the appellate court affirmed.  The Court of Appeals did note that the syndrome is “not universally accepted.

 

Blosser v. Blosser, 707 So.2d 778, 780 (Fla. 1998)

Doctor noted that the child “did not exhibit any parental alienation syndrome which is sometimes seen with children who are shunted between separated parents in divorce situations." No other mention of PAS, its admissibility or validity.

 

Fischer v. Fischer, Ct. of App. of WI, Dist. Two, No. 97-2067, 221 Wis. 2d 221; 584 N.W.2d 233 at *2 (July 15, 1998)

There was a factual mention of PAS in experts’ opinions. Neither the lower court nor the Court of Appeals addressed its admissibility.

 

Janell S. v. J.R.S., 571 N.W.2d 924 (Wisc. App. 1997)

A court appointed doctor, Dr. Heinz, expressed that he felt that the child was suffering from PAS at the hands of the mother. Despite indications that the father had purposely burned the child with his cigarette, the doctor recommended that the child be placed with the father. The trial court decided, in part based on the doctor's recommendation, that custody be awarded to the father. On appeal, new testimony from a well-established pathologist and doctor, Dr. Bauman, stated that the burns were indeed intentional and that the risk posed to the child was not only severe, but potentially lethal. Furthermore, on appeal an affidavit was read from a social worker, Betty Cameron, who scathingly wrote that PAS was not present and that Dr. Heinz's motivation was questionable. The Court of Appeals remanded the case based on the new information presented by Dr. Bauman and Ms. Cameron, however neither court specifically addressed PAS beyond the factual findings.

 

John W. v. Phillip W., 41 Cal.App.4th 961 (Cal. 1996)

A court appointed doctor blamed the mother for inducing the child to make statements indicating abuse, claiming that there was subtle Parental Alienation Syndrome. The doctor recommended that the child be placed with his father, because the father was “best suited to provide uninterrupted contact” with the other parent. The trial court released the child to the physical custody of the father, despite allegations of molestation. Admissibility of PAS was not addressed or raised on appeal.

 

White v. White, 655 N.E.2d 523 (Ind. App. 1995)

Discussing PAS in a doctor’s report.

 

McCoy v. State of Wyoming, 886 P.2d 252 (Wyo. 1994)

Father was convicted of second-degree sexual assault and indecent liberties with a minor. Father wanted to introduce a state expert for parental alienation syndrome arguing, “it was ineffective assistance of counsel not to produce an expert regarding 'parental alienation syndrome.'” However, the state's expert discredited the notion that the charges were fabricated or the result of coaching. There was no further discussion of parental alienation or PAS.

 

Krebsbach v. Gallagher, Supreme Court, App. Div., 181 A.D.2d 363; 587 N.Y.S. 2d 346 (1992)

The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, found that the Family Court had improperly awarded sole custody to the father since the change in custody was contrary to the best interests of the child. The Court of Appeals noted that two evaluators (a psychiatrist and a Law Guardian) both said that PAS was not present and yet the trial court changed the custody from Mother to Father. Court of Appeals found that this was not sound, “[w]here there is no indication that a change in custody will result in significantly enhancing a child's welfare, it is generally considered in his best interest not to disrupt his life.” PAS was not addressed on appeal.

 

In re Violetta, 568 N.E2d 1345, 1350 (Ill.App., 1991)

This was a case to determine guardianship between a foster mother and a paternal grandmother. The grandmother was seeking custody. The psychologist briefly mentioned that the child was experiencing parental alienation syndrome in dealing with her grandmother. The trial court found for the grandmother, but the appellate court reversed.

 

Schutz v. Schutz, 522 So.2d 874, 876 (Fla 3rd Dist. Ct. App. 1988)

In a footnote, the Court of Appeals mentions Gardner's "use of the term, 'parental alienation syndrome'” in regards to why there “may be deep-rooted psychological reasons why the child may not want to see the [secondary residential parent]”.

 

Coursey v. Superior Court, 194 Cal.App.3d 147 (Cal.App. 3 Dist., 1987)

The only mention of PAS is that the child's therapist advised the court that the child suffered from “Parental Alienation Syndrome.” Neither the lower court nor the Court of Appeals addressed the admissibility or significance of PAS.

 

N.D. v. M.D.,  2012 WL 5969672 (N.J. App. Div. November 30, 2012) (unpublished)

PAS mentioned in evaluator’s report, but not challenged on appeal.

 

Eartherton v. Behringer, 2012 WL 5507090 (Ohio Ct. App., Nov. 13, 2012) (unpublished)

Mother appealed an order awarding residential custody to the child’s father. Mother argued that the trial court had erred in among other things, finding a change in circumstances, finding that modification was in the child’s best interests, and finding that mother had interfered with father’s parenting time. The magistrate judge had issued temporary orders, including one which stated that mother must “immediately enroll in counseling and psychotherapy to address her negative shaping behaviors that could contribute to parental alienation syndrome as recommended by the child custody evaluation submitted to the court.” The trial court ultimately ordered the custody to transfer to the father based in part on the recommendation of the GAL, and in spite of the conditional recommendation of the custody evaluator for joint custody. The appellate court did not specifically address the PAS or parental alienation allegations, but held that the trial court had not erred in transferring custody to the father as the parties’ inability to communicate and cooperate created a change in circumstances.

Gendich v. Whiteman, 2010 WL 2595085 (Mich. Ct. App. June 29, 2010) (unpublished)

The father appealed the trial court’s order giving the mother sole legal and physical custody of their minor daughter. When asked by the court why his daughter felt alienated from him the father cited his long absence which resulted in “parental alienation syndrome in which children when ... deprived of contact with somebody for a long period of time become alienated.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court because it appropriately made the custody decision based on the best interest of the child factors in the applicable Michigan statute.

 

Ex Parte S.C., 29 So.3d 903, 2009 WL 2477938 at *1 (Ala.Civ.App., Aug. 14, 2009) (unpublished)

This case briefly mentions that the child was sent to a doctor who was an "expert" in parental alienation syndrome. There is no other discussion of PAS or parental alienation.

 

Horning v. Wolff, 2006 WL 3505864 at *4 (Ohio App. 5 Dist. Dec. 4, 2006) (unpublished)

Despite an alleged history of domestic violence, the trial court awarded custody to the father. A psychologist testified that PAS was present. The Court of Appeals mentions that while domestic violence allegations were considered at the lower court level, they found that based on the “best interest” factors, the father was better suited to have custody. The Court of Appeals affirmed without discussing PAS.

 

D.M.W. v. T.V.W., 2005 WL 3557436 at *6-9 (Delaware June 6, 2005) (unpublished)

Two doctors testified. One doctor’s testimony on PAS was not given significant weight because he did not meet with the children or the parties. The other doctor that evaluated the children said that there was “an element of alienation” present, to which the Court gave “credence.”

 

In re S.G., 2003 WL 125122 (Ohio App. 8 Dist. 2003) (unpublished)– same as State v. Fuller

 

In re Marriage of Shen, 111 Wash.App. 1046 at *2 (Wash.App. Div. 1, May 20, 2002) (unpublished)

The only mention of PAS was in a doctor’s report that the child was suffering from PAS towards the father.

 

Pathan v. Pathan, 2000 WL 43711 at *4 (Ohio App. 2 Dist., Jan. 21, 2000) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision where both parents were accused of PAS and alienating behavior.

 

Chambers v. Chambers, 2000 WL 795278 (Ark.App. 2000) (unpublished)

This case permitted PAS testimony by Dr. Warren Sieler.

 

Ange v. Ange, Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1998 Va. App. Lexis 59 at *6-7 (Feb. 3, 1998) (unpublished)

Doctor noted that the child was said to be suffering from parental alienation syndrome at the hands of the child's biological mother toward the child's foster parents. There was no further mention of PAS, its validity or admissibility.

 

Bielaska v. Orley, 1996 WL 33324080 at *23 (Mich.App., July 19, 1996) (unpublished)

The trial court found in favor of the mother, despite doctor’s testimony of the presence of PAS. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision based on the lack of evidence supporting a finding of sexual abuse.

 

State v. Koelling, 1995 WL 125933 at *6 (Ohio App. 10 Dist., Franklin County, Mar. 21, 1995) (unpublished)

Father was accused of extensive sexual abuse of his three youngest children. Parental Alienation Syndrome was only mentioned briefly in this case. A political psychologist testified on behalf of the father as to PAS. There was no mention by the Court of Appeals to the admissibility or validity of PAS - it also had no bearing on the court's decision.

 

Conner v. Renz, 1995 WL 23365 at *3 (Ohio App. 4 Dist., Athens County, Jan. 19, 1995) (unpublished)

Bobbi Connor, the mother, had custody of her children because of allegations of sexual abuse by the father witnessed by the paternal grandmother. Due to the sexual abuse, both the father and the paternal grandmother were denied visitation. The Wiles, the father's sister and brother-in-law, sought visitation, which was granted. A court appointed therapist met with the parties and the children and deemed that the mother was involved in parental alienation syndrome towards the father. Soon thereafter, the mother moved to South Carolina for work and the court decided to announce a time out in which Connor's children would have an extended visit with the Wiles and their children. The Court of Appeals affirmed. PAS was not challenged on appeal.

 

Zigmont v. Toto, 1992 WL 6034 at *2, 9 (Ohio App. 8 Dist Cuyahoga County, Jan 16, 1992) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals notes that psychologists said the children suffered from PAS. However, the Court also said "[t]here was no evidence in the record to support [the father's] claim that [the mother] was brainwashing the children" and further, the Court asserts that there is "very little evidence to support the claim" that the mother was alienating the children from the father. The Court of Appeals noted that while there was PAS towards the father based on a number of psychologists' reports, both the Court and the psychologists felt that the mother should maintain custody. The Court noted, "[b]ecause of the 'Parental Alienation Syndrome' the children shall continue therapy." The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

 

 

B. Trial Court

 

Tabner v. Cessario, 2008 WL 366637 at *5 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 28, 2008) (unpublished)

The father claimed that the mother was engaging in PAS. Dr. found that PAS was not present. The Court did not address PAS.

 

Metza v. Metza, 1998 Conn. Super. Lexis 2727 at *6-7 (Sept. 25, 1998) (unpublished)

This is a lower court case where a psychologist claimed that one of the parties' children, Andrew, was alienated from the father. The trial court did not address PAS or parental alienation outside of noting the doctor’s claim.

 

C. Conflicting Opinions about Presence of Parental Alienation Syndrome

 

K.B. v. Cleburne County Dept. of Human Resources, 897 So.2d 379, 383 (Ala.Civ.App. 2004) (discussing Dr.’s reports as to whether there was alienation or not).

Child's therapist discussed parental alienation syndrome, but stated that he had found no evidence to support the notion that PAS was present. A counselor, however, found that the child’s behavior was so-called consistent with one suffering from alienation, though the counselor opined that it was likely the result of all of the parties (the mother, the aunt, and uncle). There was no discussion of PAS by the trial court or the Court of Appeals.

 

Truax v. Truax, 874 P.2d 10, 11 (Nev., 1994)

There was conflicting testimony from different caseworkers and psychologists in regards to PAS. The father felt the district court had erred in disregarding one psychologist's opinions about “coaching” and “parental alienation syndrome.” However, another psychologist and a CASA found that there was no evidence that parental alienation was present. The trial court did not find the parental alienation syndrome argument persuasive. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

 

Hamilton v. Hamilton, 2008 WL 2861705 at *7 (Ohio App. 2 Dist. July 25, 2008)(unpublished)

Affirming trial court’s finding that Parental Alienation was not present over Dr.’s indication that it was. The father's fitness, a licensed psychologist who only met with the father twice and never met the mother or the children, claimed that there was PAS present and that the mother was the root of the alienation. The trial court weighed the evidence and found against the father and in favor of the mother. Furthermore, the court appointed psychologist noted that there was no evidence supporting the notion that the mother was alienating the children from the father's affection.

 

Bates v. Bates, 2001 WL 1560915 at *1 (Ohio App. 11 Dist. Dec. 7, 2001) (unpublished)

The Court of Appeals notes that there were independent evaluations done by the respective parties’ psychologists as far as parental alienation syndrome. The doctors disagreed on whether PAS was present. Each psychologist found favorably for their patient, the mother's psychologist found PAS, while the father's did not. The trial court awarded custody to the mother and the Court of Appeals affirmed without considering PAS.

 

Sims v. Hornsby, 1992 WL 193682 at *3-4 (Ohio App. 12 Dist., Butler County, Aug 10 1992) (unpublished)

Affirming trial court where there was evidence both for and against the existence of PAS.

There were contradictory reports about the existence of PAS - the father's doctor said that it was present while the court appointed doctor said that it was not. The trial court found in favor of the mother and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals noted that there was sufficient evidence for the trial court to have made the determination that there was no change in circumstances. The Court of Appeals never addressed the validity of PAS.

 

D. Parental Alienation (not PAS)

 

Davis v. Davis, 973 N.E.2d 109 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012)

Court cited Hanson v. Spolnik, 685 N.E.2d 71 (Ind.App. 1997) for the proposition that a parent’s attempts to isolated acts of misconduct and failure to cooperate with the other parent cannot serve as the basis for a modification of custody.

 

 

A.M.L. v. J.W.L., 98 So.3d 1001 (Miss. 2012).

The Court found no error in a trial court’s determination that parental alienation had not occurred despite some evidence that the mother had encouraged the children to falsely report sexual abuse by their father.

 

In re Paternity of A.S., 948 N.E.2d 380, 385 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011)

Court cited Hanson v. Spolnik, 685 N.E.2d 71 (Ind.App. 1997) for the proposition that a parent’s attempts to isolated acts of misconduct and failure to cooperate with the other parent cannot serve as the basis for a modification of custody.

 

Zafran v. Zafran, 28 A.D.3d 753 (N.Y. 2006).

The father appealed the court’s decision to terminate all visitation between the father and the daughter based on the father’s failure to attend family therapy sessions designed to address parental alienation syndrome and a fear that the father would seek to alienate the daughter against her mother as he had with the couple’s two sons. The court reversed the termination finding that it was not in the child’s best interests and instead suspended the visitation providing that the suspension could be lifted by the father’s cooperation in therapy.

 

Wade v. Hirschman, 903 So.2d 928, 935 (Fla. 2005)

Court of Appeals affirmed trial court’s conclusion that there were substantial and material changes in circumstances supported in part by evidence of parental alienation of the Father by the Mother. The Court of Appeals notes that the trial court’s findings were supported by “competent, substantial evidence.”

 

Appel-Meller v. Meller, 285 A.D.2d 430 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 2001)

In this case the court affirmed the trial court’s order denying the father’s petition to change custody from the mother to him despite some evidence that the mother was alienating the child from the father. The court noted that while it did not condone the mother’s actions the court deferred to the finding of the trial court that a change in custody would not be in the child’s best interests.

 

In re Mackenzie F., 2010 WL 3623656 (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 20, 2010) (unpublished)

The minor child’s family law court appointed counsel petitioned to declare that Mackenzie was a dependent child because of the serious emotional damage she suffered due to the ongoing visitation dispute between her parents. Visitations were successful until April 2007 when Mackenzie began to refuse visitation and physically lash out at the father. Mackenzie accused the father of sexual abuse. The Family Law Court appointed Dr. Keith Peterson to conduct an evaluation. Dr. Peterson recommended placing Mackenzie in a neutral setting away from her mother, who was alienating Mackenzie from the father. After Mackenzie’s social worker, Karen Cabico, reported that the mother alienated and isolated Mackenzie from her father the family law court ordered reunification efforts. Dr. Leslie Drozd was appointed as the family therapist with an emphasis on reunification. After sessions with the family, Dr. Drozd concluded that there was alienating behavior in this case.

The juvenile court found that there was insufficient evidence that Mackenzie's animosity towards the father was due to the mother's alienating behavior. The court found Mackenzie's acting out was a result of the reunification therapy itself. The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to declare Mackenzie a dependent child. The Court found that the family court could reasonably conclude the specific incidents the experts pointed to were not sufficient to support a finding of offending parental conduct.

 

 

In re S.E.K., 294 S.W.3d 926, 2009 WL 2648263 at *1-2 (Tex.App, Aug. 28, 2009)

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's finding that parental alienation was present. The Court of Appeals notes that "the trial court found Mother had engaged in a pattern of parental alienation toward Father regarding the children."

 

Lopez-Negrete v. Lopez-Negrete, 2009 WL 1506668 at *15 (Mich. App., May 26, 2009) (unpublished)

Doctor doing psychological evaluations briefly mentioned that the mother's anger "could lead to a situation called parental alienation." This is the only mention of alienation in the entire decision.

 

Ostermann v. Ostermann, 2005 WL 2323410 at *2-3 (Mich.App., Sept. 22, 2005) (unpublished)

Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's finding that there was alienation by both parents.

 



[1]           The DV LEAP Custody and Abuse Technical Assistance (TA) Project is supported by Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K006 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.