A father’s beating caused a skull fracture in his six-year-old son. The boy’s younger sister also complained of being beaten and had multiple bruises on her body. The mother asked the court to stop visitation with their father. A court evaluator determined that the mother’s refusal to send the children to their father was a classic example of Parental Alienation Syndrome. The court gave the father full custody when the children were ten and seven, and gave the mother only supervised visitation.
After eighteen months of pleading with their mother that they were suffering, the mother took them and escaped to the Netherlands where a court granted her human rights refugee status after a full hearing of the facts of the case. The children received trauma therapy in the Netherlands, and the daughter, now twenty-three, has started her own nonprofit organization to protect other children from the horrors that she endured because of Parental Alienation Syndrome, and has begun to lobby Congress to change the laws about child protection.
Documentation on file with The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence. See also Beth Walton, Battered woman becomes American refugee in Amsterdam, City Pages, July 29, 2008 (http://www.citypages.com/2008-07-30/news/battered-woman-becomes-american-refugee-in-amsterdam/); Beth Walton,Holly Collins returns after 14 years in hiding, City Pages, September 23, 2008 (http://www.citypages.com/2008-09-24/news/holly-collins-returns-after-14-years-in-hiding/); http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=3265; (http://www.americanchildrenunderground.blogspot.com/).
Irene Jensen and Richard Carver divorced after Carver was arrested on charges of spousal battery. Jensen received custody of the couple’s then four-year-old daughter. A few months after the divorce, the daughter reported that her father physically abused her. The sheriff’s office declined to prosecute, citing insufficient evidence. The next year, the daughter told a doctor that her father had sexually abused her.
Carver argued that Jensen was behind the allegations of abuse, and was alienating their daughter from him. Despite reports of suspected child abuse filed by doctors, a court gave Carver custody of the daughter. After years of living with Carver, the daughter ran away to escape physical abuse. She ran for eight months, eventually finding placement in a foster home. When she was sixteen, a court finally returned custody to Jensen.
Mom termed ‘parental alienator’ wins rare vindication in courts, Troy Anderson, The Daily News of Los Angeles, June 18, 2006, N1.
Tina Wilson was divorced from her husband, who had been convicted of domestic abuse. They shared custody of their daughter. After the daughter told a therapist that her father physically and sexually abused her, she was put in foster care while court proceedings commenced.
The court gave the father custody. While with Wilson for a visit, the daughter reported that the father had threatened her life and Wilson’s. Wilson took the girl to a domestic violence shelter to avoid turning her over to the father. The police located them and placed the girl in the father’s custody.
Despite the testimony of a child psychiatrist that the father abused the girl verbally, physically, and sexually, the court did not credit the allegations of abuse. The court determined that the mother’s allegations and attempts to protect her daughter were a wrongful attempt to alienate the girl from her father. The court granted the father sole custody.
Judge grants sole custody of 9-year-old girl to father; Dad denies abuse allegations; mom was accused of turning girl against him; she’ll appeal, Kiran Krishnamurthy, Richmond Times Dispatch, January 19, 2007, B-1; Custody case is continued; girl will be evaluated, Frank Green, Richmond Times Dispatch, November 16, 2006, B-4; Theory issue in custody dispute; The merits of parental alienation syndrome are disputed among groups, Kiran Krishnamurthy, Richmond Times Dispatch, November 12, 2006, B-1.
In the years leading up to their divorce, Jillian and William Coleman’s relationship became strained. On at least one occasion, William physically attacked her. Eventually, William moved out of the house entirely. Both Jillian and William became involved with other people. Despite this, and against Jillian’s wishes, when Jillian bought a house for herself and the couples’ two children, William moved in, as well. He insisted that they hold “family meetings,” which he would use to “discuss with the [children] that their mother had become involved with another man.” At some point William threatened to leave the country with the boys unless Jillian stopped seeing the man she had become involved with. A few weeks later, Jillian told a friend of hers that William had raped her. The next day, William was arrested.
After William’s arrest, divorce and custody proceedings began. Both Jillian and William sought sole custody. Jillian portrayed William as “a controlling and abusive man,” but William claimed that her allegations were an attempt to gain advantage in the court proceedings, and to alienate the children from him. The court rejected William’s argument and awarded custody to Jillian with visitation for William. As in so many other cases, this was upheld on appeal on the ground that the decision could be upheld without deciding the admissibility of PAS.
Coleman v. Coleman, 2004 WL 1966083, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2147 (Conn. Super. 2004)
6) C.J.L. v. M.W.B.
A couple separated and divorced after their two children – aged four and two at the time – described being sexually molested by their paternal grandparents. The social worker who interviewed the children days after the report “[a]pparently . . . concluded that it was very likely that the children were sexually molested.”
Two years after the couple divorced, one of the children returned from a visitation with the father upset. The child’s anal area was red and painful, and the child complained that the father had “dug in his bottom.” The mother immediately stopped allowing visitation. After an investigation into the allegations was dropped, and a court ordered that visitations resume. Within months the same child again reported that the father “dug in his bottom.”
The court appointed a custody evaluator to aid it in determining how to resolve the problem. The evaluator determined that while the mother appeared to be a good parent, her refusal to drop the abuse “issue” warranted “serious questioning of her overall parental capacity” and diagnosed PAS. The evaluator interpreted the children’s drawings, one of which showed the father physically abusing the mother, as further evidence that the mother’s conduct was “alienating” them from their father.
The court, based on the mother’s “alienating” behavior, awarded full custody of the children to the father.
C.J.L. v. M.W.B., 879 So. 2d 1169 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003)
7) White v. Kimrey
Tabitha Kimrey and Michael White never married, and were not living together when their daughter was born. Michael had some contact with the daughter in her first months, but stopped because Tabitha’s family made him “very, very uncomfortable.” He eventually filed for joint custody. Tabitha stated that Michael had been physically and emotionally abusive to her, and asked that any visitation with her daughter be supervised.
Apparently since the daughter’s first visit to Michael’s home, Tabitha accused him of sexually abusing their daughter, and sought to end visitation or require that it be supervised. A psychologist testifying for Michael diagnosed the daughter with Parental Alienation Syndrome, and recommended that custody be transferred to Michael. The trial court did not find that abuse had occurred, and awarded sole custody of the daughter to Michael. On appeal, Tabitha was granted joint legal custody and visitation rights.
White v. Kimrey, 847 So. 2d 157 (La. 2003)
8) In re Marriage of McCord
Michael and Carly McCord divorced before their daughter was a year old. Carly was granted primary custody of the daughter, and Michael visitation. A few years later, Michael re-married, and adopted his new wife’s two young daughters. After a visit with Michael’s family, when the McCords’ daughter was almost five, she told Carly that she could not use the bathroom “because her crotch hurt.” Carly noticed redness around the daughter’s vagina when giving her a bath. The daughter then told her mother that her new step-sisters had “poked a pencil in her crotch.” The daughter was examined by a doctor, who noted “genital changes consistent with some type of external irritation.”
Carly refused to let the daughter visit with Michael’s family. A state agency investigated and failed to confirm the abuse, and a court then ordered visitation to resume. After the next visitation, Carly again reported that she believed her daughter had been sexually abused by her step-sisters, and she again refused to allow the girl to visit Michael’s family. The second incident was not substantiated by a doctor or by a state agency. A social worker who had been counseling the girl diagnosed her with Parental Alienation Syndrome, and recommended that Michael be given custody. The court apparently credited the report: it did not find that abuse had occurred, and gave custody of the daughter to Michael.
In re Marriage of McCord, 2003 Iowa App. LEXIS 1027, 2003 WL 23219961 (Iowa App. 2003)
9) Krause v. Simone-Smith
During a contentious custody dispute, a ten-year-old girl begged the judge, her appointed attorney, and her therapist to allow her to live with her mother. She begged her attorney to enter evidence of the physical abuse and neglect she suffered at her father’s hands. The court-appointed evaluator issued a report based in part on information from the girl’s therapist, with whom the father “had a ‘seemingly intimate relationship.’” The report suggested that the mother suffered from mental illness, and had caused Parental Alienation Syndrome in the girl. The court awarded custody to the father.
When in her father’s custody, the girl was often left at home alone. She felt verbally and physically abused by her father – at least one time, she required medical attention after an incident. At another point, a teacher at her school called child protective services after seeing the father shoving the girl and swearing at her. Roughly one year after gaining custody, the father checked the girl into a locked facility for children with behavioral or mental problems, where she was forced to undergo “treatment” for five months. She then finished out junior high at a boarding school.
Less than a week into high school, the girl ran away from home. When she was located by authorities, a new judge gave custody to the girl’s mother, rejecting the reports and evaluations from the first proceeding as biased and without foundation. Later, after beginning college, the girl filed a law suit against her father, her childhood therapist, and the court-appointed attorney who represented her in the initial custody dispute.
Girl, Interrupted, Bernice Yeung, SFWeekly, December 18, 2002 (http://www.sfweekly.com/2002-12-18/news/girl-interrupted/1).
10) Hollingsworth v. Semerad
Lauren Hollingsworth and James Semerad divorced when their daughter was three years old. Hollingsworth was given primary custody, and Semerad visitation. Six years later, Hollingsworth began noticing evidence of physical abuse. First, when her daughter was taking a bath, Hollingsworth noticed a bruise on her shoulder. When she asked about it, her daughter eventually “admitted that her father had punched her in the shoulder with his fist.” Hollingsworth photographed the bruise. Five months later, the daughter returned from a visit to her father with bruises on her chest, buttocks, and arm. She said her father had hit and pinched her. A few months later, Semerad slapped her several times while in the car, once causing her to hit her head on the window. The next month, Semerad “repeatedly jammed [the daughter] into the refrigerator.” Twice more, every several months, the daughter returned from visitation with bruises from her father.
Hollingsworth asked a court to modify Semerad’s visitation. By this point, the daughter’s distress over visiting her father was so great she pulled her hair out. All three health care professionals treating the girl found her allegations of abuse credible, and recommended that any visitation with her father be supervised by a mental health professional.
During the course of litigation, it was discovered that Semerad had seriously physically abused his second wife, and might have problems with alcohol use. Despite this, one doctor “concluded that the father was the victim of parental alienation syndrome . . . .” The court disagreed, found that the father had been physically abusive, and required that any visits by the father be supervised by a neutral party. On appeal, the court noted that the doctor who diagnosed PAS “made no apparent effort to ascertain the validity of the child’s complaints of abuse by the father.”
Hollingsworth v. Semerad, 799 So.2d 658 (La. 2001)
11) People v. Fortin
Michael Fortin was accused of attempting to rape his wife’s thirteen-year-old niece. In his criminal trial, he argued that accusations by the wife and the niece were false. Because there was “a considerable delay” between the time of the incident and the time it was reported to police, Fortin claimed that the accusations were a product of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Richard Gardner testified on PAS at a hearing. The court acknowledged that Gardner had testified in many other cases, but declined to allow testimony on PAS because the defense had failed to show that the theory was generally accepted in the professional community. Fortin was later convicted of sexual abuse in the first degree, sodomy in the second degree, and endangering the welfare of a minor.
People v. Fortin, 184 Misc. 2d 10, 11 (N.Y. County Ct. 2000); see http://www.op.nysed.gov/opd/oct01.htm.
For four years after Louis Grieco and Karen Scott divorced, their three sons lived with their mother and visited their father regularly. Karen and Louis were able to work together amicably to facilitate the visits. But after Karen announced she was remarrying, Louis’s relationship with the boys and Karen became strained. The boys became reluctant to visit Louis, saying he was angry and hostile, shouted at them, and once threw one of the boys to the floor, causing him to hit his head. Things came to a head in a violent altercation between Louis and Karen at Karen’s home. Louis was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
After that incident, the boys openly refused to visit their father, saying they were afraid of him, and were angry about the assault. Karen urged the boys to attend the visits, but they continued to refuse. A court then ordered sheriff’s deputies to physically escort the boys to a visit; the boys were man-handled into the sheriff’s van and taken to see their father. Shortly afterward, the eldest boy suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized.
Louis then moved for full custody, based in part on the opinion of Richard Gardner that the children suffered from PAS. Gardner had not interviewed the children or their mother, but nonetheless diagnosed the problem as a “classical example of PAS.” Gardner recommended “threat therapy” – that the court should punish the mother if the boys refused to visit their father. The court agreed, and followed Gardner’s advice.
The court-ordered visits did nothing to improve relations between the boys and their father. The most significant event was a series of “hitting incidents” which caused county officials to recommend that Louis enroll in parenting classes on appropriate discipline. After one year, Karen asked the court to end the “threat therapy.” The court refused. A few weeks later, after writing that his father’s use of the legal system to harass the family had turned his life into “endless torment,” the eldest boy took his own life. The other boys continued to be forced to visit their father.
Casualties of a custody war (three-part series) Carpenter, M., & Kopas, G., Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 31-June 2, 1998. ( http://www.post-gazette.com/custody/parttwo.asp )
13) People v. Loomis
Philip Loomis, charged with sexually abusing his children, argued that their allegations were “trumped up,” and the product of Parental Alienation Syndrome. He explained that he was in the midst of a contentious divorce, and argued that his wife had “poison[ed]” the minds of the children, causing them to make baseless accusations of sexual abuse.
Loomis wanted Richard Gardner to testify as an expert that the allegations of sexual abuse stemmed from Parental Alienation Syndrome. To that end Loomis sought an order compelling the wife and children to submit to interviews with Gardner.
The court refused to compel the interviews, explaining that the statute Loomis relied on did not encompass the request.
People v. Loomis, 658 N.Y.S.2d 787, 788 (N.Y. County Ct. 1997)
CASES DOCUMENTED BY JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN
Details available from Eileen King, Regional Director – DC, firstname.lastname@example.org
14) O v H (Maryland, 2008)
In 2002/2003 the child, then six, reported that his father had touched his penis, and later his rectal area. He was immediately examined. Injuries with blood were found and documented by his pediatrician and an emergency room physician specializing in child sexual abuse. A child protection services worker interviewed the child for a few minutes, and later testified to the court that she thought the child had been coached. The judge transferred custody of the child to the father based on the coaching claims, despite the physical and medical evidence that the abuse was real.
Over the course of time the child tried several times to jump from his mother’s car when he was being taken to his father. He was hospitalized in a psychiatric setting. After new legal proceedings, a judge found that the child had been sexually abused, stopped all contact with the father, and gave custody of the child to the mother.
The father appealed, and eventually was granted some limited contact with the child. The child told his therapist that he would kill himself, his father and everyone around him if he had to see his father. The father again alleged Parental Alienation by the mother. The child’s attorney invoked privilege, so the therapist was prevented from testifying. In March 2008, after being told that he may have to see his father, the child hung himself from the stairway balustrade in his home. His mother was able to cut him down and save his life only because of the coincidental arrival of a neighbor, who supported the child from below so the mother could sever the ligature around the child’s neck. The court finally decided to cease its attempts to force the child to have contact with his father after the child had attempted suicide.
15) L v L (Maryland, 2004)
A woman divorced her husband after years of physical and emotional abuse. He continued to batter and threaten her during the course of the divorce proceedings. Days before the divorce hearing, while battery charges were pending against him, he battered her in front of witnesses at her home. He was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted.
At a court hearing on custody of the couples’ children, the mother and other witnesses testified to numerous incidents of domestic violence perpetrated by the father, many of them in front of the children. These included handcuffing the mother inside the house when he left and trying to snap the mother’s neck after attacking her on a visitation exchange. Social services had also documented that the father admitted battering the mother and threatening the children to make them lie for him. The judge found that the mother had been abused and that the father was physically violent to the children, but then diagnosed one of the children with Parental Alienation Syndrome caused by the mother. To remedy this, the judge directed the children be in their father’s custody. After several years, one of the children was allowed to live with the mother, who was then given sole custody of that child.
16) P v P (Maryland, 2008)
A father was arrested and charged with beating his fifteen-year-old son. A younger son had witnessed the beating. The father argued that he was just disciplining his son, and was acquitted.
The two judges who heard the trial for custody of the children were convinced that the mother was alienating the children from their father, despite the documented history of domestic violence and child abuse. For example, one set of photographs showed the older child’s deeply bruised buttocks after the father beat him with a metal barbecue spatula. Despite this evidence, both child protection services and the court did not believe the children were being abused. The court instead blamed the children’s attitude on the mother’s alienating behavior, and kept custody of the children with the father.
17) M v M (Maryland, 2008)
Two girls no longer wanted to visit their father. Social services had determined that the father had abused one of their siblings. Despite what would appear to be a logical reason for the girls’ reluctance to visit their father, a court ruled that the girls’ reluctance was instead caused by words and acts of their mother’s that alienated them from their father. The court found that the mother had caused Parental Alienation Syndrome in the girls.
This initial ruling was successfully appealed.
CASES WHERE A FALSE PAS FINDING WAS CORRECTED
Documented by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence, www.leadershipcouncil.org
Note: Most of these cases were corrected thanks to the involvement of a leading child abuse evaluator who understands erroneous misuses of PAS
18) O. v. H. (Maryland, Anne Arundel County)
A court granted custody of a four-year-old boy to his father based on the custody evaluator’s finding of Parental Alienation Syndrome. The child had told a teacher, a pediatrician, and his mother that he was being abused by his father.
Two years later, the child disclosed abuse during an emergency appointment at a hospital where he was threatening suicide. The child disclosed that it felt like “a bomb went through his butt” at his dad’s house, and his dad “made him bleed.” Two medical doctors opined that the only explanation for his anal injury was forcible insertion of something in the anus. The court found the child had been abused. The judge apologized for placing the child with the father initially, calling it the most “egregious” mistake of his judicial career.
Despite multiple appeals, the child was never forced to be alone unsupervised again with the father. When the boy was fourteen years old, the court allowed him to cease visits with his father entirely.
19) O. v. B. (Pennsylvania, Scranton area)
A child of ten refused to visit his father. The child had serious food allergies, which the father denied. The father fed him the foods he was allergic to and made fun of him for “pretending” to be sick. Nonetheless, a custody evaluator determined that the child suffered from Parental Alienation Syndrome and a judge ordered forced reunification. After three years of attempted forced visitation, the child became increasingly depressed and refused to enter the building where supervised visits were happening.
When the child was fourteen the court ordered a new evaluation. The judge concluded that the child had not been alienated by his mother, but was reacting to his father’s insensitive response to the child’s illness, and no visitations would be required unless the father apologized in writing for his insensitivity and tried to reconcile with the child through correspondence to the child via the child’s therapist. The child was given the right to decide if and when he is willing to give his father another chance. 20) O. v. O. (Santa Clara, California)
Twin boys disclosed details of sodomy by their father when they were six and again when they were seven. A custody evaluator concluded that these disclosures were a result of Parental Alienation Syndrome, and gave the father full custody of the boys. They were denied any contact with their mother for three years.
A new trial was held when the boys were thirteen. The judge heard evidence from sexual abuse experts who reviewed the old videotapes and summarized the work of the boys’ therapists. The judge determined that the boys had been sexually abused by their father. The boys were removed from the father’s care and all contact with the father was cut off. 21) S. v. S. (Harford County, Maryland)
A four-year-old boy had rectal bleeding and told his mother he had a secret at his father’s house. He showed fear and woke up screaming “No!” A custody evaluator determined that the mother’s reports of these symptoms indicated Parental Alienation Syndrome. The court ordered shared custody with one week at the father’s house and one week at the mother’s.
The symptoms continued and escalated, and the court ordered a new evaluation. The child disclosed anal rape, oral sodomy, and being tied up and forced to endure multiple sex acts. The judge determined the father abused the child and all contact was suspended between the child and the father.
22) E. v. E. (Frederick County, Virginia)
A five-year-old girl disclosed that her father touched her inappropriately during weekend visits. Social services could not substantiate the allegations. The mother continued to make reports to social services as new details were disclosed. A custody evaluator determined that the reason for the mother’s continued reports to social services was Parental Alienation Syndrome – that the allegations were false, and the mother was simply trying to alienate the girl from her father. The father was given full custody and the mother was given only supervised visitation.
At the age of ten, the child reported to a friend at school that her father had punished her by putting a hot poker on her stomach. The friend’s grandmother reported it to social services. The child was removed from the father’s home, and full custody was restored to the mother. The child is allowed no contact with the father currently. 23) S. v. S. (Culpeper Virginia)
Two girls, aged four and six, reported being sexually abused by their father in the shower during weekend visits, being threatened, and being told they would be taken from their mother. Social services did not substantiate the abuse. An evaluator determined the girls’ reports were a result of Parental Alienation Syndrome.
Visits continued and the children developed severe psychiatric disorders. One developed an eating disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, and reported she threw up to get “the bad stuff out.” When the children were eight and ten a judge ordered all visits stopped until their psychiatric disorders were remedied. 24) E. v. E. (Sourthern Maryland)
A four-year-old child reported that her father hurt her in her “tutu.” Social services determined she was too young to interview. The child’s attorney told the court that the allegation was a classic example of Parental Alienation Syndrome.
A court evaluation was ordered. The evaluator determined that the child had severe post traumatic stress from abuse. The court suspended all contact with the father. The father was later arrested for an unrelated felony. He was convicted and is currently incarcerated.
25) S. v. S. (Franklin County Ohio)
A fifteen-year-old girl was experiencing joint pain, mouth lesions, and weight loss. Her father stated her mother was encouraging the symptoms as a way to keep her dependent and prevent her from visiting the father freely. A judge determined that the child was a victim of severe Parental Alienation Syndrome, had no medical disorder, and should reside with the father full time and have only supervised contact with her mother.
For three years, the girl had only supervised visits with her mother, and the medical symptoms continued. On her eighteenth birthday, no longer constrained by court orders, the girl left her father’s house to move in with her mother. Within two weeks the girl was diagnosed with lupus erythematosus. She was treated and her symptoms abated.