Thursday, October 2, 2008

Devoted Dad Gets a Win

By David T. Pisarra, Esq.

I had a win last week, well, as much as anyone wins in the Family Courts. One of the fathers that I’ve been representing for the past 9 months had the value of his relationship to his child validated by the courts. This is a man who is going through an agonizing divorce and child custody battle. We’ve been in court a dozen times seeking and fighting restraining orders, custody orders, visitation enforcements.

The mom has done everything in her power to prevent dad from seeing his 2 1/2 year old daughter. For 10 weeks she denied him visitation, before he hired me. She has used the Nuclear Option in custody battles and alleged that there sexual molestation by the father, on absolutely no evidence.

Finally the court ordered an independent evaluation of the respective parenting skills of the parent, which involved full psychological evaluation of all parties. The report came back heavily weighted in favor of my client, and so, in a last ditch effort to alienate the father from his daughter, mom decided she “had to move” out of state.

Thankfully the judge saw this case, after all the court appearances, and the psychology, for what it was. A mother doing everything she could to rid dad from his daughters life, and he put a stop to it. She can move, but if she does, dad gets full custody here in California. Suddenly she doesn’t quite “need to” anymore.

This was nothing more than what is called Parental Alienation syndrome and it is is a hot button issue, and which side you come down on, is very much determined by whether you are the parent who is trying to destroy any relationship between your kids and your ex, which frequently masquerades as “protecting the children”, or whether you are the ex, the “target”.

It is a pattern of behavior that creates fear, anxiety and distrust of the target parent. Frequently it is the mother, but it could be either parent, who tries in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, to create a wedge in the relationship between parent and child.

The subject is difficult to identify because of what the alienator does, as an example, “Susie, I want you call me as soon as you get to daddy’s house. You know you can ALWAYS call me if you need me.” On the surface this looks like mom is just being a concerned mother. But the underlying message is that “Dad’s is not a safe environment for you and I’m concerned for your welfare.”

Many judges, lawyers, therapists, counselors and evaluators will not see this as an example of PAS, but when comments like that pile up, it begins to create a wedge between child and parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to destroy the relationship between parent and child, so that in a child custody case, full custody is given to one parent in contravention of the other’s rights. Father's already have a hard time with this, as they are usually not the primary caregiver, so already their relationship is being minimized due to time constraints.

This topic was widely covered in the media in April of 2007, when Kim Basinger released a private family phone call from the father of her daughter, Alec Baldwin. This was a clear attempt at parental alienation, and was in my opinion a wholly inappropriate and mean spirited thing to do. Mr. Baldwin has a book coming out today about his trials and tribulations in Family Court, called “A Promise to Ourselves”. as he said in his public apology, “I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years now. You have to go through this to understand. (Although I hope you never do.)”

It is a common belief that men don’t love their children as much as women. Well, in the case I’ve dubbed ‘Big Daddy and the Psycho’, he drives 2 1/2 each way, twice a week, to spend 2 hours with his daughter, and every other week he makes that trip a third time, to pick up the baby for a weekend visit. He spends 10 hours a week in traffic, to see his child for a mere 4 hours a week.

Dads can be, and are, dedicated parents also.

This article originally appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press (9/23/08).

David Pisarra is a Family Law attorney focusing on Father’s rights and Men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or 310/664-9969.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a disgusting scenario. I hope the decision is rescinded in an appeal. The role of motherhood in a child's life is absolute and beyond any form of dispute.

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