Custody Visits can Be Complicated by Parental Alienation

Law Firm Newswire




Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) September 28, 2015 – There was recently a family law case that arose in Michigan in which a family court judge directed three siblings to go to juvenile detention because they chose to visit their father, from whom they were alienated.

The children’s parents divorced five years ago, and have since been engaged in a custody battle. Judge Lisa Gorcyca presided over the case, and on June 24th, she held that the children, who were ages nine to 15, were in contempt for having disobeyed her order to have a healthy relationship with their father.

The three children were ordered to go to a juvenile detention center, where they were commanded to have no contact with each other. Gorcyca held that the mother was at fault for turning the children against their father, and insinuated that the mother had unduly influenced them. There have been varied reactions to the judge’s decision. While some have praised her, others have questioned her ability to be a judge. Her decision has, however, brought much attention to the issue of parental alienation.

“The judge’s ruling was harsh, and while parental alienation may have been a factor in the children’s refusal to visit their father, their reasons should have been explored and addressed,” said Lisa McDevitt, a prominent Virginia family law attorney.

When parents are engaged in a divorce, sometimes they encourage an atmosphere in which their children feel compelled to choose one parent over the other, and even renounce the other parent. Parental alienation is different from parental alienation syndrome (PAS), which is a phrase developed by a psychiatrist named Richard Gardner 20 years ago. PAS is a disorder that appears mainly in disputes concerning child custody. It is revealed when a child disparages a parent without any apparent reason. Parental alienation, on the other hand, results from the behavior of the parents.

In the Michigan case, the judge could have implemented less draconian measures than punishing the children by sending them to juvenile detention. For instance, she could have reduced the mother’s custody. Another option was to require the children to attend counseling sessions, or to order that they engage in family-based therapy, through which the reasons for the children’s refusal to visit their father would have been revealed. In fact, the eldest child stated that he didn’t wish to visit his father because of his father’s propensity for violence. He further said that he had witnessed his father’s physical abuse of his mother. Although his father had neither been arrested nor charged with any crimes, that does not mean that the son’s accusations were unfounded.

Learn more at
LFN Primary