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What Can a Minnesota Divorce Lawyer Do About PAS?

by | Aug 14, 2018 | Divorce, Family Law, Firm News

Emotionally separating a child from a parent is a criminal offense in some places and a child custody red flag in others. Yet parental alienation syndrome remains controversial in the United States. So, Minnesota divorce lawyers must be very aggressive in these cases.

The UK is the latest country to target this issue. Anthony Douglas is the Chief Executive Officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS is a division of the Ministry of Justice in England. Mr. Douglas recently said that PAS is “undoubtedly a form of neglect or child abuse.” He based this conclusion on a study of fifty high-conflict families. In response, CAFCASS is rolling out a number of preventative measures, including a 12-week educational program. The agency is also educating social workers about the issue. If these interventions are unsuccessful, PAS could be a basis for removing primary custody from the alienating parent and awarding it to the residential parent. The alienating parent would only have supervised visitation in these cases.

Social services like CAFCASS, and other advocates, claim that PAS is one of the most destructive forces which can affect divorced families. In extreme situations, PAS can lead to parental kidnapping and other such outcomes. Others claim that PAS has been “weaponized” to refute allegations of domestic abuse. Parenting coordinators, such as the ones in many U.S. cases, might be an effective middle ground.

In both Mexico and Brazil, parental alienation is a serious criminal offense.

What is PAS?

Parental alienation syndrome was once called “maternal brainwashing.” Essentially, the alienating parent drives an emotional wedge between the targeted parent and a child.

PAS is basically the exact opposite of co-parenting. Minnesota divorce lawyers work hard to ensure that children have consistent and meaningful contact with both their parents. Unless there are verified allegations of domestic abuse or some similar issues, such contact is in the best interests of the children, according to Minnesota law. PAS destroys co-parenting.

As child custody patterns have changed, PAS incidents have increased. In the 19th century, women had no legal rights, so fathers almost always got custody in divorce cases. Then, in the 20th century, most courts used some form of the “tender years” doctrine and awarded child custody to mothers, often with no questions asked. As the pendulum again shifts toward co-parenting, Minnesota divorce lawyers must deal with issues like PAS.

Signs of PAS

In the United States, many psychiatric professionals refuse to recognize PAS. But others acknowledge its dangers. If one parent cuts off the children from the other parent, the damage may be irreparable. So, it is important to look for the signs of parental alienation syndrome, such as:

  • Custody Interference: A few parents outright deny visitation to the other parent. But typically, the interference is much more subtle and perhaps even unintentional. For example, Mother may allow Daughter to attend a sleepover during Father’s weekend visitation.
  • Preference: One parent may give children a later bedtime, their own rooms, or other special privileges. Such preferences may come with a remark like “I bet mom/dad doesn’t let you do this.”
  • Disparaging Remarks: The temporary orders usually prohibit disparaging remarks. But these prohibitions are difficult to enforce. Sometimes, the only evidence of such remarks are subtle behavioral changes in the children.

Isolated incidents like these are usually not a problem. As James Bond novelist Ian Fleming once wrote: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and thrice is enemy action.”

What to Do

Many Minnesota judges appoint parenting coordinators in high-conflict cases. These individuals are specially trained to facilitate co-parenting between two former spouses who dislike each other intensely, mistrust one another greatly, or both.

If you see evidence of PAS, have your Minnesota divorce lawyer express these concerns to the parenting coordinator. This person knows how to bring up the issue with your former spouse in a non-threatening manner. Many times, a few simple adjustments, and an awareness of the issue, may solve the problem.

If there is no parenting coordinator, have your Minnesota divorce lawyer file a motion to modify. Even if the motion is not successful, the judge will probably order a social services investigation. Much like parenting coordinators, social workers are experienced professionals who know the signs of PAS as well as the damage it does.

However, these motions are often successful. As mentioned, PAS indicates a co-parenting breakdown. Many times, this factor alone may be enough to warrant a change in residential custody. The moving party need only establish a substantial change in circumstances, and a co-parenting breakdown certainly qualifies as such.

Call Today To Speak With A Minnesota Divorce Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

If left unchecked, PAS destroys families. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have multiple offices throughout the state.