PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME
Parental Alienation Syndrome is a widely recognized phenomena that often occurs in divorce situations wherein one parent is able to exercise control over the frequency of the child's contact with the other parent, usually supported by an inequitable award of custody by the courts at the final hearing ("Standard Model", although it can occur irregardless of the timesharing plan) and exacerbated by the Court's unwillingness to hold in contempt the parent who is denying visitation and simultaneously alienating the affected child. The syndrome has been extensively studied over the past two decades and in 2000 was subjected to a Frye hearing in the 13th Circuit wherein it was recognized as a legitimate psychological condition; the hearing was held based in part upon objection to Court recognition since the condition was not described and codified in the DSM-IV. The Court properly held that some accepted diagnoses had not been listed in the DSM-IV for decades, even for a century, and that such omission did not constitute a denial of its existence ( see article).
The symptoms that one must recognize when attempting to determine if PAS exists are:
- Visitation or access blocking by one parent
- False allegations of abuse or unfit parenting against the Target Parent
- Deterioration in the relationship with the child and the Target Parent since marital separation
- Exaggerated fear reaction on the part of the child at displeasing the Alienating Parent
A PAS Case Study
Tina and Richard separated in March of 2003 when Claire was 5 years old; for the first four months, prior to a temporary Court order being issued, they exercised joint rotation of Claire - two days with one parent, the next two days with the other parent, leaving alternating weekends. In July of 2003 Tina's Obssessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), always an issue, surfaced and she arbitrarily took Claire and denied rotation, contact, or even telephone contact. Access blocking by one parent, instance #1
Richard filed for divorce and filed a Petition for Emergency Custody and Visitation Order with the Court. The Court denied the request for an Emergency Hearing (1). A hearing was scheduled for several weeks after that, and Tina continued to deny visitation or contact.
In early September a hearing to determine Temporary Custody and Visitation was held; both Tina and Richard were pro se litigants and both were treated to the remarkable spectacle of pro se Court(2); Judge William Stone, who has never been accused of being the sharpest pencil in the box, presided over Court wherein 31 couples took turns standing at the podium explaining to this indifferent jurist, in detail, why they should be awarded primary custody of their children . In each case Stone put on his most concerned face and listened to each party intently, then in each case asked "Who has the kids now ?" and awarded custody to the parent who was in possession of the kids at the moment. Very scientific. But he made it home by the six o'clock news, or in this case, made the luncheon appointment he was overheard scheduling in the hallway before Court commenced. The moral of this story ? If you're contemplating divorce, snatch the kids.
Tina had the child so Tina was awarded Temporary Primary Custody with the Standard Model.
Tina immediately violated the Order by not engaging in visitation. Access blocking by one parent, instance #2
Richard filed a Contempt Motion and a hearing was eventually scheduled. At hearing Judge Stone threatened Tina with penalties ( an empty threat if ever one was made, but one oft repeated against mothers who withhold visitation), and scheduled visitation as outlined by the Walton County Standard Model began.
In May 2004 a Final Judgment was entered by Judge Kelvin Wells (Stone had been recused by this time) and it incorporated an award of primary custody made to Tina under the Standard model; as it was an even numbered year Richard began his scheduled summer visitation and took Claire to see her grandmother. During the stay at the grandmother's house Tina spoke with Claire numerous times each day, but then decided that Richard must return Claire before the time scheduled on the Parenting Order. Richard did not do so, and Tina applied for an Emergency Ex-Parte Pickup Order to have Claire picked up from her grandmother's house by the police. She had no evidence that Richard "intended to flee the jurisdiction of the Court" as the law requires, but what she did have was an email from Richard where he characterized Judge Wells as that 'pathetic judge'; this email was attached to the motion and highlighted in yellow, and, absent any other required factual testimony the Ex-Parte Order was issued by Walton County Judge David Green. The police subsequently came while Claire was with her grandmother, and Claire was picked up and returned to Tina. At the required emergency hearing held seventy two hours later Judge Wells refused to address the issue of the Order that was before the Court, and refused to address Judge Green's egregious misconduct in issuing the order, but did in fact order Tina to turn Claire back over to Richard to resume the scheduled summer visitation. Claire is pictured here hours before the police arrived with her grandmother who will no longer keep her granddaughter by herself for fear that the police will come, and a granddaughter whose memory of her grandmother is the home where the police took her from(3). A final happy memory stolen by the Bench, a relationship forever tainted. Access blocking by one parent, instance #3. Alienation of the other parent's family Instance #1
Immediately after leaving the court room Tina had a meltdown, fired her attorney on the steps of the courthouse, and called Richard sobbing hysterically and begging to return to the two-day rotation schedule. Richard acquiesced to this arrangement. Throughout the summer of 2004 Richard had Claire every day as Tina worked, and the nights were rotated as before. The arrangement was beneficial for Claire, who entered school that Fall and Richard continued to pick her up every day and the nights and weekends rotated two on, two off. In December of 2004 a Modification of Custody was signed by the Court awarding equal joint rotating custody of Claire to the two parents, and the rotation successfully continued throughout 2004 to the Summer of 2005.
During the Summer of 2005 Tina moved 50 miles away to cohabit with her paramour; custody rotation continued as usual, and Claire began the 2005 school year in Crestview. Rotation continued on a two on, two off schedule as before throughout the school year. In the Summer of 2006 Tina quit/lost her job (the OCD made long term employment a problem and she had always job-hopped) and she began the PAS in earnest, changing the schedule on a whim, demanding payment for non-existent or frivolous expenditures, etc., and denying the rotation on occasion. She filed a false abuse allegation to Department of Children and Families; DCF Investigator Sarah Adams investigated the complaint and deemed it to be 'Unfounded'. Investigator Adams was supplied with a copy of some dozen and a half hysterical phone messages left by Tina threatening to call 911 if Richard did not immediately return Claire, even though it was his scheduled rotation - the final tape was one of Tina demanding payment for some article that she had purchased. Access blocking by one parent, instance #4. False abuse accusations Instance #1
At a birthday party for one of Claire's friend in August of 2006 Claire received a call from Tina and immediately became hysterical, crying that her mother 'will be mad' at her for being at the birthday party. It took ten minutes to calm her down and soothe her. Intense fear reaction about displeasing the alienating parent, Instance #1
In the Fall of 2006 Tina, no longer burdened by working, began 'volunteering' at Claire's elementary school five days per week with the sole intent of excluding Richard from his daughter's life; every attempt at the simnplest contact, even stopping by for lunch, was met with confrontational encounters during which Claire was present. Any attempt to pick up Claire by Richard was thwarted by aggressive actions on the part of Tina attempting to escalate the situation to violent confrontation (Tina had grown up in a violent home dominated by an abusive, drunken father and the violence had made her, and her siblings, violent in turn). Court was scheduled in front of Judge Wells, who recused himself immediately based upon a motion detailing his past misconduct. Upon leaving the Court Richard stopped by with a friend for lunch with Claire at school; Claire was overjoyed and spent lunch in happy contact with her father, until Tina arrived back at school - Claire's emotional change at the sight of her mother was instantaneous ,appalling, and devastating to Richard and his companion - she immediately withdrew and became frightened. Access blocking by one parent, instance #5. Intense fear reaction toward displeasing the alienating parent Instance #2
Tina refused to comply with the Court-ordered rotation for the holidays in 2006; Claire did not see or contact her father for Christmas, nor was she allowed to spend any of the Christmas school break with Richard. Access blocking by one parent, instance #6.
Shortly after the school year commenced in January of 2007 Tina withdrew Claire from elementary school and began home schooling her; this was done so that there could be no contact, even at school, between Claire and her father. Her home is pictured to the left; no one is sure whether the bars are to keep Claire in, or to keep others out. Access blocking by one parent, instance #7.
All efforts to contact Claire by Richard were unsuccessful. A petition was filed in Court to modify custody and to hold Tina in contempt of Court. On the 3rd of March 2007 a process server went to Tina's house in an attempt to serve her with the summons on the filed petition. The server found Tina and Claire on the street near their home and moved to serve Tina. Tina's bizarre reaction, and the reaction that Tina's actions caused in Claire, are detailed in the video on the left. It should be noted that Tina has known the process server well for over a decade, and Claire has known him literally since her birth. Upon completing service the process server waited for the police to arrive based upon Tina's predictable 911 call. The police arrived and stated that Tina had filed a battery complaint upon the process server , alleging that she had been struck by him; he produced the attached video and the complaint was deemed unfounded and closed. Falsifying police and abuse reports is always part and parcel of PAS.
A hearing was held on July 18, 2007 in front of Judge W Howard LaPorte in Walton County. Tina was found to be in willful contempt of Court and 'makeup' visitation was order for two consecutive weeks. Although the contempt was found to be 'willful' the Court continued the usual pattern of not imposing sanctions on the contemptuous party when the contemptuous party is the mother , unless one considers the 'makeup' custody to be punitive, in which case the Court violated the law by using custody as a punitive measure instead of making a determination in the 'best interest of the child'. Tina produced Claire at the appointed time, with DCF Investigator Sarah Johnson in tow; she had called for DCF to come, insisting that Claire was 'afraid' to be with her father. Johnson had interviewed Claire and stated to Richard that Claire did seem to be afraid, but not of Richard. She stayed with Richard and Claire for some time at Richard's house observing their interaction, but noted no fear of Richard or of staying at Richard's house on Claire's part. She did note, as did Richard, that the traditional backpack of clothes and items was missing as Tina had delivered Claire with nothing but the clothes on her back. Intense fear reaction at displeasing one parent, instance #3.
Claire spent her two weeks of 'makeup' visitation with Richard, with liberal visitation by Tina, and with multiple phone calls from Tina daily; at the end of the two weeks Richard returned Claire to Tina, and Tina, asking for a week with Claire before resuming the Court-ordered equal rotation. Richard agreed to this, but stipulated that rotation would resume as before after that period. During that period he met with Claire and Tina in Crestview a number of times for lunch, for Girl Scout functions, etc, with no problems. He also advised Tina's attorney Ilona Reiker (now a Program Attorney for the Guardian Ad Litem program)(sadly for the children) that he intended to continue with the Court-ordered equal joint rotating custody. Tina refused to turn over Claire for the agreed upon rotation and she was not delivered until August 24, 2008. Access blocking by one parent, instance #8 .
Richard met Tina to pick up Claire on August 24, 2008; Tina arrived in a rage, profane and abusive in Claire's presence. She demanded that Claire be returned before the scheduled rotation time, and she was advised by Richard that he would not do so, but that he would return Claire at the normal time. Tina recalled the previous week of lunches and Girl Scout outings, stating in front of Claire that there would be "no more nice" since the contempt order had been filed. Claire was terrifically upset by this display and began crying. The exchange was documented on video-tape by a private investigator. The OCD is evident in her strident demands that Claire be returned at a certain time of her choosing rather than as the Court ordered.Richard prepared a formal letter (click to view letter) outlining his intentions to comply with the Court-ordered rotation and faxed it to Reiker's office on August 27, 2007. Claire was then returned to her mother on August 27.
Incredible as it may seem Tina through her attorney Reiker filed not an Emergency pickup order, but a Verified Motion for Contempt (click to view order) wherein Tina states under oath that Richard had violated the custody order by agreeing to return Claire on Sunday and failing to do so - the video and the letter speak for themselves. Richard prepared another letter (click to view letter) to Reiker advising her of Tina's refusal to turn Claire over for rotation. A copy of the videotape showing the transfer and lack of agreement to return Claire on Sunday was supplied to Reiker, who nonetheless proceeded with her contempt motion in bad faith Access blocking by one parent, Instance #9
A hearing was held in Walton County in front of W Howard LaPorte who dismissed the contempt citations, but failed to either charge Tina with perjury, or to sanction attorney Reiker for prosecuting a motion in bad faith. LaPorte on a second hearing refused to rule on Tina's contemptuous failure to engage in rotation, leaving the issue in suspense until the change of custody hearing was held - this was done even after Tina admitted under oath that she had not been engaging in rotation, and that she did not intend to honor the Court order
Richard filed a child abuse complaint against Tina with the Florida Department of Children and Families alleging Parental Alientaion by Tina and naming judge LaPorte as a principal for his failure to order Tina to comply with the Court order. The DCF investigation returned with 'probable indicators of abuse', but DCF did not take Court action because the psychologist who staffed the complaint said that PAS wasn't in the DSM (see above) - education of DCF psychologists should be a primary focus of any of Butterworths' improvements.
Judge LaPorte was recused, and the case transferred to Judge Ron Swanson in Santa Rosa County, who preomptly recused himself. The case then went to the most dilatory Chief Judge in Florida, Kim Skievaski , where it sat for three months as Skievaski (allegedly) asked every other judge in the Circuit if they would hear the case - according to Skievaski none would except for some tired old retread from Okaloosa County, Keith Brace. The other judges' alleged reluctance in hearing the case stemmed from Richard's role in exposing another judge's hiring of a prostitute, yet so adamant was Skievaski in keeping his dirty laundry in the First that he refused to transfer the case to the 14th Judicial Circuit, all the while leaving Claire with no contact with her father and worsening the damage of the PAS.
Another complaint of PAS was filed with Florida Department of Children and Families naming Tina as the abuser, citing PAS, and naming both
Judge Skievaski and Judge Brace as principals in the abuse. The case and the investigation are pending. The PAS goes on unabated, unchecked by a callous
and indifferent Court .
The DCF investigation resulted in a recommendation by DCF that Claire receive a psychological evaluation. Richard consented, and Tina consented, and the evaluation was scheduled for September 10, 2008. On Spetember 10 Richard was notified that Tina had canceled the psychological exam and would not allow Claire to be examined or treated. Her rambling letter is attached click here for letter. Her twisted and bizarre letter, filled with meaningless caps, dots and disjointed sentences, is a textbook example of mental illness, and in it she claims that Richard has abandoned Claire and attempts no contact with his daughter. DCF Crestview advised that the case had been staffed with their legal department, but that no action was taken because they could establish no "imminent risk". It would seem that the slow murder of a little girl's childhood through the Court-recognized abuse of Parental Alienation doesn't measure up to the high standards set by DCF for actually taking action. I attach no blame to the Crestview office, this is simply a manifestation of a ineffective and moribund agency that is doing more harm by maintaining a facade of concern than would be done if it did not exist at all.
The fax header sheet was left attached so that viewers may read the mission statement of DCF..."The mission of the department is to protect the vulnerable , promote strong and economically self-sufficient families and advance personal and family recovery and resiliency".There is a certain bitter irony in their failure to protect this ten year old child in light of their mission statement.
Click Here for Standalone Player. There is no contact allowed by Tina any longer, and attempts at telephone contact are either unanswered, or are met by scripted replies from Claire while Tina hovers over her.
Click here for standalone playerOn September 16, 2008 Richard attempted to visit Claire at Tina's house. Richard was met at the door by Tina, stated his intentions, and was rewarded with a door slammed in his face. Five minutes later Tina called him on the cell phone and told him that he could 'try' to visit with his daughter. He returned to find her standing in the doorway, cell phone embedded in her ear, claining that her husband was enroute and that Richard should wait. Instead Richard drove to the Crestview Police Department to await the inevitable arrival of whatever officer had been dispatched to her call. The officer did arrive (even the mentally ill are predictable) and a warning against tresspass for her home was issued - this certainly belies her repeated assertion of abandonment and no attempt at contact. It did however add Officer DeRoche to the witness list of people having knowledge of the alienation.
It should have been so simple- unfettered contact with both parents so that a little girl would not be a victim of divorce, transformed tragically by a dysfuntional mother into abuse and countenanced by a Court more interested in protecting the misconduct of its members than in protecting a small child
(1)While Courts will always use the length of time that a child has remained with one parent as the deciding factor in awarding custody, they never consider the award of tempoarary custody an emergency matter; it would seem that a timely award of rotating custody would always be in the best interest of the child, but this would interfere with the judge clearing his/her docket so that they can make it home by the 6:00 o'clock news/happy hour at the country club
(2)Pro Se Court is essentially a cattle call; all litigants are summoned to hearing early in the morning, and there they sit, waiting their turn to be called for their case. Contrast this with represented clients who have a scheduled hearing time for the convenience of the attorneys, although the stated reason is "to avoid conflicts with other judge's calendars". What the hell ? Are attorneys and judges too stupid to schedule ? Nope. It's to maximize the profits of the attorneys (remember, judges are merely attorneys in dresses and remain members of the Bar). This is discriminatory in that it unfairly penalizes the poor who can not afford attorneys by making it impossible to schedule court reporters to memorialize what may be improper actions by the Court and perjury by other parties - how can the poor afford to pay a court reporter to sit there for hours waiting on his/her case to be called ?
(3)Ex-Parte pickup orders are routinely issued only when the moving party can demonstrate that there is a potential for the other party to flee the jurisdiction of the Court with the child; this is usually done through testimony and evidence that certain factual conditions have been met, i.e.;the other party has vacated his residence; the other party is unemployed/quit job; household belongings have been stored or liquidated; utilities turned off; etc. In this case Judge Green, whose ego is larger and more thin-skinned than his phallus, simply issued the order because he was offended that a citizen dare to criticize one of his own ilk. He is the worst case of what we elevate to the Bench in the First, a man who would sacrifice a child's welfare to revenge an imagined slight upon the character of a fellow jurist. This is child abuse, and a complaint has been filed with the JQC on his misconduct. It weas originally denied and then reconsidered after the JQC decided to go after 1st DCA Judge Michael Allen.
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