Parental Alienation Syndrome

By: Dani Langevin – June, 2013

When parents are denied the right to have contact with their children you have what is called Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. This is not simply a burden that an alienated parent must bear, but their children too, must deal with being forced to live without one of the strongest bonds in their life: the bond between a child and his or her parent. Although calculated, the abusive damage being done to the child is often unknowingly committed.

Last month I introduced you to Derek, a father who is victim to a vindictive ex-wife and a corrupt Massachusetts divorce court system. Derek introduced me to PAS, a term and affliction I had never heard of before. According to Dr. Reena Sommer, Parental Alienation Syndrome is defined as:

“The deliberate attempt by one parent (and/or guardian/significant other) to distance his/her children from the other parent and in doing so, the parent engages the children in the process of destroying the affectional ties and familial bonds that once existed…”

Derek’s ex-wife systematically denied his right as a parent to see and even speak with his children to the extent that they believed he had abandoned them. Derek, as devastating as it was, did his best to respect the confines of the bogus restraining order placed on him by a corrupt court system so that he would not end up in jail, only to have his children after two long years, tell a court ordered psychiatrist that they were no longer interested in seeking a relationship with their father.

As a parent, my heart sank when Derek shared this with me. I felt my blood drain, then boil, and I felt sick to my stomach thinking what it would be like to hear this from my own children. It is unconscionable that any parent would do this to another and, in essence, their own children.

Anyone who seeks to exact revenge or the destruction of their ex-partner’s relationship with their own children is only seeing the pain it will inflict on the adult in this situation. They are so blinded by their own hate and anger that they cannot see the incredible and long-lasting damage they are causing their own children. “In these cases, children become the victims. They cannot win or defend themselves. It robs children of security and embeds in their minds falsehoods about the targeted parent that are injurious to their own psyche and their sense of self”(Sommer).

Ultimately, the only way to please the alienating parent is for their child to turn against the parent being targeted. The alienating parent forces their children to choose between two of the most important people in their lives. “The guilt they experience when their parents first separate is exacerbated by the added stress of being made to feel that their love for one parent is contingent on their abandoning the other.”

How does a parent do this without seeing the damage it is doing to their own flesh and blood? It is calculated brainwashing of oneself and one’s children. They use their own children as “spokespersons for their hatred”, soldiers in their battle to destroy their imagined enemy and pawns in a war where there will be no winners.

What is most frightening is neither the parent nor the children are aware of what is happening. It is difficult for children to protect themselves against one parent’s campaign against the other, and it is often so damaging that the effects are difficult to reverse.

According to my research, there are three types of ‘alienators’. Type one is known as the Naïve Alienator. Almost every divorcing parent, at one time or another, exhibits this behavior. It is expressed when their anger gets the better of them and they lash out verbally in front of their child or children.

“I can’t afford that. Your father makes more money than me. Tell him to buy it for you.” These parents are very much aware and respect the relationship their ex has with their children, but some times lose ‘their cool’. Because they can separate their own feelings from their children’s, they encourage and support the relationship the children have with the other parent. They are secure in knowing that their children are capable of needing and loving both parents equally. As a result, communication between both parents is frequent, respectful and healthy for all involved.

The type two alienator is the Active Alienator. This is the parent who often feels like they are losing control due to being angry and hurt over the loss of their relationship with their partner. They may return to court to have the legal system hash out problems between them rather than working them out together. They will point out their ex’s imperfections and/or inconsistencies to their children,

“She’s late again. She was late when we were dating, late when we were married and she’s still late. You’re probably going to miss your practice and it will be all her fault.”

In reality, these parents are doing their best and want their children to have a good relationship with the other parent, but their own feelings get in the way and frustration sets in. They apologize and try to mend the damage that has been done.

The type three alienator is the Obsessed Alienator. They are unable to separate their own feelings for the ex-partner from their children’s. They see protecting their children from the ex the number one priority and materialize abuse that has not occurred. “The obsessed alienator enmeshes the children’s personalities and beliefs in their own. This is a process that takes time but one that the children, especially the young, are completely helpless to see and combat.” The obsessed alienator is able to convince their family and friends that their ex is dangerous and abusive emotionally and, therefore, potentially physically abusive.

Their, “supporters are often seen at the court hearings even though they haven’t been subpoenaed.” Court hearings are frequent because the obsessed alienator’s main objective is to seek exacting revenge on the ex and completely alienate them from their children through false accusations. “They have a desire for the court to punish the other parent with court orders that would interfere or block the targeted parent from seeing their children. This confirms in the obsessed alienator’s mind that he or she was right all the time.”

The long term effects of PAS on the children, the innocent victims in these cases, are extensive and often irreversible. Children who have been forced to reject one parent over another can suffer from anger, depression, suicidal ideation, sleeping, eating and educational disorders, bedwetting, drug abuse or destructive behavior, anxiety and panic attacks, and damaged sexual identity. Boys often turn to delinquent or destructive behavior when the most important male figure has been villainized by their mother. Many children subjected to PAS have a fear of being abandoned or rejected because they have been brainwashed to believe that one of their parents are less desirable therefore they may be undesirable. As they get older, many of these children will try to fill the void of the missing parent with everything from bad behavior, to drugs, alcohol and sex.

The intention of the alienating parent is not to destroy their children’s psyche, but it is a horrendous side effect of the destructive war they wage against their ex-partner due to being blinded by anger, hate and revenge. Much can be done to prevent these effects. The first step is to recognize the signs of Parental Alienation (PA) in children.

It begins by recognizing that the focus is on the parent being alienated rather than the child or children. If visitation is court ordered, do NOT give the child the option not to visit a parent during designated times. This sets them up for conflict. Your children are not your confidants. Discussing every ‘little’ thing about your marital relationship is destructive and painful.

Claiming that you just want to be honest is a cloak for giving your children information that they cannot process or only turn into resentment against one of their parents. Refusing to allow children to bring their own property to and from both parent’s houses sets a dividing line between the two homes. Denying contact with a parent, refusing an ex-partner access to medical records, school or sports functions, placing blame on the other parent and using a child as a spy are just a few of many more signs that a child is being exposed to, and damaged by PA.

There is a great deal of research and literature about PA and PAS. It is the responsibility of every parent and family member of the children involved in a divorce to keep the children safe from having to choose between one parent or the other, or used as a pawn. I would hope that no parent would want any harm to come to their own child, especially at their own hands or actions.

Next month I will speak specifically about Derek’s case. His fight to see his children is ongoing. He still has no driver’s license, no rights as a father and has been completely alienated from his children for two years as of June 11th. He has no way of knowing how this is affecting his children. Unfortunately, this column sheds some light on just what that may be.


Dani Langevin

Dani Langevin

Dani Langevin is a teacher and has a Bachelors in Fine Art and Masters in Education. she has written four young adult novels, one of which is self-published.

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3 Responses to Parental Alienation Syndrome

  1. Kenny OBrien Reply

    June 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    This is an excellent article, The family court systems are out of control. I have been a single Father for 8 years. Despite being denied the right to see my Son the 1st year after my divorce I now have full custody, very rare for a Father to have full custody in NH or anywhere else. I have been accused of kidnapping, child abuse, neglect and everything in between and the court took my ex word for it to keep me from my Son for a year. After it was decided that she was making this stuff up, her own history was exposed and proven she never faced any reprimands for the false allegations. Despite having full custody of my Son for 7 years the state of NH made me pay 100% of my sons cost and child support for 7 years, I no longer have to pay but like all single Fathers I don’t get any support, my single Mom friends make enough on child support to not have to work, mortgages paid etc with child support. Family courts need an entire overhaul, we live in an era where it is illegal to discriminate against any religion, sexual preference, gender, race etc. But in family courts it still ok to discriminate against men, only 8% of men get custody of their kids, imagine of woman only made up 8% of the workforce the outcry in the public or in the media. I was told by the state of NH years ago that if I couldn’t afford child support I would lost custody of my Son, imagine a court telling a single mother she had to pay her childs father child support, pay 100% of the childs cost, and cover the childs health insurance and childs fathers health insurance or lose custody of the child and hence pay more in child support, happens to men all the time!

  2. mike jefffries Reply

    July 1, 2013 at 7:06 AM

    Thanks so much for your article on parental alienation. This destructive family dynamic affects countless children, parents and extended family members every year.

    For more information, and resources, on parental alienation you can visit


    mike jeffries

  3. Sams Dad Reply

    January 14, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    To remind all those with morals and to all those who love all children, that this David J. Glass Esq. PhD would giggle & laugh at me while waiting to see the judge. Shortly after this attached letter dated 2-12-2012 was received by the community of Malibu, CA this David J. Glass Esq. PhD conspired to injure a 3rd party (myself) , suborned perjury and falsified evidence just before he closed down his practice and went to FMBK Law.The CA State Bar has just received a 2nd complaint regarding this matter.

    2-12-12 Mr. Graham J Miller


    To The Principals of Malibu Elementary Schools and To Whom it may concern within the LAUSD and SMMUSD administrations, Directors or other persons.
    Dear Sir Madam or MS,

    I am writing to you firstly as a parent. I have a child in a Malibu public school. I am also writing as a Citizen, and therefore concerned in a more global manner with issues that I personally find disturbing and relevant. I believe a possible failure to perform to ethical codes of several professions, let alone what any normal person may find to be reasonable is about to, and could in the future lead to embarrassment, public consternation and at best a complete lack of faith ,trust and confidence in the above agencies.

    I have recently been informed by my daughter Lily-Jane Faith Miller that her mother has taken her out of Callahan elementary (Northridge); and she is now at some school in Malibu district. (Grade 2)

    My reasons for my concern follow.

    Within the Malibu school district there is a teacher, (C Cullen) who has accused her ex-husband of two counts of sexual abuse of their son, and 5 other counts of abuse of their son (11). This alleged abuse according to Ms. Cullen and her Attorney took place over the past 5 years.

    I would like a notation in my daughter’s file that she is never to be placed in class with the above person as her “(my daughters)” teacher. I apologize in in that I amenable to provide more details on my daughter’s whereabouts (school) but her Mom has not provided that info. I’m sure Dr Jacob the principal at Callahan would be able to assist.

    In MS Cullen’s divorce and custody case she utilized the services of a Mr. D Glass Esq.(Attorney) Mr Glass is also a PhD in Psychology .Mr. Glass was also utilized by the mother of my daughter, Lily -Jane in my own divorce and custody matter. Mr. Glass a Psychologist/ Attorney and mandated reporter saw fit to bring allegations of sexual abuse of a child and 4 allegations of other forms of abuse of MS Cullen’s son Sammy before family court. These all were investigated by the Police DCFS, and the District Attorney. They were found to be without either Medical or Credentialed 3rd party verification and closed therefore as unsubstantiated. These allegations were brought by MS Cullen via the services of Mr. Glass and occurred regularly before the summer school break on a yearly basis. MS Cullen had also recently remarried a Mr Brian Winsick another Teacher and coach in the Conejo Valley. Their marriage took place just prior to the allegations beginning.

    I will now outline my concerns and reasons for the request of the notation in my daughters file.

    It is my belief that the relationship between this teacher Ms. Cullen and her attorney and my own ex-wife and the same attorney is cause for reasonable concern. That to avoid any unfortunate incident where god forbid I was to be accused by my daughter’s mother of something similar as MS Cullen accused her ex-husband of it is imperative no establish able link is in place as could lead to suspicion of collusion. The worst case scenario that Ms. Cullen at some time becomes my daughters teacher and subsequently claims are made that perhaps my daughter had inferred to MS Cullen that I had abused her ( Lily-Jane) and MS Cullen then could relate this to my daughters mother through their mutual attorney, or contact at school is beyond horrific. I feel the separation of my daughter and this teacher protects LAUSD/SMMUSD and my daughter and me.

    In a more global sense I am concerned that a teacher married to another teacher and coach and an attorney who is also licensed as a psychologist made no attempt to make aware the LAUSD or the SMUSD of their concerns. (Two allegations of Sexual abuse and five other allegations of abuse.) Surely some ethical codes of their respective professions would demand other relevant or parties who could be impacted be advised.

    When a teacher finds the resources to pay $500 an hour to a Beverly Hills Attorney for 5 years surely there is a need for verification that such allegations will bring in terms of the expenses the County and State will bear during the protracted conflict. Especially if the accused has been made indigent by the continued claims and has suffered stress or work issues stemming from such accusations and is no longer paying taxes.

    As a parent I certainly would be outraged if I knew my child’s teacher was aware of a legitimate abuse situation and if, as in this case it included Sexual Abuse allegations and that teacher did nothing to bring attention to it as could protect other children I would expect answers. Specifically why and how a person(s) (2 Teachers, (Coach), An Attorney/Psychologist) would go ahead and consciously disregard accusations of such a serious nature, and then they having brought these allegations before family court and the district attorney go ahead and let other parents arrange activities with the person they were accusing of abuse in a manner as would expose other children to the accused.

    What is more disturbing and I expect the press will find disturbing is that repeated allegations of this nature are often utilized in family conflicts and that this is acceptable is in fact a failure of morality within our society. I believe this failure may have had a profound societal impact.

    That the failure of an application of evidentiary standards as are normally applied in criminal matters may have allowed credentialed persons possibly with questionable motive to use family court in a manipulative and deceitful way to achieve their own ends appears to me to be worthy of consideration.

    This epidemic of claims of abuse of children caught in such situations, (family breakups) versus children, who suffer actual abuse , desensitizes the general public and governmental agencies and allows real and dangerous criminals to hide and operate with virtual impunity in our society. It is beyond Peter and the Wolf it is an ongoing crime against humanity. To falsely perpetrate something that I believe leads to what we are now facing in the LAUSD and SMMUSD and may have exacerbated, perpetuated and indeed by lack of action condoned events and actions that possibly has led to emotional; mental and even physical harm to any child is heinous.

    I believe because of the actions as I have described many prior red flags have been ignored in many abuse situations and much suffering and harm and expense could have been avoided if a less commonplace attitude of children was the norm.

    Indeed in the immediate situation with (C Cullen, B Winsick )either the allegations were scurrilous and a product of vitriol, and an attorney(PhD Psych) with who knows what motivation (7 Claims) and that these claims were worthy of public expense .Or these persons were aware the claims they were bringing were false and therefore not worthy of reporting to LAUISD/SMUSD or other parents.? The alternative is an admission of negligent lack of reasonable due diligence and surely a great lack of concern for the school both pupils and other teachers and parents has been flagrantly displayed in total disregard for the safety and welfare of minors. Whether this is or should be a concern for the bond holders of these persons I do not know. Mr. Glass, Glass family Law and former associate of (Kolodny & Anteau) One of the most respected family law firms in the United States (Mel Gibson Getty, etc.) has been investigated by the CA Bar already in this matter and while the complaint was not upheld a letter suggesting the possibility of civil redress was issued by them.

    The APA also found he did no wrong apparently within their own ethics code.

    The fact remains an Attorney/Psychologist and a Teacher and a Teacher/Coach surely have some duty to the community. The positions of trust and respect they are afforded should allow the general public a reasonableness within their expectation of propriety and protection of the innocent by such credentialed persons.

    Perhaps the LAUSD/SMUSD could incorporate or suggest to the CA Bar a cooperative relationship of a professional nature that would allow this protection to be afforded our children as well as draft a code for the LAUSD/SMUSD’s own employees in such situations.

    Certainly recent events could lead one to surmise that a better clarified way of maintaining the safety and welfare of our children, from both bonifide and false claims of abuse would be helpful. The harm that both real and imagined events can bring to families, as well as collateral persons and an institution such as children’s learning environment should be minimalized at all times.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Graham J Miller.

    885 Avenue of the Americas

    Penthouse 1A

    New York. NY. 10001

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