Last night I had the pleasure of attending a very interesting continuing education seminar given by the San Diego Country Bar Association and the San Diego Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. The topic was parental alienation which is a niche issue unlikely to affect most of you but still is something we all should consider. The two speakers, Hon. Enrique Camarena, San Diego Superior Court Family Law Department, and Lynn Waldman LCSW of the Divorce Counseling Center. They really did a great job at examining a difficult issue.
Essentially, parental alienation occurs when a child refuses to interact with the non primary custodial parent. So for example, if child lives with Mom, child does not wish to see or visit with Dad. Often this occurs because Mom (just in this example) promotes a bad relationship with Dad and thus the child carries forward the things he/she hears about Dad and Mom often will promote this feeling. What does Dad do in this scenario?
The focus should always be on the health and well-being of the children. And for alienation cases that lack abuse and mistreatment, meaning those cases where the rejected parent can provide a loving and safe environment, children will be better off with two supporting parents in their lives. The solution is complex but involves therapy for all parties. Co-therapy often for the out parent and child, and therapy for the in parent who is promoting harmful feelings about the out parent.
Divorce is inherently trauma. It changes our sense of self. And the family law court system only perpetuates this because it is set up for one party to win, and the other party to lose. We believe that mediation reduces the trauma on the spouses, and we know that our system focused on peacekeeping between parents no doubt aids children. The bottom line is that children in high conflict divorce cases have trouble as they mature, often suffering a variety of personality disorders. The adversarial win-lose system that is family court won’t help you or them, and in fact can often create an environment where parental alienation occurs.
With our mediation services, you and your spouse (with lawyers if you choose) will come into our office, sit down with our female & male co-mediation team, and we will think helpfully about the present and future and help you move forward with your lives through a peaceful separation. It happens everyday in our office with all sorts of people from diverse cultures and varying ages. Mediation is a decision for your family and we are here to help.
Scott F. Levin
San Diego Divorce Mediation