Victims Of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Children Of Divorced Parents Can Easily Be Manipulated To Give False Accounts
Court’s powers with regard to custody of minor are in the nature of parental jurisdiction, and it must act in a way a wise parent would do — Expression “welfare'” would be construed in a way so as to include in its compass all the dominant factors essential for determining the actual welfare of the minor — Technicalities of law are not adhered to in such type of cases – (2002 PLD 267 Supreme Court).
It is well settled that while disposing applications under Section 17 and 25 of the Guardian and Wards Act 1890, supreme consideration should be given to the welfare of the minor coupled with the wishes of said minor (1998 MLD 1697 Quetta High Court).
The relevant section for this issue under the Guardian and Wards Act 1890 is section 17(3) which reads as follows:
“If the minor is old enough to form an intelligent preference, the court may consider that preference.”
This means a child is required to be of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation. In such a case the court may consider and give due weight to the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation.
It is also true that any child who is placed in such an unfortunate position, can hardly have the capacity to express an intelligent preference. This may require the court to take the upper hand and decide what best course should be adopted to ensure the welfare of the child.
In a landmark case, cited as Shaukat Khalid vs Additional District Judge, Rawalpindi [1989 CLC Lahore High Court], the court observed that there was an existing influence on the minor. This influence was a result of being tutored and brainwashed to have certain preferences. The court further observed that the preference expressed by the minor to stay with her uncle’s wife were relevant but was to be judged with reference to the welfare of the child. Since the minor was under the direct influence of her uncle’s wife, she was brainwashed and held wild allegations against her own parents. The minor threatened to die rather than go to her parents. The element of estrangement and hatred that appeared to be created between the minor and the real parents was kept in mind when deciding the question of welfare of the minor. The petitioner’s claim to custody of the minor in preference to the father was without any substance. The mere fact that the petitioner had brought up the minor since her infancy and had feelings of affection towards the minor did not give her a right to claim custody of the minor. The minor’s preference to stay with her uncle’s wife was relevant but not final or binding on the court. The preference would be judged with reference to the welfare of the minor.
A minor is not able to make a mature decision and cannot possibly visualize the hazards of life and exercise sound discretion about his or her welfare. The court while exercising its parental jurisdiction has to judge the welfare of the minor with respect to the circumstances in each case.
An award-winning book published by the American Psychological Association shows just how easily children can be manipulated to give false accounts that bad things have happened to them. In one study, children were asked to repeatedly think about whether different events had ever happened to them (for example, whether they got their finger caught in a trap and then went to the hospital to get the trap off). After ten such sessions, a large portion of the kids recounted false stories about this invented occasion. The children reiterated such compelling stories of this scenario that the specialists could not recognize which occasions were genuine and which were not. Moreover, after the analysts told the minors that the occasions never actually happened, a large portion of the children insisted that they recalled the invented occasion happening.
Children suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome can be problematic as they can give the judge a persuading picture that is not real. These children are more vulnerable and can easily be manipulated to create a belief of alienation and stories that are not real. Before the minor is brought to the judge, he or she is trained to display a loathsome attitude towards his or her guardian. This can be entirely influential as the script has been drilled into the minor and so it is very compelling when told to the judge. By the time the child gets to the judge, he or she has already told the story to an assortment of lawyers and other experts. This further solidifies the story when it is reiterated to the judge. There have been various events where judges have accepted such statements and not considered whether the statements were merely the result of rehearsed reiterations. But these minors even often confuse therapists about whether they are telling the truth, so how can our judges be more cautious?
Below is an arrangement of enquiries that may be useful to judges in discovering valuable information while meeting such minors. It is critical to see that the enquiries mentioned below identify the normal conditions (i.e. the father being the detested guardian and the mother the adored one). However when the circumstances are reversed (the mother being the despised one and the father the cherished one) then clearly one ought to switch the enquiries as well.
Portray your custodial guardian (mother/father)
A minor with parental estrangement disorder will usually give positive reactions to such a question. On the off chance that any negatives are given, they will as a rule be insignificant. Minors who are “typical” or have to endure with different sorts of psychiatric unsettling influences will for the most part have the capacity to list both positives and negatives about every guardian. The complete romanticizing of a custodial guardian is a sign that the minor is closer to the issue than normal.
Portray your non-custodial guardian (mother/father)
A minor who suffers from parental estrangement disorder will give a lengthy answer with little substance. Often the minor will talk about past and present encounters. Sometimes minors will talk about a situation that has never happened in real life but may have often overheard their mother talking about it. The minor tends to acknowledge the mother as legitimate and gives no validity to the father.
How would you feel about your non-custodial guardian’s (father/mother) family?
A child suffering from a parental distance disorder will for the most part answer that all individuals from the father’s/mother’s more distant family (including the minor’s own grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins), are awful and antagonistic. There is generally no basis for such feelings as the child has barely had any contact with the family of the non-custodial guardian. If the child is asked for any explanation or examples for the ill-feelings there is generally no response.
Does your custodial guardian (mother/father) interfere with your meeting with your non-custodial guardian (mother/father)?
The minor will suggest no obstruction to the meeting with the non-custodial guardian. Frequently the child will be more than happy to claim that it is his or her choice to not meet the non-custodial guardian.
Why then would you prefer to not visit your father/mother?
The minor generally gives exceptionally ambiguous reasons as to why they do not want to visit the non-custodial guardian. If the child is asked for specifics then the child portrays a horrendous abuse in an exceptionally persuading way. Often children magnify situations and make “mountains out of molehills” to ensure that they do not have to visit the other parent. Commonly, the minor will request that no contact with the father is needed for now, or at least not until they grow up.
Does your mother disturb or trouble you?
Salubrious children will give a few examples of “provocation” like being made to turn the TV off, do homework or go to bed early. Minors with parental distance disorder claim they are never made to do such things. They regularly depict their mother as being immaculate. This is clearly a biased image. Typically the word badgering is used with minors since this term is utilized by mothers of kids with parental estrangement disorder. The father’s suggestions for engagement with the child is alluded to as badgering, by the mother. In the event that the minor is new to the word badgering, it can be substituted by “trouble you a considerable measure.”
Does your father trouble you?
Children suffering from the syndrome will be more likely to point out the father’s so called “provocations.” These “provocations” in reality are mere attempts to try to contact the kids. Letters, phone calls and legitimate endeavors to meet the child are all put under the expression of “provocations.” The child and the mother generally twist the truth and present the father’s attempts to meet the child as harassment or worse.
The judge will most likely ask more particular questions related to the specific case. These might incorporate enquiries with regard to why the child needs to change his or her name back to the mother’s original last name, why presents given by the father were tossed in the garbage (as a rule in the mother’s nearness), what the siblings’ reasons are for not having any desire to see the father, etc. Judges who meet children in their chambers must be made mindful of the fact that the child might be exceptionally persuasive. Judges are often taken aback by the emphasis on the objections and give such weight to the child’s announcements that they oblige with the expressed inclination. Judges must be cautious of this issue and decide if the child is suffering from such a syndrome. The judge should keep an eye out for: the complete absence of vacillation, the obsession with silly and immaterial “insults,” the aggregate expulsion from the more distant family of the loathed guardian, the outright refusal of any positive contribution by the abhorred guardian on the child’s life and the clear articulation of the child’s desire to never see the detested parent again for the rest of his or her life. Keeping these points in mind will help the judge assess whether a child is saying such things because of the syndrome or whether the statements have actual substance. Considering the popularity of indoctrinating or coaching to distance the child from the non-custodial guardian, the custody ought to be moved from the custodial guardian to the non-custodial guardian who will guarantee towards the kid, adoration and warmth of both the guardians.
A court while dealing with custody cases is neither bound by statutes and precedents nor by strict rules of evidence or procedure. In selecting the proper guardian of a minor, paramount consideration should be the welfare and well-being of the child. In selecting a guardian, the court is expected and bound to give due weight to a child’s ordinary comfort, contentment, health, education, intellectual development and favorable surroundings. But over and above the physical comforts, moral and ethical values cannot be ignored. They are equally, if not more, important essential and indispensable considerations. If the minor is old enough to form an intelligent preference or judgment, the court must consider such preference as well, though the final decision should rest with the court as to what is best for the welfare of the minor.
The child must communicate and present his or her opinion but this communication is not the final word on the issue. Regardless of the age of the minor, the family court judge has the final say and does not have to take forward what the child has communicated. This can happen where the judge feels the inclination of a child is not genuine or that it is the consequence of parental distance. Hence the judge can choose to deviate from the child’s communication where it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.