Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Women Losing Custody

From Naomi Cahn (GW), writing for Forbes:

Emma (name and identifying details changed) was married to a man in the military for many years. During that time, he repeatedly abused her and their children. She reported the abuse to the police and to the military. 

When she went to court, she had recordings of her husband’s threats against her. But a court decided to award custody of their children to the father. 

Why? The father claimed parental alienation, that Emma was alienating the children from their father by false claims that he was abusing them. 

The term “parental alienation” comes from the work of child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in the 1980s to explain what he saw as a shocking number of child sexual abuse allegations in custody litigation. Gardner claimed that many of these abuse allegations were fabricated by vengeful or pathological mothers. 

But his theory has been subjected to strong criticism, such as that from Jeffrey Edleson, former director of the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse and professor and director of research at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, who said in 2009 that, “PAS is essentially composed of unsubstantiated claims; there’s no science behind it.” 

Read more here.

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