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Family courts well aware of parental alienation challenges

Family courts are ahead of the game when it comes to recognizing the seriousness of parental alienation, Markham family law lawyer Andrew Feldstein tells AdvocateDaily.com.

According to CTV News, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently proposed to add the phenomenon, which involves one parent systematically turning their children against the other, to its accredited list of diseases and related health problems for the first time.

But Feldstein, principal of the Feldstein Family Law Group, says the U.N. body is playing catch-up to those in the family justice system who see the problem all the time, particularly in high-conflict cases.

“The courts have recognized this as a problem for some time,” he says. “It comes in different levels. At one end of the scale, there are lots of parents who do things to minimize the child’s relationship with the other parent, while in the worst cases, you see an effort by the alienator to eliminate that relationship altogether.”

Still, Feldstein says litigation is not the ideal mechanism for resolving such cases.  

“Courts are not an efficient way to deal with alienation, and the real challenge for family lawyers is the cost,” he says, explaining that the addition of alienation allegations can easily double or triple the length of a typical family law trial.

“You have to bring out all the evidence,” Feldstein says. “Even then, if you’re successful, you may have to enter a period of reintegration and therapy which is also extraordinarily expensive.

“Many people without the money to throw at litigation end up giving up at some point, which is very sad,” he adds.

The CTV news story says WHO members will vote on its formal recognition of parental alienation at a conference in May to mark the organization’s 11th revision of its International Classification of Diseases.

The article cites research labelling parental alienation an "unacknowledged form of family violence" with long-term mental health consequences for children on the receiving end of it, including “anxiety, lowered self-esteem and general quality of life,” and provides a list of some red flags that suggest it may be occurring:

  • Rejection and denigration of a parent for trivial reasons
  • Rigid refusal to consider alternative views
  • Repetition of the favoured parent's words
  • Rehearsed script
  • Relatives are included in the rejection (even pets)
  • Absence of guilt or regret over behaviour towards the rejected parent

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