This guide explores Parental Alienation (PA) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), as it pertains to New York Custody cases. Both PAS and PA come up in court cases, around the country. Notably, attorneys and men’s rights organizations have become aware that PAS is a viable option for obtaining custody and at the very least, an operational way to throw a monkey wrench into the family law system. Even though the courts are inclined to rule PAS as inadmissible, pursuant to controlling standards, the principles surrounding PAS remains an issue in litigating family law cases.
There is confusion in distinguishing Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) from Parental Alienation. The main confusion stems from the tendency to mistake Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) for Parental Alienation (PA), and in the failure to realize the notable flaw that exists with PAS.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a theory labeled and promoted by the late Dr. Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist, who developed the theory based on observations of his own clients. Dr. Gardner first introduced the syndrome in 1985 and further embellished upon the theory through his writings and books, which he self-published. In his 1985 paper, Dr. Gardner described the syndrome as a psychological disturbance brought about by custody litigation. Specifically, he explained that PAS is prevalent in high conflict custody cases.
In custody cases, where an allegation of child abuse or sexual abuse exists, whether parent or child reported, Gardner says it is a clear indication of PAS and should be addressed accordingly. In his own words, Gardner asserts that, “Investigation of sexual abuse claim may cause greater damage than that done by the abuse.” (Dallam, S. J. (1998). Dr. Richard Gardner: A review of his theories and opinions on atypical sexuality, pedophilia, and treatment issues. Treating Abuse Today, 8(1), 15-23.)
PAS presents a unique and disturbing problem in cases where there is domestic violence. Since its introduction, courts continue to examine custody and visitation cases with a PAS eye, especially in cases involving domestic violence. This has the effect of ensuring a parent who alleges domestic violence or abuse will be seen as an alienating parent.