240.354.4842 or rvalente@nnedv. org
For Immediate Release
Parental Alienation Syndrome Misused to Defeat Valid Abuse Claims in Child Custody Cases
In response to the increased media attention surrounding the release of Alec Baldwin’s book entitled, “A Promise to Ourselves,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and StopFamilyViolence.org release the following:
(September 29, 2008) Washington, DC – The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), Stop Family Violence, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, four of the nation’s leading domestic violence victim advocacy organizations, call on the media and the courts to rectify the misunderstanding and misuse of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in custody cases.
“Child custody cases are among the toughest cases courts have to handle. And in custody cases where domestic violence is involved, the judges have an even higher responsibility to ensure that the safety of family members is not dangerously impaired by misleading – and legally unjustifiable – ‘parental alienation syndrome’ theories,” said Sue Else, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
“Parental Alienation Syndrome” is a claim that has been used to suggest that some parents try to undermine their children’s relationship with the other parent, typically the noncustodial parent, by making false statements about that other parent, most often in the form of abuse allegations. In fact, actor Alec Baldwin made that claim about his own child custody case in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer.
“PAS is being used by some abusers as a tactic to demonize parents’ attempts to protect their children from abuse, denying victims of domestic violence justice in the courts. The fact that some parents behave badly in ordinary cases is no reason to ignore real abuse when it is presented to the court,” also stated Else.
Joan Meier, DV LEAP’s Executive Director, said, “PAS was invented to defeat child abuse claims - and it has been remarkably successful in misleading family courts into believing that women who are sincerely trying to protect their children and themselves from abuse, are just seeking to end the children’s relationship with their noncustodial father.”
According to NNEDV, DV LEAP, SFV, and NCADV, victims of domestic violence face a surprisingly uphill battle in family court to win custody of and safety for their children. All too often, courts award custody and unsupervised visitation to parents found to have committed domestic abuse. Many courts handling custody cases do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and fail to properly factor in the impact of abuse when considering the best interests of the child.
“The most important factor judges should be weighing in making custody decisions is the safety of the mother and children, and the introduction of PAS overshadows this critical need for safety,” said Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Meier states that research has shown that children become “alienated” from a parent for a variety of valid reasons, most often resulting from the parent’s own negative behavior and relationship with that child.
“The proponents of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ are purveying invalid junk science is not even legally admissible. PAS has been emphatically rejected by the Presidential Task Force of the American Psychological Association and by the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges. Leading researchers in the field of custody have agreed that PAS has no scientific validity and the only courts to address the issue have found it inadmissible,” said Meier.
“With the increased media attention surrounding the release of Alec Baldwin’s book, it is important to let the public know that victims of domestic violence are being silenced through the use of ‘parental alienation syndrome.’ We cannot afford to consign thousands of children to unsafe custody or visitation with abusive parents because family courts have come to believe that abuse allegations mean nothing more than a campaign of alienation,” said Else.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence Fund (NNEDV) is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing public education, training and technical assistance to maintain and develop the professional expertise of advocates working to end domestic violence. NNEDV strives to strengthen advocates as organizers and activists in the tradition of social change movements. For more information, please visit www.nnedv.org.
ABOUT DV LEAP
The Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization which provides a stronger voice for justice by fighting to overturn unjust trial court outcomes, advancing legal protections for victims and their children through expert appellate advocacy, training lawyers, psychologists and judges on best practices, and spearheading domestic violence litigation in the Supreme Court. For more information, visit www.dvleap.org.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization formed in 1978 to establish a national network of community based programs to assist victims of domestic violence. NCADV provides support to programs and state coalitions, technical assistance, public policy and community awareness campaigns to work towards the vision of every home a safe home. For more information, visit www.ncadv.org.
StopFamilyViolence. org is an online national activist organization that works to organize and amplify our nation's collective voice against family violence. SFV activists raise their voice to ensure safety, justice, accountability and healing for people whose lives have been affected by family violence. StopFamilyViolence. org is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. For more information visit www.stopfamilyviole nce.org