To Testify or Not to Testify – that is the question and there is much disagreement among professionals about whether children should take the stand in high conflict divorce situations.
On the one hand, we have parental alienation, where one parent brainwashes a child against another without justification. These alienated children often reject a previously loved parent as well as aunts, uncles and grandparents—the entire extended family.
First introduced as parental alienation syndrome by Richard A. Gardner in the 1980s, his research shed light on a modern indoctrination process that led to false abuse claims and gained wide-spread recognition. In a recent ABC 20/20 investigative report, Dr. Richard Warshak, clinical professor of psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center called it “Divorce Poison” which in extreme cases can lead to false accusations of abuse.
On the other hand, what if the accusations of child abuse and interpersonal violence are true? Shouldn’t a child’s testimony be the first step in enlightening the Court? After all they are primary witnesses to the crime! Joan Meier, law professor at George Washington University Law Professor believes, “Judges too often reject child abuse allegations made during custody battles because they assume the child has been brainwashed to lie.” In the same ABC news report, she said, “If you raise child abuse in court, you’ve got to make a very strong case. If you can’t nail it, not only will you lose custody, you may lose all access to your child because the assumption will be that you’ve poisoned your child’s brain with these ideas.” While it may seem that the reporting parent is punished and the child becomes a victim of the family court system, the actual culprits are the investigative and mental health providers who fail to investigate the case properly. They fail to consider other hypotheses as to what may be going on in the case.
How can judges, lawyers and mental health professionals better assess the situation and address the issue of whether or not children should take the stand?
Join Robert A. Evans, Ph.D. and J. Michael Bone, Ph.D. authors of The Essentials of Parental Alienation Syndrome and co-founders of The National Association Parental Alienation Specialists, for a 3-day Symposium in Miami October 14-16.
October 14-16, 2016 | Miami, Florida USA | 18.5 CLEs/CEs