Having been involved in many child custody disputes for two decades, including my own custody battle, I noticed that there was a trend in the frequency of a disorder rarely observed before, that of programming or brainwashing a child by one parent to denigrate another parent.

In my practice at present, I have successfully had a children return from England by a mother who without the father’s consent had poisoned the children’s minds to such an extent that she took the children to England and blamed the father for the removal – the mother was discredited and the children were returned to South Africa. The disorder is not only confined to brainwashing by a parent but creating support by the children of the alienating parent’s campaign against the targeted parent.

In another child custody case, a client of mine was accused by his wife whom he was divorcing of playing with a three-year-old’s penis in the bathtub. Psychologists were subpoenaed on both sides and after a three-day trial, the court found that the wife had deliberately frustrated my client’s access and that the court was not convinced with her story or the findings of her psychologist.

On the other hand, there are many instances where the cause of the alienation is the alienated parent and not the other party. In a leading child custody case dealing with child alienation, the matter dealt with an adolescent child who approached the court for a variation of a custody order. The court assigned a legal representative in terms of s 28(1)(h) stressing that “a child in civil proceedings may, where substantial injustice would otherwise result, be given a voice.” The Judge obtained a report from the family advocate to assist her in deciding whether child custody should be awarded to the father of the child. Evidence showed that the father had instructed the child to be obstructive making the child feel as though he had to favour a certain parent. The psychologists were of the opinion that the child had made his decision due to duress or undue influence. It was held that the father was found to be a manipulative obsessive man and that it would not be in the best interest of the child to award him with sole child custody. The court went accordingly against the wishes of the child.

Therefore, on account of these tragic cases and frequency of this disorder that I have seen in my practice, I thought I would research the concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome (P.A.S) and give readers of my website a little insight into this disorder. The next blog, posted on Wednesday 22nd July will ask the question “What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?” Read it to find out more.