Californians may have heard about the court that ordered three children into juvenile detention earlier this summer for their refusal to even have lunch with their father. The children had been estranged from him ever since his divorce with their mother. After staying in detention for a few days, the judge then ordered them to attend summer camp. They then underwent five days of intensive treatment designed to help children suffering from parental alienation syndrome. They are currently living with their father, and have done so since Aug. 15.
At issue in the case is whether the mother took active steps to alienate the children from their father, a real problem in some divorce and child custody cases. The therapy the children received is controversial. Some people worry that it can result in children being placed in homes with an abusive parent.
The man has asked that his ex-wife not be allowed to contact the children for 90 days, as called for by their parental alienation treatment program. The father has also asked that his monthly $1,700 child support payments be abated while the children remain with him. They are scheduled to return to court again in November, when the judge will decide whether the mother’s physical custody of the children should be ended permanently.
Generally, family law courts take the approach that children’s best interests require that they be able to grow up having relationships with both parents, except in cases in which one parent poses a danger to their health, safety or welfare. Judges also look disfavorably on parents who actively try to alienate their children from the other parent. Except in cases of abuse, doing so may be very detrimental to children.