Coping with the Parental Alienation Syndrome

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In most cases we have come across, the mother who suffers from PAS are different from the fathers who are victims of it.

The father will lose his children because the laws are set against him from the start, but mothers who lost custody have usually done something that the law regards as making them unfit mothers.

Typically they might have walked out of an unhappy marriage, and assumed that the children will still want to see them. Other cases are mothers who, for various reasons, may not be in a position to care for the children. Such reasons range from being physically or mentally ill, through to being alcohol or drug abusers, or even criminals.

When such mothers lose custody, the children are only likely to go to the father if she was married to him. In the case of the unmarried mother, the children might go into care, to a close relative, or a Guardian. The likelihood of the unmarried father automatically getting custody is small, and he will have to fight to get it if he was not actually living with the mother at the time of her losing custody.

Where the father was married to the mother, and he gets custody, the chances of PAS are high. Unlike mothers who will use it as a legal ploy to get rid of the father or for a negotiating device, the father in this case has no need to get rid of the mother and probably doesn't want any money or property from her, so he uses it for revenge. If a father alienates the children against her it is unlikely that she will see the children again before they are adults.

There is also another variation on the theme for mothers. Whereas the father will lose custody to the mother, the mother may lose custody to a relative or Guardian, who might then alienate the children against her.

We are aware of a case where the child was given to the grandmother, who alienated the child against the mother (her own daughter). In another case, the father gained custody of the child, and then lived with the sister of the mother, who in turn alienated the child against the mother.

In yet another case, the mother divorced the father on the basis that he had abused the daughter (then aged six). Though not proved in court, and denied by the father, the court stopped contact between the father and daughter. The mother died when the child was eleven, and the custody was given to a Guardian, who then continued to alienate the child against the father. He only got to see his daughter again when she was twelve and wanted to see him.

Mothers who are victims of PAS are also worse off in other ways. It is more difficult to use work and hobbies as diversions; and they are constantly with other mothers who remind them of their loss. They may also have a new partner who has his own family from a previous relationship, and may not want to start a new family.

Further to this, there are feminist groups that vehemently deny PAS exists other than as a deprived fathers 'fiction' to undermine mothers. Such attitudes stop PAS studies being carried out adequately.

Paradoxically, the best help that such mothers may get would be to join a 'Fathers' organisation, and find out what information is available. There are self-help groups like MATCH (Mothers Apart from Their Children) who are able to offer advice, but such groups are not politically strong.

Mothers who leave a bad marriage to go into another relationship will make the assumption that their children love them enough to continue seeing them. Unfortunately that is not the case. The children may feel abandoned by her, and the father is able to exploit this feeling.

Such mothers should think very carefully about preparing the ground before leaving a relationship. If she thinks she will lose custody of the children then she should make every effort to separate from the father on terms that allow her to see the children.

Also, in some cases, the new relationship also fails, and the mother may want to come back to the father of her children. She should not create a situation that prevents this however much that seems to be an unlikely event at the time of leaving.

The courts are totally inadequate to deal with such situations. The cases for mediation, counselling, and arbitration are even stronger where the mother becomes a victim of PAS due to laws on domestic disputes. Whatever the reasons parents leave each other, the children are the ones that suffer in the end.


The factor most dominant in PAS is the intent of the resident parent to cut off communications between the children and the non-resident parent (nrp).

In the past this has been fairly easy. Letters and gifts could be removed before the child sees them, and phone calls could be blocked or monitored. Schools and places where the children go could be informed to stop the absent parent visiting.

With the advances of technology these barriers can be bypassed to a large extent. A child with a mobile phone only needs to know the number of the absent parent to contact them directly without the knowledge of the nrp. Furthermore, many nrp's will themselves have more than one phone number, a website, and various ways of being contacted indirectly through work, relatives, and friends who also have these facilities.

There have already been cases of children looking for their fathers via the Internet, and at least one child set up his own website specifically for this purpose. The non-resident parents who use these advances to keep lines of communications open have a considerable resource.