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Fathers' Rights Part 2: Parental Alienation and Custody Rights

In the previous post there was a brief discussion on divorce and child custody. It was also mentioned that fathers are beginning to see fairer treatment for custody and visitation. No longer are mothers given preferential treatment now that courts are focused on what arrangement is in the best interest of the child.

We also briefly mentioned that children in divorced families are sometimes affected psychologically. One example of how this manifests in children is a controversial disorder referred to as parental alienation.

Parental alienation occurs when one parent negatively influences the child's relationship with the other parent through remarks made to the child, often the result of an especially nasty divorce. The American Psychiatric Association has had many people requesting that it be included in their catalog of recognized mental disorders. If parental alienation becomes a recognized mental disorder, it could impact fathers' rights in custody arrangements.

Those against the proposal are concerned that some parents may take advantage of the fact that it's a recognized disorder. They are worried that abusive parents will claim parental alienation if a child is showing symptoms of estrangement from the other parent. A professor from the George Washington University Law School believes that there is no such thing as parental alienation.

Those who support the classification of this disorder claim that its recognition will lead to fairer custody arrangements. Both parents could continue to be involved in their child's life without fear of being undermined by the other. Supporters also believe that the disorder affects children to the degree that it must be recognized so that appropriate treatment can be administered.

For fathers, this could mean a better chance of being granted shared custody. Since courts are solely concerned with the child's interests, they will likely uphold custody arrangements that do not bolster any type of parental alienation. Furthermore, if parental alienation is occurring, the courts can order treatment for the child and provide resources to help reconcile the relationship.

Source: Associated Press, "Psychiatric experts assess parental alienation," David Crary, 01 October 2010

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