Recognizing Parental Alienation as abuse in Missouri

Recognizing Parental Alienation as abuse in Missouri

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Petition to

Why this petition matters

Started by Andrea Forsythe

In cases where the well-being of a child is at issue, sometimes parents will resort to inappropriate measures. Missouri law does not recognize one of the most insidious measures—known as parental alienation— there is no mention of Parental Alienation or Parental Alienation Syndrome listed as a form of abuse or a possible reason to adjust a parenting plan or custody arrangement.

Unless a parent has been deemed by the courts “un-fit” in accordance with Missouri Revised statutes; Chapter 452, Section 452.400, and all subsequent sections herein, may the Court grant such liberties and enforcement of said statues already put in place by the Missouri General Assembly and revise said statutes to help eliminate the abuse of these statutes and laws by those taking an active role in the violation of court order(s) Also, I ask that the court help to better protect the child/alienated-parent relationship as to not interfere or disturb this natural bond.

Just as child abuse is defined in the Missouri Statues in Chapter 452, Section 452.400 and all subsequent sections herein, there is no mention of Parental Alienation or Parental Alienation Syndrome listed as a form of abuse to any and all appropriate parties of the child custody order, not limited to the determination of custody that should be awarded, on-going custody arrangements and as a substantial cause to deem a significant change in circumstances in itself alone a reason to enter in a modification to end such behavior.

Parental alienation is engineered at the hands of the alienating parent, who often pressures the child to go along with their hatred of the other parent. The alienating parent programs the child to despise their other parent by criticizing the alienated parent and interfering with their relationship. 

While the alienated parent obviously suffers in this situation, the child does as well. The child experiences the loss of their alienated parent like they would a premature death of a parent. The child is also likely to feel neglected and angry. They may take on traits of the alienating parent, such as lack of empathy and rigid thinking. 

Sure, Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome are extremely difficult topics to allege and then prove, but It is possible to show that it is occurring. It should be mandated that every parent both targeted and alienator should undergo ordered counseling so that an evaluation can take place and an expert can testify.

Missouri currently adopts the expert witness testimony through varying case law records and follows the following guidelines to help determine if a parent or caregiver is guilty of alienating a parent (sic). 

While there is currently some debate as to whether parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a true disorder, this question is all but irrelevant in the Missouri legal system, where the effects of parental alienation are very real. Parental Alienation Syndrome can be defined as a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent (the preferred parent) and rejects a relationship with the other parent (the alienated parent) without legitimate justification.

Because children’s minds are impressionable, it is imperative to be able to spot this kind of gaslighting as early as possible. Most of the risk factors, however, hinge more on the conduct of the other parent than that of the child. Red flags include:

  • In a denigration campaign, the relationship between the alienated parent and the child will shift seemingly overnight. While there was once a positive relationship, the child now shows constant hostility or unfairly criticizes the targeted parent.

  • When confronted about why the child feels negatively towards the alienated parent, they cannot justify their feelings with specific examples or their reasons are wildly untrue.

  • A child suffering from PAS will see no redeeming qualities in the alienated parent. In their eyes, the parent who is doing the alienating can do no wrong, but their feelings towards the alienated parent are wholly negative and critical.
  • Even though the alienating parent has brainwashed the child to hate or fear the alienated parent, the child will insist that their reasons for this hatred are their own. The child will deny that any ideas came from the alienating parent.
  • Children with PAS typically don’t experience feelings of guilt for their harsh treatment of the alienated parent. In most cases, they will act ungrateful, spiteful, or cold toward the alienated parent and appear unimpressed by any gifts or favors offered by the targeted parent.

  • No matter the alienating parent’s position, the child will always take their side over the targeted parent. The child is unwilling to be impartial or hear out the alienated parent when there are parental disagreements or conflict.

On July 1, 2016, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed HB 1550 into law. Also known as the “Equal Custody Law,” the bill aims to encourage judges to award equal child custody time in family court cases. 

What is HB 1550?
Under the bill, which went into effect in August 2016, the court is mandated to consider all of the relevant elements of a child custody situation to make a custody decision that has the child’s best interest at heart. It likewise forbids a court from presuming that one parent, based entirely on his or her gender, is better suited than the other parent to hold primary custody of the child. Rather, factors like the parents’ work schedules, places of residence, and school location hold greater weight in establishing a parenting strategy that best fulfills the individual needs of the child or children.

It’s important to note that although the law aims to encourage equal custody, it does not mandate it. Instead of explicitly mentioning that custody needs to be split 50/50, the bill’s phrasing is to “maximize” a child’s time with each parent to the “greatest degree possible”, in addition to putting more strict custody enforcement procedures into place. 

The bill also prohibits court-mandated “standard visitation” parenting plans. Often treated as the default in many states’ family court systems, this is a type of visitation schedule in which one parent has primary physical custody of the child and the other parent has occasional visits, such as overnight visits every other weekend. Under HB 1550, visitation schedules are determined solely by the unique circumstances of each child custody situation.

Additionally, since HB 1550 does not explicitly mandate equal custody, the family court can make decisions that award sole or primary custody to one parent in cases where the other parent may not be fit for equal custody for reasons including instances of neglect, abuse, mental illness, incarceration, or significant relocation.

If Parental Alienation or Parental Alienation Syndrome was listed as a form of abuse it would be a reason to adjust a parenting plan, custody arrangement, and hold the alienator accountable for contempt, or even a possible reason.

In an analysis of over 50 studies of joint custody, researchers have determined that children who spend at least 35 percent of their time with each parent have better relationships with both of their parents and see better results academically, socially, and psychologically.

Without considering Parental Alienation or Parental Alienation Syndrome a form of abuse in Missouri, are lawmakers' best interests really in the children?

The alienated parent isn't wanting to take the custody of the children away from the alienator (because they KNOW how it feels), they just want their fair, court-ordered, shared time with the children- because THAT is what's in the best interest of the children.

177 have signed. Let’s get to 200!