A gentleman called into my radio show a few months ago to tell me his story of woe; he hadn't seen his children in a year, even though a judge had granted him the ol' every other weekend and one week a month (or something to that effect) schedule from the Ugly Divorce Handbook. At one point he uttered the words "parental alienation," and went on to say that this would now be his fight; he would get the courts to acknowledge the existence of it. He had corralled experts to fight this fight with him, if the judge would allow their testimony (they did). This is the definition:
Parental alienation is a social dynamic, generally occurring due to divorce or separation, when a child expresses unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike of one parent, making access by the rejected parent difficult or impossible. These feelings may be influenced by negative comments by the other parent and by the characteristics, such as lack of empathy and warmth, of the rejected parent. The term does not apply in cases of actual child abuse, when the child rejects the abusing parent to protect themselves. Parental alienation is controversial in legal and mental health professions, both generally and in specific situations. Terms related to parental alienation include child alienation, pathological alignments, visitation refusal, pathological alienation, the toxic parent and parental alienation syndrome.
After my caller shared his heart-breaking story with me, the phone lines in the studio were lit up. I received emails for weeks afterwards. Every call and/or email began the same way: "Wow, I didn't know there was a term, a name, for what I've been going through." Fact is, this is far too commonplace, and happening way beyond the borders of Connecticut. It's nationwide, if not worldwide.
The caller/listener who had started all this, at one point during our first chat, sounded down but far from out. I had the nerve somewhere in there to say to him that, while my heart went out to him, there was no way there could ever come a time when my children could be swayed from seeing me, not rush into my waiting arms for our day together, buy some bill of goods their mom or someone else may be peddling about me. "I thought that, too," he replied.
There are now two bills that have been approved a public hearing in the coming weeks: