Robert Gougaloff ‘s Parent Alienation Blog

A blog about Parent Alienation

The Parenting Plan

As I have already alluded to in the last post, the Parenting Plan is probably one of the most important elements in a custody evaluation or custody court case in general.  The more thorough the parenting plan, the better your custody evaluation will be and the more respect the judge will have for you as a parent. Most importantly though, the children will have the benefit of having two parents act according to a well organized plan and schedule.

The problem is that most parenting plans are very poor in their design and content and leave many questions open, prompting more court visits in the future.  Please contact Jayne Major at Breakthrough Parenting Services to obtain a great book on how to design a great parenting plan !!

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September 24, 2008 Posted by | General Information, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Custody (730) Evaluation – What is it and how do I prepare for it?

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If there is a dispute about the physical (and sometimes legal) custody more often than not the judge will order a Custody Evaluation, a.k.a. 730 evaluation (as in Family Code Section 730). The reason for this is that judges don’t usually want to make decisions over custody without the input and report from a qualified psychologist who can examine the situation based on his or her expertise. During the trial, judges will usually give a lot of weight to the report of a custody evaluator, especially when the evaluator has a good and long standing relationship with the court system. Now that being said it is of vital importance to be very (no, let me actually emphasize this a little more: VERY) prepared for this evaluation appointment. This is an important point, since a private evaluation can cost in the vicinity of $10K and is your one-time shot at present yourself as a good parent. Here are a few tips on how to prepare:

Enroll in a great Parenting Class if you can. This will give you great insight in modern parenting concepts and might actually make you a better parent. What this will do for sure is tell the evaluator that you are approaching parenting with the necessary dedication.

Learn everything there is to know about child development (their stages) and maybe even a little bit of developmental psychology. Much of the information you will be getting is derived from Piaget’s original work, but there are also some newer classifications which are worth exploring.

Make your home child friendly. This is a very important step. After all, you want to offer your children a home they can call their own. This includes furnishing them a nice and functional room, and definitely childproofing for the appropriate age category. Custody evaluators will look at your home very critically and take pictures. Make sure that you present yourself as a clean and organized parent.

Prepare your moving papers for the evaluator. This step cannot be underestimated! Don’t let your attorney do this step. Make sure you put this together and let your attorney proof it. This is your chance to tell the evaluator why you think your proposal is in the best interest of the children (notice how I did NOT say “in your best interest”). You need to present everything as an advocate for your children. Be factual – in other words only present evidence that can be substantiated. Finally, do not “sling mud” – even when the other side does it. Custody evaluators generally don’t like that. They would rather see that both sides come to an agreement, but if this is not possible, be respectful towards the other parent. This shows the evaluator that you have accepted the other parent as a functional part of a “reorganized family”.

ATTACH A THOROUGH PARENTING PLAN !! This step is very important.   The parenting plan is the unequivocal “rule book” when it comes to custodial sharing of children. It needs to include everything, from visitation and holiday schedules to the toy distribution of the children. Judges and attorneys can’t think of every little parameter which may come up between the parents in the future, but you can, so it is important that this parenting plan becomes part of the judgment in the end. It is a living document, which will have to be updated at least on a yearly basis or as the circumstances demand. Hope this helps a little. Please feel free to post a comment or question if you feel like it.

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September 19, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Legal vs. Physical Custody

I spent another day in family court yesterday and as I was waiting for my case to be called it became very transparent to me that many people are confused about the definition and ramifications of legal and physical custody.  So here is the Judge’s input on this (which I think makes it very clear):

Physical Custody – is the percentage distribution of time a child spends with either of the parents.  In other words, it is a predetermined measure of how much time a child will spend with one parent in comparison to the other parent.  It is often being used as a fractional multiplier to calculate child support.

Legal Custody – is different.  There is usually not a sliding percentage scale.  There is either shared legal custody, full legal custody or no legal custody.  Legal custody is all about making major decisions for a child or children.  Major decisions include (but are not exclusive):

  • Medical and dental care that is not emergency care
  • Psychological evaluation and treatment
  • Issuance of a driver’s license
  • Issuance of a passport
  • Schooling
  • Religious education
  • Name changes
  • Change of the children’s residency
  • Body piercings (including ear piercings)
  • Tattoos

Shared legal custody means that NONE of the above mentioned areas can be decided upon without the consent of the other parent.  I have seen judges overrule such decisions when made without the consent of the other parent.

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September 16, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An example of Parent Alienation is…

I just started to add an archival category, which nt will eventually amount to a collection of examples which are considered “Parent Alienation”. I will also entertain any examples you might want to share and include those.

Remember – Parent Alienation is any type of behavior, whether verbal or non-verbal, which mentally manipulates a child into believing that a loving parent is the cause of all their and the hostile parent’s problems, and that the same parent is the enemy which needs to be feared, hated, disrespected and/or avoided.

So, an example of Parent Alienation is… THE RESTRICTION OF COMMUNICATION !!

  • If you find yourself calling your children on multiple occasions per day during pre-arranged times and the phone rarely if ever gets answered – THAT IS PARENT ALIENTATION!

  • If you are the only one trying to call your children and the other parent never calls you on the children’s behalf – THAT IS PARENT ALIENTATION!

  • If you try to call your children and the other parent is giving them verbal assistance on how to get rid of you or allowing them to simply hang up without calling you back – THAT IS PARENT ALIENTATION!

  • If the children are discouraged to reveal any information to you about their daily lives with the other parent – THAT IS PARENT ALIENTATION!

  • If the children are allowed or encouraged to lie about their daily activities with the other parent – THAT IS PARENT ALIENTATION!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift. Please feel free to add your experiences and comments to this post.

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September 8, 2008 Posted by | Examples of PA | , , , | Leave a comment

Legal Representation or In Pro Per…

Uuuhhhh…. this can be a touchy subject!!! Just a little disclaimer up front: This is not supposed to be a recommendation, advice or even an influence; it is merely my opinion, based on my very own experiences.

Family law has enjoyed a burgeoning of child custody cases of unparalleled proportions in the past 30 years. This dramatic increase has primarily been the result of two recent developments in the arena of child custody litigation: The replacement of the “Tender-Years Presumption” with the “Best-Interest-Of-The-Child Presumption” and the increasing popularity of the “joint custody” concept.

Unfortunately, the adversarial system of our judicial foundation, which determines divorce and child custody issues in our country (and most of the western world), can often work against the best interest of the involved children. It often defines “winning custody” not as the right to parent one’s children, but as the power to prevent someone else from parenting his children with the help of the government (Baskerville, Stephen (2007). Taken Into Custody – The War Against Fathers).

Additionally, more often than not, situations which started out as an amicable custody arrangement turned into a war of financial and emotional attrition as soon as bilateral legal counsel entered the scene, where the winners were the “legal counsel” and the losers were the torn-up families and emotionally challenged or even injured children.

Now that being said, I still maintain that legal counsel is a better idea than self representation if you have the financial means for it. I have personally been on both ends of the spectrum and I can submit to you that it is not easy to be “in pro per”, however, the pay off is that you are in complete control over your case and you have one distinct advantage: your motivation is that you are fighting for your childrens’ right to have equal access to both parents. Your attorney’s motivation on the other hand is usually the next paycheck.

So what is my perfect world? To have legal representation, but you control the case. In other words, you use your attorney to do all the footwork in court, but you author and proof all declarations, parenting plans, motions, OSCs etc.

P.S. There is a rather extensive collection of legal forms for your convenience to download on the “Resources” Page. These are specifically made for the California Family Court System. So, check with your local court rules in other States, whether these are applicable.

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September 7, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , | Leave a comment

Some tools for target parents…

As target parents we find ourselves often in difficult emotional states.  It can, at times, be very hard to overcome these “dark nights of the soul” without resorting to unhealthy means and methods.  There are a set of tools which I use, that helped me tremendously to remain rational and focused on the facts and circumstances at hand. 

The first is a complete makeover in attitude.  Research has shown that a positive attitude will entice the brain to produce more endorphins, which are anabolic (constructive) to cells.  A negative attitude on the other hand will entice the brain to produce more corticosteroids, which are catabolic (destructive) to cells.  I have realized that the quality of my life strongly depends on the kind of values I attach to events that happen around me.  I (and only I) have the power to decide which perspective I take on certain events.  At first I had to train myself to keep asking: “Ok, so what’s good about it?”, or “what can I learn from that?”, whenever a negative event happened.  I was usually able to find something positive and then I just started focusing on that instead.  Eventually, this became an automatic function.  Another aspect of this attitude makeover was to start focusing on where I wanted to BE and not what I was AFRAID OF.  This essentially meant that I started to focus my energy on the results I wanted to see, rather than the potential “problems” I foreshadowed.

Secondly, I started living a life of compassion and forgiveness.  Resentments and anger cost a lot of energy to maintain and produce more corticosteroids in the brain, which in turn means that they compromise overall health.  Forgiveness was the key for me to loose all of my resentments and anger(now, mind you that in my world forgiveness does not mean I simply let people “off the hook” for whatever distress they might have caused me – it simply means that I detach myself completely from the event, so that it does not bother me anymore).  Now, compassion is a skill that often needs to be learned.  As Jayne A. Major, Ph.D., founder and owner of the Breakthrough Parenting Organization, always said, “Compassion is the highest form of intelligence”.  What helped me to become more compassionate is the following rationale:  “Any kind of response you get out of a human being is either a loving response or a cry for help”.  That’s it! If it is not a loving response you get from a person, he or she is silently crying out for help.  More often than not, whenever I offered my help to someone who was negative towards me, I saw a complete reversal in attitude.  It really works! 

Thirdly, I adopted a transformational vocabulary if you will.  For instance, there are no such things as failures in my life – only “results”.  There are also no problems in my life – just “challenges” or better yet “opportunities” and so on.  This might seem like a benign point, but it does help maintaining a positive attitude.

The last and most important tool I would like to share is the accumulation of knowledge in this arena.  Unfortunately, there is very little education about PA/PAS/HAP out there.  It is of vital importance never to blame the children for their behavior.  The aggression and sometimes violent behavior they display against you as the target parent is really just a protective veil they are wearing.  This behavior is not their doing and is certainly not their fault; it is a natural response to the programming that is being done by the other parent (assuming that you are not physically abusing the children, of course). 

It sometimes helps to look upon this as a disease (well, it is in fact a syndrome), which needs compassion and understanding from your end.  Most importantly though – never ever give up believing in the purity of your children’s spirit and never to give up the effort to abolish or at least minimize the impact of the HAP tactics of the other parent, because this kind of parenting will eventually cause severe damage to the children.  It helps to remember that children are not genetically programmed to hate another parent, they are programmed to love BOTH parents.  What overwhelms me often is that the very same parent that uses every credible information source out there to substantiate the decisions made for their children’s health, completely fails to do the same when it comes to researching the harmful effects their Hostile Aggressive Parenting can have on the child’s future psychological health.  So the more we educate ourselves and others, the more we can protect our children’s future psychological health.

As always, comments are welcome!

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September 3, 2008 Posted by | General Information, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Parent Alienation, Parent Alientation Syndrome, HAP – What are they?

Hi everyone!

This is my first posting on this Blog on Parent Alienation (PA), Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP).  I decided to start this blog for two reasons: The first one is that my own children have been affected by it and the second one is that there is very little education out there – even in the legal profession.  My hope is therefore that this Blog evolves into a platform for sharing information and resources, for learning and education and for emotional support.

Before I start writing, however I feel that it is necessary to define the above referenced terms, so that you can get a better appreciation of what I am writing about.

Parent Alienation (PA) – is a general term that covers ANY situation in which one or more children can be alienated from a parent.  It can be caused by parental physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment and neglect.  A child can also be programmed by one parent to be alienated from another.  In relation to custody disputes, it can be defined as a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent.

Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) – is referred to a specific disorder in the child, which is caused by Parent Alienation activities.  A syndrome by definition is a cluster of symptoms appearing together.  These symptoms, although seemingly disparate, warrant being grouped together because of a common etiology or basic underlying cause.  In the case of Parent Alienation Syndrome, this cluster of symptoms usually includes:

·         A continued campaign of denigration against the target parent

·         Weak, frivolous or absurd rationalizations for the rejection of the target parent

·         Lack of ambivalence

·         The independent thinker phenomenon

·         Reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict

·         Absence of guilt (towards any wrong doing against the target parent)

·         Use of “borrowed scenarios” (usually an adult scenario)

·         Spread of animosity to the extended family and friends of the target parent

These symptoms (usually as a cluster) may be classified as mild, moderate or severe.

Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) – is the more modern and descriptive definition of the elements of Parent Alienation.  It is a very serious form of child abuse and is usually encountered in most high conflict child-custody disputes and is often used as a tool to align the child with one parent during litigation.  HAP is usually expressed by behaviors such as:

·         Criticizing a parent in front of the children and at every opportunity

·         Not answer the phone when the other parent calls

·         Convincing the child that they should change their surname or just changing it without the   child’s knowledge

·         Playing on the children’s feelings of guilt and sympathy

·         Using the child as a weapon against the other parent and family members

·         Ordering or manipulating the child to not answer the phone when it rings

·         Saying that the child does not want to speak to the other parent

·         Undermining the other parent by encouraging the child to defy the other parent

These are just a few examples, but very common ones.  It is always important to remember that children do not posess the genetics to hate or dislike another parent, unless they are being physically abused by that parent on a continuing basis or they are being programmed to do so by the opposing parent.

I hope I was able to stimulate you a little to participate in the discussions.  I will continue to post topics on this blog and I invite everyone to comment on any of the posts.

Robert Gougaloff

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September 1, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , , , , | 3 Comments