Co-Parenting and Parental Alienation

parental alienation

Show Topic

This show aired on June 16, 2017. It was hosted by attorney David Enevoldsen and co-hosted by Shelley Rosas, an associate with the Family Law Guys. Dr. John Moran and Judith Lewis-Thome of Family Turning Point appeared as guests on the show. The group discussed parents in high conflict, parental alienation, how to eliminate conflict between parents, the use of the terms like “parental alienation,” or other words that are potentially inflammatory in the midst of conflict, and the role that third parties such as the court or lawyers play in inflaming conflict.

Guest Information

Dr. Moran and Judith work for Family Turning Point and can be reached at 602-795-4449 or www.familyturningpoint.com.

Headlines

Headlines on this show looked at the legalization of same sex marriage in Malta, the dating of Rihanna and Hassan Jameel and their negotiation of a prenuptial agreement, the murder of Agustin Velasco in Fresno over a child dispute, and the murder of Meredith Rahme and the suicide of Jessica Edens after she killed her children.

Transcript of Show:

Speaker 6: The discussions and information provided in Family Law Report are intended to be general in nature and are not directed for any individual circumstances. No attorney client relationship is being formed through this program. If you need legal advice, your particular circumstances from what is presented here, and you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your state.

Speaker 7: Welcome to the Family Law Report, the show that explores issues related to marriage, divorce, and children, hosted by David Enevoldsen, a practicing family law attorney in Arizona. Now here’s your host.

David: Hello, everybody, and welcome to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, here with you every Sunday at noon on independent talk, 1100, KFNX. Here on Family Law Report, we talk about all the current topics of family law. That can range from what’s going on in the political arena to just basics like how to work through the nuts and bolts of a divorce or any family court manner. I’m a practicing attorney, I work in the area of not surprisingly, family law. When I say family law, I mean basically anything related to marriage, divorce, fights over custody of children, prenuptial agreements, child support, anything like that. I’m a partner at a law firm here in Arizona called Family Law Guys, and we focus principally on helping divorcing parents avoid getting screwed out of time with their children. We have offices in the Phoenix area, and while we don’t practice outside of Arizona, if you want to call us up and schedule an appointment to talk about your case, you can do so by calling 4805658680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. Today I have with me my cohost, Shelly Rosas, who is also an associate with my firm. Shelly, thanks for being on.

Shelley: Good afternoon.

David: I’m also excited to have a couple guests with me. I’ve got Doctor John Moran.

Dr. Moran: Good afternoon.

David: And Judith Lewis-Thomae.

Judith: Good afternoon.

David: Thank you both. They’re both from Family Turning Point. I’ll give you another couple chances to do this, but if somebody wants to reach out to Family Turning Point, either find out more information or use you guys for something, how would they get hold of you?

Dr. Moran: Probably the best way is to call the office, 6027954449.

David: And on today’s show, we’re going to be talking about a couple of different things, primarily focusing on parental alienation, coparenting, and how to deal with different high conflict parenting situations. Before we get into that, we’re going to hit our basic headlines. Usually on the headlines, we talk about what’s going on in the family law universe in the press. 1st off, if you’ve been listening the past couple weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about the homosexual marriage stuff, because that has hit the press all over the place again. We’ve seen, there’s a US Supreme Court decision that came out, there’s an Arizona Supreme Court issue that’s going, Texas just issued a decision. Last week we talked about Germany legalizing gay marriage, and if you were listening, I mentioned it looked like Malta was going to do the same. Well, Malta did indeed do that. On Wednesday, the gay marriage legislation went through parliament, and in a sweeping vote, they had a 66 to 1 vote for legalizing gay marriage. So we have yet another European country that is recognizing the validity of a homosexual marriage. In other news, I’ll shift away from the homosexual marriage front. We’ve been talking about that a lot the past couple shows. Going back to the celebrity marriage and divorce front, which we haven’t done much lately, as I’ve explained in other shows, one of the reasons I like looking at this is you can see in these people that we often put up on pedestals some of the very same family dynamics we see in the family law universe. You can watch the divorces, the custody fights, people going into the marriages, and they’re all identical to me. It’s the same stuff I see on a day to day basis. So Rihanna, if you don’t know who she is, she’s a singer, song writer, actress, she’s worth about 230 million dollars from what I read. She’s been dating this guy named Hasan Jamil for about the past 6 months, and he also has a pretty high net worth. Apparently he is the heir to Saudi Arabia’s largest Toyota distributor. He’s worth about 1 point 5 billion dollars. They’re reportedly already talking about marriage. As part of that discussion, they have been talking about a prenuptial agreement. Which if you’ve heard past shows, I’m an advocate for prenups, whether you have a 1 point 5 billion dollar estate or 230 million dollar estate, or you have a much smaller estate, I think there’s a lot of benefit to the prenups. From what I’m hearing, both parties are saying they’re in the process of negotiating the prenup out, but they’re trying to figure out how to put that together. They’re both saying they want to walk out of the marriage with what they came in with. There’s a number of reasons I’m an advocate for the prenups aside from the planning out, making the process of going through divorce easier, which is of course one. One of the common objections I always hear to prenups is you’re mapping out the divorce before the marriage has even started. That seems to be one of the common concerns. One of the things I’ve pointed out in past shows, I’ll repeat it now, is when you have a prenup, I think one of the things you’re doing is creating protections within the marriage. So for example, if you have a situation where I’ve got a business, I get married and my spouse for whatever reason, I end up with creditors suing me by way of my business in the middle of a marriage. If I’ve separated out all the community property so I have my own separate property and my spouse has her separate property, the creditors can’t attack her stuff, I’m now insulating her from that. That’s another, and we had a whole show we talked about prenups. I won’t talk about that too much. I’m an advocate for prenups. I don’t think you have to have these multi billion dollars or million dollar estates to get there. I think you can have it with much less. Another major thing I like about the prenups, which again I’ve said before, is that it forces people to talk about finances, which in my experience is a huge stressor in a lot of marriages. There’s a couple significant causals we see when we’re looking at the divorce front, they’re common themes that pop up. One of them is financial stressors. People haven’t communicated well, they’re not on the same page for whatever reason about finances, and that can spin out of control into other things. When you’re going through the process of putting together a prenup, it forces you to sit down and talk about finances. So I like the idea of in essence having people discuss, how are we going to spend things? How are we going to put money together, before you even get married, and jumped into this pretty significant commitment together.

Shelley: And it allows people to express their expectations as well, which might not be known to the other party.

David: We’ve seen that many time son some of the prenups I’ve worked on, you’re sitting down and people have these 2 ideas in their heads. They don’t really talk about it in detail, and they say we’re on the same page. I don’t want to get a prenup because it’s dooming the marriage before it’s begun. But when they sit down and start talking about it, something comes out in the negotiation process that one had no idea about, and it alters the dynamic of what’s going. Stuff that very often we can straighten out, but had you not talked about it, you planted the seed of something somebody wasn’t saying.

Shelley: The prenup can create emotional safety going into the marriage, so that all of those factors don’t become unsafe issues as the couples.

David: And forces them to talk about it. I think that’s the most important piece is it forces people to communicate, which as I’m sure we’ll talk about is a pretty key issue too, what happens after the fact in conflict situations.

Shelley: David, you said the things that we see in our office, I think the biggest, money, sex, and power. I think prenup definitely addresses power and control over certain assets and money. If you can address those issues, come to some agreements and express expectations, that’s a healthy thing.

David: Certainly. So Rihanna is getting a prenup as she gets married in a 6 month dating relationship, which personally I think is a little premature to be getting after 6 months, but I guess that’s on them as to whether or not they’re going to do it. As long as they’re being cautious about it in terms of going through the steps to counsel each other, sit down and write the prenup, and all that. In other press, we’ll shift onto the next story here, there’s a couple stories about child custody violence. I’ve been hitting a few of these recently, and I think that this highlights a couple important things. We’ll tell you the stories 1st. 1st off, this week in Fresno, police picked up Gene Randene, and that was related to the murder of Augustine Valasco. Apparently what happened was Valasco’s ex wife showed up at Valasco’s apartment with her boyfriend who was James Dean. The ex wife was refusing to hand over Valasco’s grandchild, his granddaughter, to his daughter. There was a big argument that ensured from that, and that turned into violence. James Dean pulls out a gun, ends up shooting Valasco, Valasco dies. And James Dean was later apprehended by police, and is now facing murder charges. There was a number of interviews, I watched some new videos where they were interviewing all the people and everyone was saying, I don’t understand how this happened, he was such a nice guy, how could he do this? It clearly spun out of control. Separate story, in South Carolina this week, there was an issue between Jessica Edens and Meredith Ramen. What happened was Jessica had been separated from her husband, Ben Edens, with whom she had a child. She had another child from a different relationship. And Meredith was dating Jessica’s husband. This is what I find so interesting, police have been called out quite a few times related to custody disputes between Jessica and Ben and didn’t find anything, and had done so right before this whole incident. Apparently, Jessica runs out and shot Meredith, killed her, and then drove up the road, was found 7 miles up the road in her own car where she had killed both herself and 2 children. One of the reasons I highlight these is it is a reminder to me that sometimes we say, people are just acting crazy or they’re dismissive or they let this stuff go completely out of control. People get so crazy emotional over these family court matters, when you have children or you’re going through an affair, anything like that, people get so wound up that we so often see these stories where people are escalating to the point where I’m going to shoot the other person, I’m going to kill myself and my children. I feel like that’s an alert to a couple things. One is calm the heck down, find a way to detach yourself from the conflict. Also, take some measures to be safe. Don’t inject yourself into a situation where you’re intentionally egging someone on and just ignoring the potential for things. That’s it for headlines. We’re going to take a quick break. I’m attorney David Enevoldsen with Family Law, guys. When we return, we’re going to be talking with our guests about parental alienation and coparenting. If you want to call in and ask any questions, you can do so by calling 602277KFNX. You are tuned into Family Law Report on independent talk, KFNX.

David: Welcome back to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on independent talk, 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out and schedule an appointment with my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling 4805658680, or you can check us out at our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and want to call in and ask any questions or share thoughts, you can do so by calling 602277KFNX. Today we are going to be talking about parental alienation and coparenting, and all the issues attendant to high conflict parenting situations. I have with me today Shelly Rosas who is an associate with my firm, and I’ve also got guests Doctor John Moran and Judith Lewis-Thomae, both of whom work for Family Turning Point. Once again, if somebody wants to reach out to you guys, how do you do so?

Dr. Moran: The number is 6027954449.

David: Awesome. Let’s get into this a little bit. 1st I want to talk as a base line, tell me who are you, what do you do, where do you come from? Give me a little bit about your background.

Dr. Moran: I’m a psychologist. At this point in time, I only work with family court cases, so that’s going to involve either doing evaluations related to custody and parenting time issues, or after the divorce working with parent child relationship problem are my specialties.

David: What got you into this area?

Dr. Moran: I think growing up in a great family, I don’t know why I’ve always been so fascinated by families, but I’ve been working in family psychology for about 30 years, and this is a new, emerging, very important area that is populating the courts out of proportion to the number of families that have this kind of problem in a population.

David: Did you know from early on that you were going to go into the family, coparenting types of issues related to psychology? Or did you drift into psychology and find this particular area fascinating after the fact?

Dr. Moran: Actually, I was an English literature major in college, and I was struggling afterwards. I was teaching high school and stuff, and I thought, I need more income than this. I realized the overlap between English literature and psychology, the fact that I could actually have a living wage, that’s where I made that transition way back when. I’ve been working with families for a long time.

David: You said 30 years, right?

Shelley: And you’re a forensic psychologist, can you explain briefly what that means? I found that to be a slightly different angle I guess than psychology, and how that helps with high conflict parenting with children.

Dr. Moran: Forensic basically means I’m doing court involved work. So in addition to being able to do all the things a psychologist does, I know enough about the court system, I have enough training and experience with expert witness issues in the court system, that I’d be able to participate in the court system in a way that’s productive.

David: Now Judith, you work with Doctor Moran, is that correct?

Judith: That’s correct.

David: Tell me a little about your background. How did you get into this?

Judith: I left the country in 1970 and was in Germany for about 25 years, where I went to school and got my degree in psychology. It was there that I practiced, I was a clinical psychologist, and I also did court work for the German criminal, juvenile, and family courts there. Our family relocated to the States, to Arizona actually, in 1994. It was my husband’s job. He’s a German citizen. I was a stay at home mom for a while, I went back to school to get licensed here at ASU. Then in 1998, Superior Court was looking for mediators, and I had a very strong family therapy background. I had some mediation training, so I was hired and I did that for a while, then I was a custody evaluator, then a supervisor of conciliation services for many years. When the department was reorganized 9 years ago, most of the work was privatized, so my job, I didn’t have anybody else to supervise, so there went my job. But I got the contract doing parenting conferences, which I think is a very good service of family court because it’s cost effective.

David: For people listening, could you explain what parenting?

Judith: I can, it’s a 2 part service. One part is like a mini custody evaluation. You go over the statutory factors, gather that information, but you also try to settle the case. So any agreements that are reached there, you have them sign on the spot then you follow with the court. It’s 3 hours, and you can get an awful lot accomplished during that time. After that transition happened, Doctor Moran reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to work with him. We’d known each other from conferences in the past, he’s seen my work, I’ve seen his. So I agreed, and we would sit for hours on end every Monday night trying to figure out, we both had a desire to do something for the community regarding coparenting. We noticed we share that passion, and we recognized that need, and that’s where our work overlapped and where we started to work together on those issues.

David: What is your role now? What is it specifically?

Judith: My role now is I do some private mediations, [UNKNOWN] for affordable mediation. I am a court interventionist, where the court will send parties to me to help them coparent better. Some private parenting conferences, they’ve since been taken in house again, so that contract ended. But mostly through Family Turning Point where we get coparenting situations, where it can vary in degree to slightly above normal in the conflict level to very high conflict. But we also designed coparenting classes that we just finished, they’re 12 hours, 6 weeks. It was a pilot project. Knowing what we know about high conflict, we looked to see what skills people are missing. We thought we knew, what the research shows, so we incorporated that into our class material. I think they went pretty well.

David: Can I bring up the work you did on planning for parenting time?

Judith: Absolutely.

David: Tell us about that, I find that very exciting, it’s something I’ve referenced many times in the past.

Judith: That was a state wide effort. We had judges throughout the state attend, experience mental health professionals and family law attorneys. It was an 18 month long project. We didn’t meet the whole time for that, we had a regular job, but we met, and we developed age appropriate parenting time schedules. But also other court related information, child developmental needs, things like that, and when we were doing it, because it was a product of the supreme court without a public document, it had to be brought down to a 5th grade level so anyone practically could read it. It was a very good work group, and for the most part, we got along very well. There was one area where there was some disagreement, and it was the question of overnights for young children. But we had a major researcher with us who convinced us that in some situations, frequent overnights even with young children are appropriate.

David: That’s super interesting. Just to be clear, the planning for parenting time is basically a PDF hand out that is issued by the Arizona Supreme Court. And it outlines a whole lot of stuff about how to construct a parenting plan. It’s got all sorts of different options and considerations to take. It’s something I very early on referenced quite a bit, when I jumped into family law. That’s when I realized you worked on that, I was pretty excited about that. I’m curious, you mentioned you had a debate about the overnights with the young children. Can you tell me?

Judith: Within the group.

David: That’s basically the subject of next week’s show.

Judith: It’s been, Doctor Moran feel free to chime in, it’s been a controversial issue for a long time. It is now to the point where you look at different factors, you look for fitness, and what we want is a secure triadic relationship where a child has a secure attachment with both parents, provided both parents are fit and stable, they can communicate fairly well. But then you also look at practical issues, and the temperament of the child too plays a role. Some kids can handle it better than others. So we try to, at least when I do parenting plans, I try to take a gradual approach, and slowly increase the amount of time, if there is a primary parent, have the child away from the primary parent with the other parent, so that the child can spend meaningful time with both parents, and benefit from what each parent can uniquely give the child.

David: I’d like to talk more about this, but I have a little background from each of you. Putting these 2 together, you guys are working together, tell me a bit, I guess I can pitch this at either or both of you, tell me a little bit about your organization. What does it do? What is it? Tell me a bit about that.

Dr. Moran: The problem that’s emerged in the last 30 years or so is most commonly referred to as parental alienation, where a child is refusing to have contact or parenting time with one of the parents. Parental alienation applies when the child’s refusal isn’t based on understandable facts, like that a child was exposed to domestic violence at home, a parent’s been irresponsible and hasn’t been consistently available to the child. But rather, the child’s refusal to have parenting time with one of the parents seems to be the expression of a loyalty bond. That the parents are fighting, and that the child feels emotionally uncomfortable being in the middle of that dispute, sometimes they align or prefer to be with one parent as a product of that. So then the conflict between the parents tends to intensify, because obviously if a parent is unable to have regular parenting time with the child, that’s a cause for concern. So that’s the problem area we focus on in our programs.

David: So what specifically do you do? Actually, hold that thought. We’re going to take a quick break. I’m attorney David Enevoldsen with Family Law Guys. When we return, we’re going to talk more about all this parental alienation and coparenting issues. If you want to call in and ask any questions, you can do so by calling 602277KFNX. You are turned into Family Law Report on independent talk, 1100 KFNX.

Speaker 13: Family law report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies like gay marriage to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married, or going through divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 4805658680. That’s 4805658680.

David: Welcome back to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm, here with you every Sunday at noon on independent talk, 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out and schedule an appointment with my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling 4805658680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and want to call in and ask any questions or share thoughts, you can do so by calling 602277KFNX. Today we’ve been talking about parental alienation, coparenting, high conflict issues, attendant to coparenting situations. I’ve got with my Shelly Rosas, my cohost, and also guests Doctor John Moran and Judith Lewis-Thomae, both of whom work for Family Turning Point. Just one more time, if someone wants to reach out to you, how do they do so?

Dr. Moran: 6027954449.

David: Right before we went to break, I threw at you the question, give me a better understanding of what specifically, in a mechanical, procedural way, what does Family Turning Point do? So somebody comes to you, what kind of process do you go through with them?

Dr. Moran: If you put it on a continuum of cases where the kids are having problems with one of the parents and it’s mild, those aren’t the cases we get involved in. We tend to get in the more severe problems.

David: So it has to be pretty extreme.

Dr. Moran: Right. And typically what happens is the kids are refusing to go to one of the parent’s homes. That issue has been investigated, does the kid have a justified reason for that, or is it more a product of the dynamics between the parents?

David: Like one parent is poison the other one.

Dr. Moran: It’s the failure of the parents to cooperate and coordinate care of the children, so the children end up taking sides for one parent and resisting the other parent. That’s the specialty area we operate in. Our services, I do evaluations personally, but the services that Judy and I offer together are designed as intervention, so they’re to correct the problem once that kind of alliance is developed or an estrangement is developed between one of the parents and the children. So our interventions tend to be with severe cases, the interventions tend to be more than just weekly or biweekly psychotherapy. We do what’s called intensive interventions, so sometimes we bring a family in for 2 days, all day, back to back. Obviously that’s a severe solution if you will for a severe problem. But that’s the kind of thing we specialize in.

David: I imagine it’s a little difficult because every case is going to be different, I assume. Is there a general process you would do to get through that, to reintegrate one parent, figure out what’s going on and give an evaluation? Or is it a million ways to go through it?

Dr. Moran: No, I don’t think there are a million different ways to go through it. In fact, I think there’s a very narrow tunnel that family has to go down. For example, one of the principal things that they need to do is avoid talking about the past. Because if they talk about who’s caused the problem, what that behavior was in the past, it’s going to explode into a fireball in about 6 or 8 exchanges between the parents.

David: Which I see all the time.

Dr. Moran: So we’re getting involved at a point where courts have either heard the case and decided that in fact the kid’s resistance to one of the parents is not based in fact, the parent was not abusive. The typical case we get, the argument is, this is involving gender stereotypes a little bit, statistically most frequently, what we find is the dad says the mom has alienated the affections of the kids, and the mom says the dad is abusive, so the kids have a basis for resisting. That has to all be sorted out in court before they get to us.

David: There again, anecdotally speaking, I’ve seen a lot of that.

Dr. Moran: Right. If they’ve gone through the court process and they’ve gotten to us, that means the court heard it, determined what the facts are, and said something needs to be done to reunify dad into the relationship with the kids.

David: Are people always coming to you by way of court order? Does anyone come to you voluntarily?

Dr. Moran: It’s got to be more than 75 percent of the cases are by court order. What happens, if you’re working with a case that it’s not by court order, one of the parents, the one who the kid is aligned with, says I’m out of here, I’m going to drop out of treatment, and the other parent has got no recourse. Then you’ back to square one, you have to go back to court. So it needs to be, somebody is holding their feet to the fire until they can sort of a better way to approach the problem.

David: Maybe Judith, I can pitch this back at you. We talked globally about parental alienation for a bit. Can you explain a little bit more from your perspective what that means? We talked before the show a little bit that the term is phasing out, or you’ve had some problems with that. Can you explain?

Judith: I can. We’d like to see the term phase out because there’s an association that goes back to the 80s or 90s that one parent is causing this, that one parent is to blame, they bad mouthed the parent to the child. What we’ve discovered over the years is the problem is much more complex than that. There’s many different factors that contribute to the problem. That might indeed be one of the factors, but in my experience, it’s not the sole factor. You have many other things you have to look at, and we like to take the approach that everyone has played a role, somehow, some way, in this dysfunctional dynamic. So we don’t look for who’s to blame. We like to have them take accountability for what they’ve done, but by seeing the case as very complex, it takes them away from that blaming dynamic, and we want to move them into becoming accountable for their own actions.

David: And there again, in my own personal experience with family law, that seems to be the 1st thing everyone wants to do is come in and say, I want you to go into court and beat the heck out of the other parent, and make the court tell the other parent they’ve done this horrible set of things, which is usually not what ends up happening. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it blows up and you’re the side they’re getting blamed at.

Judith: As Doctor Moran explained in his book, what we see in these families too is you often have parents who, when they get divorced or they separate, they don’t have sufficient coparenting skills. maybe even their parenting is compromised to some degree. Then when they don’t communicate with each other, the lack of communication breeds mistrust. So conflict starts to arise, kids start gossiping about what’s happening in the other parent’s home, the parents don’t check in with the other parent to see if that’s true or not, and they run to court. Then you have this level of conflict where the kid will start to resist a parent because it might be their perception that parent’s to blame, it might be their innocent understanding of what happened, they might have distorted, their perception of the situation could be distorted.

David: Could it be they’re trying to tell one of the parents what they want to hear?

Judith: There are so many different reasons as to why kids say one thing to one parent and something else to the other parent. But then the parents are faced with, they don’t know how to handle the kid when the child gets to this point, and they don’t know how to coparent over it. So they’re lacking those skills as well. So a lot of times these parents need a lot, but they need these practical skills to address these problems with the child and with the coparent. In Doctor Moran’s book, Overcoming the Coparenting Trap, he has a lot of practical tips for the parent who’s in, the preferred parent, and for the parent who’s out, the rejected parent.

David: Maybe that’s a good plug for you. You’ve got a book out, correct?

Dr. Moran: Correct.

David: What is the book called?

Dr. Moran: Overcoming the Coparenting Trap, it’s essential parenting skills when a child resists a parent.

David: And if somebody wants to get the book, how do they do so?

Dr. Moran: Amazon.

David: So it’s on Amazon.

Judith: It’s on my read now list.

David: I guess I’ll have to throw it on there too. When did you write that?

Dr. Moran: 2 years ago it was published.

David: Do you ever encourage clients to read this?

Dr. Moran: Absolutely, it’s very practical. We’re trying to help parents develop skills. It’s very little theory. It’s like, what do you do when kinds of things.

Judith: Can I ask a question? I’ve heard people recommend a book called Coparenting with a Jerk. I would like to know what your honest opinion is about that book.

Dr. Moran: I think the title is inflammatory. I don’t think that’s going to help very much. These parents are trying to get beyond a lot of hurt feelings and hostility. So if you think you’re going to educate yourself about how to do better starting with that premise, I think that you’re in shaky territory.

Judith: Thank you.

David: That seems to reinforce what Judith was saying just a minute ago about the idea of the term parental alienation seems kind of inflammatory, because I think these labels, again this is something we talked about a little bit before the show, but people seem to have these internal narratives they go through, they reinforce those narratives, and that reinforcement can perpetuate the conflict sometimes.

Judith: When you’re reinforcing the negative narratives.

David: Right. So if you start framing things in negatives, like Coparenting with a Jerk, or this person is engaging in alienation, it seems so much more extreme that you inflame the conflict.

Judith: As a teacher, I’m a former teacher, you’re a former teacher, I always learned, label good behaviors, the behaviors and the processes that you want your children or your students to transfer. So with my own kids or with my clients, I try to label the positive things that I see going on, and point them out so they’ll transfer them and use them to another situation with their child or their coparent or whatever.

Dr. Moran: I think all healthy parents would agree with the idea that they would throw themselves in front of a moving train for their kids. Parenting is such a fundamental instinct that we have, it’s so important to us. What they’re doing is they’re fighting for their kids, they believe the other parent is deficient in some way, or they believe that the other parent is interfering with their relationship. They can’t get the time they want or they feel they deserve, so they’re going to fight. So the fight goes and builds and builds, maybe they end up in a court room. And after it’s reached that kind of climax, somehow the family has to be put back together. That’s where we come in. We’re like, okay, time to get beyond all that conflict, time to put this back together into a functional family as best we can.

David: I want to expand on that, but we’ve got to take a quick break. We’re going to jump to break, I’m attorney David Enevoldsen with Family Law Guys. When we return, we’re going to be talking more about all these parental alienation, coparenting, high conflict situations. If you want to call in and ask any questions, you can do so by calling 602277KFNX. You are tuned into Family Law Report on independent talk, 1100 KFNX.

Speaker 13: Family law report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies like gay marriage to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married, or going through divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 4805658680. That’s 4805658680.

David: Welcome back to Family Law Report. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law guys, an Arizona law firm here with you every Sunday at noon on independent talk, 1100 KFNX. If you want to reach out and schedule an appointment with my firm, Family Law Guys, you can do so by calling 4805658680, or you can check us out on our website at www.familylawguys.com. If you are listening and want to call in and ask me questions, share thoughts, tell me how amazing I am, anything like that, you can do so by calling 602277KFNX. Today, we’ve been talking to Doctor John Moran and Judith Lewis-Thomae about high conflict situations, coprarenting, and these types of context, when you’ve got very high conflict situations. Now, you guys work for Family Turning Point. One more time, if somebody wants to reach out to you, how do they do so?

Dr. Moran: The number is 6027954449.

David: Right before we went to break, we were talking a little bit about how from your perspective, parents are usually doing, they want to protect their children, and they have this intuitive drive to basically protect kids. A lot of times, it seems that they’re trying to protect the children from the other parent, who they’re viewing as evil. Is that a fair characterization?

Dr. Moran: That’s a fair characterization.

David: On the break, we were talking a little bit about the contrast between this and some of the headlines we talked about today, where you have in one situation, a parent who in this high conflict scenario, something where an affair blew everything out of control, she ends up killing herself and her children. In my experience, that’s a little aberrant, but how do you view that within the scope of what we’re talking about in terms of parents wanting to do the right thing for their children?

Dr. Moran: Somebody who take it to that extent, I don’t know, but I think what happens is when people who divorce that obviously through their communication with their partner is painful, so they tend to avoid it. The problem that develops is you have 2 people who are parenting but they’re really not communicating effectively. Therefore anything the kids say is accepted rather than as gossip, as fact. So the kids are then in a position where they can whine and complain and get rises out of the parents. It’s builds and builds. The conflict emerges, and eventually, if the parents aren’t able to back out and somehow cease fire and get to the table and start exchanging information in a reasonable way, they end up back in court, and we come out with them.

David: I think that, we’ve had some discussion here about the narrative that’s going on. I know before the show we were talking a little about the drama triangle, my personal obsession with that. I think I agree, this narrative seems to frame what’s going on, and reinforces the conflict in a lot of ways. Do you feel, pitch it back to Judith for a second here, do you feel that the other actors other than just the parties play a role in reinforcing the conflict of this narrative? People like the attorneys or the court system or anything like that?

Judith: Absolutely. I always say there’s 2 camps of attorneys, those who like to litigate because that’s what they’re trained to do, and those who take a more collaborative approach. They’re more focused on settlement than on litigation. Obviously as a mental health expert, my preference is for parents to resolve their dispute, and I know from working in court for as many years as I have, that’s what the judges want as well. They don’t want to tell parents what to do with their kids. Each family is unique, so a parenting plan for one family might not be a good fit for another family. So what was the question again?

David: My question was, do you feel that the other actors outside the parties play a role in reinforcing this conflict?

Judith: The court tries to settle, and there’s processes in court that are designed to settle. All along the way, the parents are given an opportunity to settle and not have to go to trial. Some attorneys over identify with their clients, I think their conflict strikes a personal note with them, and they become over identified, enmeshed in the case. I think they lose their ethical stand sometimes on how to manage a case well. But there’s also some mental health experts who aren’t what we call forensically informed, who don’t understand the dynamics that can occur in a family when they’re involved in court. And they sometimes can make the matter worse. Let’s say we have a case of so called alienation, where they only see the child and the alienated parent. They don’t bring, let’s say the preferred parent, let’s say it’s the mom, into the picture. That parent has authority to make change happen because they have a good relationship with the child. But they’re not brought into the therapy session. So that can hinder a positive progression in the case. We also have girlfriends, grandmothers, grandfathers, boyfriends get involved in appropriately. The 3rd party, I’ve noticed, and this is in no way based on research, but the female intervention seems to be based on my experience, a little different than the male 3rd party intervention in boundary violations. They both do it, they just do it in different ways, my perception.

David: It’s interesting you say that. Going back to this narrative idea, I’ve expressly seen situations in my experience where there’s a divorce going on, and I can think of one case in particular that comes into my head, divorce was going very smoothly. There’s no kids in this particular one, but I think the emotional dynamics were very similar. Everything is going fine, parties are getting along, and then parents of one of the parties come in and say, I don’t understand why you can be getting a divorce and not having a conflict. They kept preaching that message, and all of a sudden conflict arose. It seemed like there was no reason for it other than someone was coming in, altering the narrative and saying, this doesn’t make sense. If you’re getting divorced, there should be a fight, it shouldn’t be smooth, and all of a sudden it wasn’t.

Judith: We’ve seen that many times.

David: Coming back to a practical matter, maybe I can push this back to Doctor Moran so we can keep it moving back and forth, what kind of techniques would you do, somebody comes to you, they’ve been court ordered to show up at your door step, and they’re not communicating at all? You’ve got all these external influences, what kinds of techniques would you use to get people to realize this, and to start actually coparenting of communicating effectively?

Dr. Moran: We’re very careful to set up the intervention in a way that’s going to protect everybody, whether that’s legally or emotionally. Then we’re geared toward bringing the parents together and working on very practical issues they have about coparenting. So it may be problems with the kid’s homework performance in school, or maybe the kid gossiping and saying, dad’s doing this when he’s not. Or it may be behavioral problems in the kids, maybe drug and alcohol use, that’s a challenge the parents face. So we 1st off want to get the parents problem solving those practical matters in a very effective way. We recognize that the degree of distrust and frankly resentment that can go on in these families is extremely deep. It’s profoundly difficult. So we don’t ask them to talk about that. In fact, we avoid that. It’s like, you just need to coparent. Let’s restrict the conversation to what needs to happen to get the coparenting as optimal as we can make it. Let’s avoid conversations about the past, certainly let’s not be sarcastic or make otherwise insulting comments toward ones another.

David: I guess that goes back to, use word choice very carefully, not reinforce that this other person is evil.

Dr. Moran: So we were working on very practical problems with them, and getting them to a set of agreements about these practical problems. And as they develop some confidence in us as a team, we can regulate the conversation, keep it on focus, and actually produce some agreements that both of them endorse and want to put in place, and we do put it in place, there’s follow through and accountability. Then we can maybe start to talk about some of the broader, emotionally difficult topics. But you need to really reign in and ride herd over the conversation. Because the conversations are so emotionally provocative for the parents. It’s about the children, it’s about the divorce, it’s about all the difficulties they’ve been through, that they need somebody to make sure it doesn’t explode into a ball of flame.

David: That goes back to, we were talking about this on the break as well, the idea that everybody seemed to come in to me and say, I assume you guys see the same thing, that what I want is what’s in the best interest of my children. That’s the marching orders they come out with, I hear that story and that narrative over and over again, and really what they want is whatever they want, and whatever they want is in the best interest of the child. A lot of times, it’s this other person is an evil monster, you’ve got to keep the babies away. They can’t even see the causals. Here’s really common one, I see this all the time, when you have parenting exchanges and a parent comes to me and says, every time I get my kid I have to calm the kid down because they’re going crazy, and it’s clearly because that other parent is unstructured, or is a monster, or is doing something horrible, and they want to bring this up in court to play on with this blame game, and I’ve got to corral them back and say, you need a causal nexus here, to be able to say it’s not just happening, it’s happening, if we’re going to go down this blame road. Speaking to what you guys are saying, the blame road doesn’t help, it reinforces this negative thing. I’m super fascinated by all this, I wish we had a little more time. That is about all the time we have for today’s show. You’ve been listening to Family Law Report, and I’m your host, David Enevoldsen, attorney with Family Law Guys, an Arizona law firm. We’ve been talking about coparenting, parental alienation, and I’ve had with me Doctor John Moran, Judith Louis Thome with Family Turning Point. One more time, what’s your phone number?

Dr. Moran: 6027954449.

David: Awesome. Join us again next week on Sunday at noon for more of the latest on family law here on independent talk, 1100 KFNX, and thank you all for listening. Have a great week.

Speaker 13: Report is hosted by Family Law Guys, an Arizona family law firm. Family Law Report is dedicated to confronting difficult issues related to marriage, divorce, and children. This can range everywhere from addressing the legalities and controversies like gay marriage to current problems with the divorce system, to simply providing tips to those getting married, or going through divorce or custody fight. Tune in every Sunday to Family Law Report at noon here on KFNX. If you want to know more, or to schedule an appointment with David or another one of the Family Law Guys attorneys, call 4805658680. That’s 4805658680.

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