October 3, 2013

Parental Alienation: When To Give Up The Legal Battle in Court

Making my way through a parental alienation forum recently, I came across a very intelligent and well thought out discussion of when a targeted parent should end their legal battles in response to the alienating tactics of the “other parent.”

I have some experience with parental alienation and thought about what the author of the post said.  In a few words, her comments can be summed up this way: the “good guys” don’t always win.

It’s unnatural and deeply wounding  for an ex, or someone else, to disrupt or destroy a once loving relationship between a parent and a child. If you have been the victim of this, your first thought may have been “it’s impossible, and what I think is happening isn’t really happening.”
The recognition of reality leads to lengthy and sometimes expensive legal battles, emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion, and a cycle of recrimination and anger that can go on for years.

In the meantime, your child is caught in the middle of something they are not equipped to understand. All they know is that someone has told them something, and they have to try to figure out what to believe. They have to try to figure out who to believe. They have to figure out how to understand the confusion and conflict expressed between their parents. They have to figure out how to feel safe in the midst of all of this confusion. Children are not equipped to handle and process these types of emotional complexities. If you, as an adult, are having a hard time handling this situation, imagine how overwhelmed your child must feel.

I believe there comes a time when someone has to decide to stop engaging the fight in the courts. Someone has to concede defeat. It sounds wrong and feels horrible. But it may be the only honest and effective way forward. 

Acceptance is often the final stage in the grieving process.

“Someone did a terrible thing to me, and to my child. What will my response be?”

One writer in this forum stated she became financially bankrupt, emotionally drained and isolated, and physically disabled/unable to work from the stress related disease brought about by years of court fights. She fought for years with an outwardly charming, narcissistic sociopath whose dysfunction enabled him to go to endless lengths to keep her children from knowing who she really was.  The
key word here is “was”, because after years of legal battles, she had in fact become the very person she was once falsely accused of being: unable to support herself or anyone else, physically weak, mentally drained, and socially isolated. Now, in fact, the alienating parent could say to their children: “See, you are better off not seeing your Mom. She can’t take care of herself, and she certainly isn’t able to do much for you. It’s better for you to stay here with me.” Even if the children had been able to see their Mom with unclouded eyes, they would now see a broken and weak woman who struggled to get up each morning and make it through the day. In her own words, she was “destroyed.”

I often hear battling parties state they will “fight to the bitter end.”  That sounds really brave, courageous, determined, and loving. After all, who won’t “fight” for their children?

If a “bitter end” takes away your ability to continue your life and await the return of your children, then a bitter end is not worth visiting.

I do not doubt some alienated children go to their graves believing the lies programmed into them. Destroying your own life, health, and mental balance will not change that programming. The destruction of your own life only creates more victims of the alienator.

Current literature on the subject of parental alienation says child victims of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) often abandon the lies and programming as they mature into early adulthood, get away from the alienator, or the alienator dies or disappears from the child’s life for other reasons. When a child is able to independently consider or reconsider facts, they sometimes come to a fresh understanding of who told the truth and who did not. Then, they may seek you out.

Wouldn’t you like to be a whole, happy, productive person if your child decides to re-enter your life? Don’t you want to be able to model your own goodness for your child, regardless of the child’s age? Don’t you want to demonstrate that evil does not overcome goodness in every corner of the world?

Of course, if your child is being abused or harmed, you have to find legal support and get law enforcement involved. Real crimes usually leave some type of traceable clue. If your child has been taken to another country, you may have to pursue help through the State Department and other federal government agencies.

But if your child is happy and secure where they are, give some thought to how long you will continue to let the battle dominate your life. You will be heartbroken, filled with anguish, and no doubt some others will judge you negatively for not spending your last dime (and all you can borrow!) in court.

It is possible to recover from parental alienation. You will not be unchanged, but you can be alive, reasonably healthy, and intact. You can have a life worth living.

A horrible evil is done when a vengeful ex steals your relationship with your child.

Another horrible evil will be done if you destroy yourself fighting a fight you cannot win.

You can maintain scrapbooks, write letters, create art, music, or crafts, and do other things to honor your relationship with your child. You can create a website or blog where your child may find you and see who you truly are and that you love them, despite what has happened and what they may have been told. These things may give you comfort and help you feel connected to your child.

Only you know when to say “enough.” It may be next week, or next year. Or five years from now. If or when that day comes and you know you have done all you can while keeping yourself intact, don’t be afraid to say: “I will fight no more.”


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

deborah evans, deborahevans100 at gmail dot com said...

You are welcome. I wish you oeace and blessings as you move forwars.

deborah evans, deborahevans100 at gmail dot com said...

I meant to write "blessings as you move FORWARD."

Veronica Messegee said...

Thank you.
My husband finally let go after years of fighting. It's been difficult, especially since everything we've found on PAD talked about fighting for your kids..the success stories etc. There has been no support for him for letting go when it was the best thing.

It was killing the children. In his case there is never any hope. His parents decided they would do anything to retain a relationship with his children ...even cutting him off. Supporting him was causing the ex to turn the children away from them. They even warned him they would make declarations to the court that he shouldn't have access to the kids, that they would turn all the rest of the family members against him in order to retain their relationship with the kids. They made good on their threats.

It's been years since he let go but the pain is still there. Maybe more people will start speaking up about letting go.

Deborah Evans said...

So sorry you had to experience this.

If you are a targeted parent and you choose to act with integrity, there is no way you can "win" in the eyes of some people.

If you engage the fight, you may destroy yourself while some accuse you of being combative and difficult.

If you don't engage the fight, you are accused of being uncaring and not loving your child.

Yes, there is pain. I agree with you that it never completely goes away. Like the other painful events of life, the challenge is to use the pain to create strength and goodness for ourselves and others.

I wish you and your husband well on that journey.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. This article provides me strength and discernment when my emotions try to cloud my judgement. I am letting go of my children so that they will have peace from a devastating and nasty battle that will not end unless I choose to walk away from their lives. It's heartbreaking. I hope the Lord redeems this situation and I pray every day that the Lord protects the hearts of my children in my absence.

Deborah Evans said...

Wishing and praying for you and your children the very best through all the stages of your lives.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

ann escamilla said...

Thank you---I have no choice, literally, but to leave my daughter in the hands of the two malignant narcissistics(my parents) who broke whatever law they desired to decimate both my daughter and myself....I thank you, so, for this writing....

ann escamilla said...

Thank you---I have reached this stage; I, probably, will not, physically, survive, what has happened....Unfortunately, neither will my alienated 41/2-year-old daughter....

ann escamilla said...

I have, unfortunately, always been the peacemaker; it has not helped me in life....

Deborah Evans said...

I am very sorry to read about your experiences. May I suggest a few things?

Please give yourself permission to survive, regardless of what is going on in the relationships you have with others. Your value is independent of what others say and think about you.

I understand and know there is an immense stigma attached to being a noncustodial mom. Financial hardships and losses can also arise at the same time during which others may unfairly judge you and your situation. Because you know the truth, please do not get buried under the judgments of others.

If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed, seek competent help or counseling from a neutral party, even if you have to call a mental health helpline or a similar service.

A chapter or series of chapters don't always equal the whole story. Be open to the possibility that things may change in ways you cannot currently predict. Take care of yourself and take any necessary steps to maintain your well-being and safety--physically, mentally, etc.

If you have always been a peacemaker, please know that it is possible for you to create and maintain peace for yourself, not just for others or yourself + others. It is possible to survive this painful time. Others have done so. My prayer is that you will find the path forward, and with God's help, embrace that path.

Deborah Evans said...

ann, thank you for your recent message. I did not publish it in order to protect your privacy.

I commend and honor you for choosing to live your life as well as you can. God's blessings to you each and every day as you move forward.

Anonymous said...

I gave up 2 years ago and the pain remains. The pain will always be there.

Deborah Evans said...

Yes, the pain will always be there, Anonymous. My hope is the pain will not dominate and define your life. As time goes by, hopefully you will find new sources of joy that will balance the pain.

Deborah Evans said...

It occurs to me that I should explain what I meant by "balance the pain."

Balance the pain means you don't deny what happened. At the same time, you don't allow what happened to totally control and dominate every aspect of your life. Balancing means you allow yourself to recover.

You will know you are making progress in recovery when the alienation experience is no longer the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you thing of before you fall asleep.

You will know you are making progress when the thoughts (of what has been done to you and your child) no longer intrude, against your will, into a time or place when you are happy and thinking about or enjoying a good aspect of life.

You will know you are making progress when you are no longer filled with rage and uncontrolled anger at the alienator because you understand that people can only operate at their level of understanding and belief. No one consistently operates and lives beyond their level of understanding and belief. You can see them as flawed people and focus your energy into protecting yourself, preparing for a better future, and awaiting the possible return of your child. You are no longer obsessed with forcing the alienator to change.

You will know you are making progress when you can move through a day or a week and be joyful for some other element of your life that's actually working as you would like it to work.

You will know you are making progress when your no longer feel the need to hide from the world during holidays or other special days such as birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.

These are the markers of being able to "balance the pain" and move forward while never denying the experience of a terrible loss.

I hope this helps.