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Family Wars (PAS) — Conclusion


A partnership of judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals is critical in the resolution of high conflict alienation cases.  A judge has the power to order changes but is not readily available. Lawyers are more available, but do not necessarily have proper understandings.  As advocates, they can easily become part of a divorce impasse system, aggravating an already inflamed system. Mental health professionals must have a systems understanding and usually are available, but do not have the power of the court, nor the legal understandings of the attorney.  A partnership is essential. 

Attorneys must help clients discern long term interests regarding children, the meanings behind a custody battle (hurt, revenge, fears) and ensuing alienation.  Attorneys must offer education about the importance of co-parenting and moving beyond the battleground.  Attorneys must treat with caution and trepidation a client who sees a divorcing spouse as all bad and must avoid joining with the client in further escalating this belief.  Attorneys must refer to mental health professionals trained in family systems, those who need someone who will work for the best interest of the whole family.  Attorneys must recognize when they have been enlisted as active parties in the polarization alienation conflict, and seek consultation so as not to further escalate the process. 

Courts must act decisively and explicitly in cases of high conflict divorce and alienation.  Orders must be pragmatic and the grounds for decisions must be explained in terms that make it less likely that one party can claim a moral victory and the other feel shame of defeat.  Courts must use their knowledge and power to understand the family system, to recognize high conflict alienation cases, and to make appropriate, timely and specific referrals and recommendations.  By recognizing alienation in its early forms, prevention of future harm to the child and family may well be possible.  Intervention, at any point along the continuum of harm is crucial to prevent further harm. 

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2001 02 09 (format changes)
2002 03 05 (added link to Table of Contents)