Parental Alienation – A Corrosive Legacy

By Judge Michele F. Lowrance (ret)

I was a judge on the divorce bench for 20 years, and I watched the wreckage of the corrosive legacy of parental alienation and visitation interference play out over decades. We have no statistics for measuring this group because the number of victims is too vast. But the concentric circles include the children, the grandchildren, and the extended family as well. The declaration of war by one parent on another creates radioactive fallout that contaminates the family for generations.

The alienating parent treats the target parent like a disease in the child that must be removed. They make the child’s survival contingent upon such removal. So the child must extricate the parent without the privilege of grieving the loss. These are crippling circumstances.

I have witnessed impassioned declarations of love for a child by an alienating parent to masquerade the venom he/she feels for the other parent. Parents who do this are not interested in mere control. Their stakes are higher: total annihilation of the target parent’s bond with the child. Little by little, alienation in a divorce case starts to take root. And when it fully takes root, I see the child’s boundaries collapse before my eyes. Soon the child forgets how to protect him or herself, and must align with the alienating parent as if life depends on it – because it does.

Perhaps curing this degenerating influence may, in the future, be addressed by therapy. But for now, we can and we must do better. I want to tell you how to be proactive in court, and how to fight against the inclination to give up like so many hurt, alienated parents – who are, frankly, not always welcomed in the courts.

Why Cases Involving Parental Alienation are so Difficult

Here are some reasons parental alienation cases are so difficult, and why judges often have no love for them:

  1. Combative parents present conflicting stories of “he said / she said,” and make it very difficult to determine who is telling the truth. Often an alienating parent comes to believe what he or she is saying, and their presentation seems authentic.
  2. When targeted parents present their side of the case, they are often angry and frustrated – and as a result, they don’t present very well in court. Judges often consider attitude as influential as content.
  3. The children often support the alienating parent by telling the judge, their attorney and mental health professionals how they have been treated badly, and of their dislike, for the target parent. The reasoning skills of alienated children are often compromised, as is their ability to choose freely.
  4. Alienated children often won’t cooperate with therapeutic intervention, and courts have difficulty enforcing these orders.
  5. Judges like to believe that what they do works and it is the right decision. When their decisions don’t work, they often get exasperated with both parties.

What You can Do in Courts

Despite these difficulties there is plenty that you can do. Here are some suggestions for handling parental alienation in the courts:

  1. Create an alienation map or chart for the judge, which shows him or her in five minutes what couldn’t be said in five hours. This map should include all missed visits, and a list of all the denigrating phrases made by alienating spouse to the children, including the friends and/or extended family of the hated parent (if they are admissible in evidence). If you know how to make a graph, you can show the increase in missed visits in a very compelling and impactful way.
  2. Most judges aren’t warm to the phrase “Parental Alienation Syndrome”. Instead, ask the judge to please keep an eye open for visitation interference as the case progresses, and describe for him or her the maligning behavior.
  3. Get a court order for parenting therapy as soon as possible.
  4. If orders are violated, go to court on a “Rule to Show Cause” for violation of the order as soon as possible. If you can’t afford an attorney, then do this yourself. Write a “Petition for Rule to Show Cause” for a visitation violation, for family therapy, or for makeup visitation. Your local courthouse should be able to supply you with a sample form or even a packet showing you how to fill out this Petition.

You may be among the many alienated parents I have known, who have grown weary due to the repetitive stress fracture on your heart. Each time your visitation is interfered with, it has a cumulative hyper-sensitive, which easily magnifies your emotional response.

Because your emotions are flooding your ability to reason, writing and rewriting a petition with your attorney is a rational thing to do and gives your thoughts “breathing time.” If you immediately act upon your anger, you are just going to make things worse – and perhaps run the risk that the other parent will get an order of protection against you. Reflect upon the past consequences of your amped-up anger. Did you write nasty emails, make hostile phone calls, yell at your child, become overly aggressive, or decide to retreat and do nothing?

The way to tell if your anger serves you is to always ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Does this anger further my constructive goals?
  2. Does this anger further degenerate my relationship with my children?
  3. In what ways does this anger help me?
  4. In what ways does this anger help my spouse?

If your reactions are based upon what has been done to you, you can only respond with hatred. When you do this, you give the alienating parent the “upper hand,” because he or she has provoked you to become the hateful person who they are portraying you to be to the children. Don’t let someone else provoke, influence, and therefore control how you behave. you run the risk of actually becoming as miserable and dysfunctional of a person as they’re trying to portray you to your children. When you react with hatred, you not only play into their hands, you’re letting them steer your ship, letting them determine your present and future.

When Your Children Come Home, Who do You Want Them to Come Home to?

As you read this, you may be on the edge of giving up. You may be starting to feel that nothing can work against your former spouse’s devotion to destroy your relationship with your children. Even though you may be physically invisible to your children, you will always be visible to them through stories, gossip and second hand reporting from all sources. When we lose a loved one, we often decide to live the way that the departed person would have wanted us to. In the same spirit, when you lose a child to alienation, you need to live as if he or she is watching you. Your long-term goal is to become the person your child wants to come home to.

Michele F. Lowrance was a domestic-relations judge in the Circuit Court of Illinois for 20 years; she is now a practicing mediator. A child of divorce who was raised by her grandparents, Judge Lowrance has been divorced and has devoted her professional life to helping those similarly situated. She is the author of The Good Karma Divorce (Harper Collins, 2010) and co-author of the Parental Alienation 911 Workbook (Parental Alienation 911, 2012).

Co-Parenting With A Narcissist


Parenting is the most rewarding and challenging adventure anyone will ever embark upon. But when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, it’s much more difficult than it needs to be.

The Alpha

In co-parenting with a narcissist, one parent is the “Alpha” parent while the other is the “Beta” parent. Naturally, the narcissist is the Alpha parent. They call the shots. They know exactly how to raise children, even though they’ve never done it before. Kinda’ like Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show with his imaginary perfect child.

The Alpha parent believes they know their child inside and out. They know how evil and rebellious the child is because they’ve projected themselves onto their child. They know exactly what the child is thinking. Growing up, I must’ve heard this cliché a thousand times. “I’m ahead of you by five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks, five years…” Uh-huh. And the moon is made of lemon meringue. gives the best description of narcissistic parenting:

Children are ready targets:
narcissists consider children flawed and lacking,
and therefore most in need of severe “teaching” and correction.
This negative picture of children is a sad projection
of how the narcissist truly feels about his or her inner self…
they consider their harsh, controlling parenting
magnanimous and in the child’s best interest.

Alpha parents are narcissists. Narcissists are bullies. And bullies are cowards.

Which leads to…

The Beta

The Beta parent is the “inferior” parent. The Alpha reminds them they’re too inexperienced and naïve to know how to properly raise the child they had together. So, the Alpha will tell them exactly how to do it.

Because the Alpha is a coward, they prefer a kind of hands-off parenting by proxy via the Beta co-dependent parent. Sometimes they give verbal commands to the Beta. Sometimes they write daily notes to the Beta. Sometimes they write daily notes to the child too. By hiding behind notes and long-distance commands, the narcissist doesn’t have to face the “music”…the wounded feelings, tears and anger of their exasperated, never-good-enough child.

Naturally, this puts the Beta in an impossible situation. If the child misbehaves, it’s the Beta’s fault. This would never have happened if the Alpha had been there to enforce their edicts.

Worse yet, if the child finally (quite rightly) rebels against the extreme demands and heartless perfectionism demanded of them, the Beta becomes frantic.  Desperate! They must force the child into submission and obedience or the Alpha will have the Beta’s guts for garters. Put them down. Remind them yet again what a lousy parent they actually are and how much better the Alpha would be at child-rearing, if they had the time.

If the Beta still can’t enforce blind obedience, the Alpha sighs deeply to let everyone know how their important time is being imposed upon and actually gets involved to lecture, brainwash, dominate or terrorize their child into submission. Whatever works best.

The Project

For engulfing narcissists, children aren’t people. They’re projects.

Projects to be discussed coldly and impersonally, never calling the child by their real name in the discussion. Just “he” or “she” as the child’s fate is decided based on fact, never considering their feelings.

Projects to be completed successfully. Projects to be completed perfectly. Projects to be admired by others, thus reflecting well on the Alpha parent.

The Alpha pursues this object with a single-minded and straightforward approach. The end always justifies the means.

They pay no attention to the Beta’s timid suggestion that they allow their kid to be a kid. That the child’s emotions matter. That childhood friendships matter. That extracurricular activities are too and can give children a well-rounded joy in learning not available in dry, dusty schoolbooks.

Nor will they have any truck with the child’s emotions and feelings. They’re neither here nor there. The goal of raising an impressive Adult Project within the span of 18 years is all that matters. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

All Grown Up

If you survived co-parenting with a narcissist, congratulations! I’m just sorry raising your child was so much more difficult than it needed to be.

If you survived being raised by a narcissist, congratulations! It’s one of the hardest experiences you’ll ever undergo. If you survived it, you are strong and courageous. Any challenges in your life will pale in comparison to the triumph of surviving the domination of your Alpha parent and the desperation of your Beta parent.

Co-Parenting Among Blended Families

This is how the adults should behave after a divorce, when a child is involved.  Putting the child’s best interests first!

Blended Families Co-Parenting

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – A blended family from the Fountain City is shedding a new light across the internet after a step-mom shared a picture online of two co-parenting couples supporting her stepdaughter at her soccer game.

The family said they never expected this photo to go viral, but now they’re hoping to set an example for co-parenting couples everywhere.

“The vice president of the soccer complex came to us and said there are a lot of times kids have to come to soccer games alone because the parents can’t get along,” said mother Clara Cazeau.

But for mother Cazeau and step-mother Emilee Player of 4-year-old Maelyn Player, they both agreed that situation will never be the case for their children.

“If you’re not 100 percent in it for the child, it won’t work,” said Player.

Player and Cazeau said although their situation took time to build as a steady blended family, parents who are looking for a solid co-parenting situation must focus on the well-being and needs of their children in order to achieve a healthy blended family environment.

“In my eyes, her happiness is all that matters when it comes to all of us getting along,” Player said

Co-parenting in their blended family doesn’t just stop at wearing soccer jerseys Maelyn’s soccer game.

“It was never a question in my mind whether or not I was going to get along with Clara and her family. I was going to do it for Maelyn’s sake,” said Player.

Cazeau says even though they have a blended family, she still wanted to keep a family tradition alive by having the entire family wear jerseys supporting Maelyn at her soccer game.

“It was really positive, a lot of people would just say we wish we could be like that,” said Player. “We do holidays together, we do birthdays together… we’re basically like best friends,” Cazeau and Player both say.

“It is definitely a process, we split up in 2013, when she was only 8 months old,” said Cazeau.

Both Cazeau and Player agree although their blended family may not be “rainbows” all the time, still, not every situation can be as ideal as theirs’.

Family Psychologist and Counselor Christie Anderson said co-parenting relationships can have long term lasting effects on children growing up in positive blended family environments.

“For example, parents who are modeling more appropriate behaviors for their children are teaching those children to learn those appropriate skills and manage socially. Whether that’s with their peers or as they get older in life,” said Anderson.

Anderson said any parents who may be struggling to make co-parenting work can start with the needs of the children in the family.

“The needs of the child are always put first,” said Anderson.

“It was a lot and it was really hard to adjust with new people coming in and their families,” said Cazeau.

Both parents encourage all parents who are working at a co-parenting relationship to keep trying at making the blended family relationship work.

“Try to put your differences aside and not think too much about the past,” said Cazeau. “Think about the child. Because all in all the most important thing is the child feeling like they have been accepted in every way possible and that we all love [them].”