Recovering & Empowering the Future of Family

Advice to Counselors

“The Importance of TIC The history of trauma raises various clinical issues. Many counselors do not have extensive training in treating trauma or offering trauma-informed services and may be uncertain of how to respond to clients’ trauma-related reactions or symptoms. Some counselors have experienced traumas themselves that may be triggered by clients’ reports of trauma. Others are interested in helping clients with trauma but may unwittingly cause harm by moving too deeply or quickly into trauma material or by discounting or disregarding a client’s report of trauma.

Counselors must be aware of trauma related symptoms and disorders and how they affect clients in behavioral health treatment. Counselors with primary treatment responsibilities should also have an understanding of how to recognize trauma-related reactions, how to incorporate treatment interventions for trauma-related symptoms into clients’ treatment plans, how to help clients build a safety net to prevent further trauma, how to conduct psychoeducational interventions, and when to make treatment referrals for further evaluations or trauma-specific treatment services.

“All treatment staff should recognize that traumatic stress symptoms or trauma-related disorders should not preclude an individual from mental health or substance abuse treatment and that all co-occurring disorders need to be addressed on some level in the treatment plan and setting. For example, helping a client in substance abuse treatment gain control over trauma-related symptoms can greatly improve the client’s chances of substance abuse recovery and lower the possibility of relapse (Farley, Golding, Young, Mulligan, & Minkoff, 2004; Ouimette, Ahrens, Moos, & Finney, 1998).

Conclusions High Conflict Court Actions

Why Women Lose Custody Naomi Cahn, Leadership Strategy Jan 26, 2020

“…For this first-ever national study, Meier and her research team analyzed  published court opinions that were available online between 2005 and 2014, resulting in their data set of 4,388 custody cases. They coded the cases for differing types of abuse allegations by either parent: domestic violence against the mother, child sexual abuse, and child physical abuse. They also coded for allegations that one parent was trying to alienate the child from the other parent. 

The study contains a wealth of data about cases involving abuse or alienation claims. 

Here are some of the more important findings:

When fathers alleged mothers were alienating, regardless of abuse claims, they took custody away from her 44% of the time. When the genders were reversed, and fathers started out with the children, mothers took custody from fathers only 28% of the time. Fathers were overall much more likely to win than mothers by claiming alienation. 

Meier found that, when mothers claimed any type of abuse, if fathers responded by claiming parental alienation, then the mothers were twice as likely to lose custody as when fathers did not claim alienation. In the study’s stark conclusion: “alienation trumps abuse.”

Even when the father’s abuse was considered by the court to have been proven, the mothers who were alleging the abuse still lost custody in 13 % of the cases.  By contrast, fathers lost custody only 4% of the time when a mother’s abuse was considered proved.

Most stunningly of all, in only one out of the 51 cases in which a mother reported child sexual abuse while the father cross-claimed alienation did the court credit the mother’s claim of sexual abuse.

Remarkably similar findings have emerged from a recent Canadian study as well. Meier note that even conservative assessments find claims of child sexual abuse in custody cases to be valid at least 50% of the time. The power of alienation cross-claims to defeat child sexual abuse allegations echoes alienation’s roots in “PAS,” Gardner’s theory, which was aimed specifically at child sexual abuse claims.

Meier’s study also yielded some interesting findings regarding gender: While alienation is gendered when wielded as a cross-claim against abuse claims, the study found that when courts believed the claims of alienation, then mothers and fathers were equally likely to lose custody (73%). It also found that in cases without abuse claims (as reported in courts’ opinions), mothers and fathers’ alienation claims seemed to have a roughly equal impact on outcomes. 

June Carbone, a family law professor at the University of Minnesota, finds the study highly troubling: “It shows the power of the shared parenting idea. An abuse allegation rejects the possibility of shared parenting. Parents who allege alienation by the other parent cloak themselves in the mantle of the shared parenting norm and judges reward them, even if the parent is an abuser.”

This reality creates an impossible bind for mothers: should they stay silent about the father’s abuse so as to avoid the alienation penalty?  The study certainly supports the idea that it is untenably risky for mothers to report at least child sexual abuse. 

Meier hopes this study will encourage courts and evaluators to take greater care in using alienation claims against abuse allegations, especially because this use of alienation labels has no scientific basis. She is also working with several states’ lawmakers and advocates to tighten custody laws to ensure that abuse allegations are addressed on their merits, and not undermined by alienation claims.”

Professor Meier Identifies How Family Courts Treat Abuse and Accusations of Alienation

Joan MeierOctober 06, 2017

Professor Joan S. Meier‘s latest research, “Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation,” was the topic of discussion on Blog Talk Radio’s “3 Women 3 Ways” segment. Some divorcing fathers say family courts are prejudiced against them when it comes to deciding child custody. Some divorcing mothers say they are punished when they reveal violence and sexual abuse, especially of the children.  Judges say they are fair and equitable always. But are they? Professor Meier spoke about her research study that looks into how judges in family court made decisions about child custody when there are allegations of abuse and alienation.

Professor Meier explained that what has been published is the pilot study, which begins empirically mapping family courts’s uses of parental alienation theory in abuse cases. A much larger federally funded study that builds on these results is now underway. She was inspired to do the study because she felt that a doctrine called parental alienation was misunderstood, and being used as a primary vehicle for abusers’ and evaluators’ denial of abuse. Parental alienation is considered to be a tactic used by one parent to undermine or destroy the child’s love, attachment, and relationship with the other parent. Professor Meier said the concept of parental alienation was being misused when it is invoked to deny abuse claims by the other parent or child.

When fathers turn children against their mother, Professor Meier said courts seem much less concerned. When mothers are seen as turning their children against the father, “it’s seen as the worst possible kind of abuse of a child,” she said. In this study, she wanted to empirically show that parental alienation is gender biased “because the claim in the courts and by many of these professionals is that it’s a neutral theory.” This motivated Professor Meier to do more research on this topic.

U.S. child custody outcomes in cases involving parental alienation and abuse allegations: what do the data show? Joan S. Meier

To cite this article: Joan S. Meier (2020) U.S. child custody outcomes in cases involving parental alienation and abuse allegations: what do the data show?, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 42:1, 92-105, DOI: 10.1080/09649069.2020.1701941
To link to this article:


“The Family Court Outcomes Study provides the first set of national, objective data
describing what U.S. courts are doing when confronted with abuse and alienation claims.
The data support the widespread critiques of family court proceedings sending children
into the care of destructive and dangerous parents. The gender disparity in how much
more powerfully alienation claims work for fathers as opposed to mothers also reinforces
critics’ claims that, in abuse cases, alienation is little different from PAS, operating in an
illegitimate, gender-biased manner. At the same time, the Study’s evidence that alienation
need not be – and is not – gendered in non-abuse cases is a reminder to abuse professionals that alienation may have some independent legitimacy. Hopefully these nuanced findings will encourage specialists on both sides of the ideological divide to turn their attention to ensuring that alienation’s use is constrained so as to avoid its misuse in abuse cases while exploring its legitimate contours in non-abuse cases.”


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