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Parental alienation syndrome in Texas news again

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Here at The Law Office of Douglas C. Smith in El Paso, we represent parents — including those in the military or their spouses — in matters of child custody, conservatorship, parenting plans, visitation and relocation. In any major issue involving a minor child’s life, especially concerning his or her residence, time with each parent and important decision-making, the court is guided by the child’s best interest

The Jones case 

A parental behavior that has played an important role in some court battles involving children is referred to as parental alienation syndrome, which we have blogged about before here. This phenomenon has been in the Texas news this summer because of the widely followed child custody battle in Travis County District Court of controversial journalist Alex Jones and his ex-wife Kelly Jones over their three tween-age children. 

In that case, Kelly Jones has publicly and in court accused her ex-husband of engaging in parental alienation behavior, which he denies. A jury in April awarded the parents joint custody, a ruling Alex Jones asked the judge to set aside, according to Spectrum News. The Austin American-Statesman said that the verdict had also granted to the ex-wife the power to determine the children’s primary residence. 

In July, the judge issued a final order ruling that the parents will split access to their two daughters 50-50 and that the mother engage in “reconciliation therapy” with the son or potentially face visits with him of only eight hours at a time. The judge also reportedly ordered the parents to stop public criticism of each other, including the mother’s allegations of parental alienation. 

Thankfully, most Texas divorces do not play themselves out in the media like the Jones’ case. However, parental alienation allegations can arise in any marriage. 

What is parental alienation? 

According to Psychology Today, the concept was defined by psychiatrist Richard Gardner two decades ago as a child’s disorder in which he or she negatively targets one parent in an extreme fashion “to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil.” Gardner characterized the behavior as resulting from both the other parent’s brainwashing and the child’s “own contributions.” 

Parental alienation is recognized in professional literature as: 

  • Involving overwhelming manipulative behavior on the part of the parent engaging in it, including degrading the other parent verbally to the child, keeping the child away from the other parent, trying to erase the other parent from the child’s life in many ways, making the child afraid of the other parent and other similar tactics
  • Equating to child abuse and maltreatment
  • Resulting in damaging feelings and behavior in the child like depression, substance abuse and self-hatred

Any Texas parent who is concerned about possible parental alienation in the context of custody or related legal matters involving a child should speak with an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. The situation will likely require the involvement of mental health professionals and experts and should be treated with swift and urgent care, both legally and psychologically.







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