Dear Senator Sater,
We are writing today to help increase your knowledge about Parental Alienation and its long-lasting effects on children and families. We are also asking you to take up cause with this destructive form of psychological abuse that is often minimized or completely overlooked by the courts, DFS and counselors.
For our story, Parental Alienation is the “the intentional and strategic indoctrination of hate and/or guilt by one parent against the other, with the sole purpose of severing the bond spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically with the other parent, thus gaining total power over the child, and ultimately the alienated parent.”
On the night of December 19, 2008, Jack was physically assaulted by his then-wife after telling her he had filed for divorce. When the police arrived, she confessed to hitting him. Jack decided not to press charges at that time for the kids’ sake who were 6, 8 and 10. Jack was ordered to leave the house for the night even after voicing his concern that she may take the kids and run.
The next morning, Jack returned to find his home empty. His wife and children were gone. When Jack called the police to press charges against her and report his children missing, he was told that they were finally “safe” and in hiding. The police refused to disclose their location. It would be 20 days before he would ever see his children again.
Over a year later, Jack would find out that during those twenty days, his ex-wife hid the kids in a domestic violence shelter. During that time, with the aid of well-meaning counselors, she was able to begin the intense indoctrination of hate into his children and instill in them the belief that Jack was an “abusive, alcoholic” and someone to be feared. This was the beginning of the parental alienation nightmare.
Over the next 8 years, his ex-wife worked overtime to indoctrinate his children against him. Tactics she used included rewriting childhood memories; using rituals to sever their bond with him; using fear and manipulation to sabotage visitation time; and continually enlisting the use of family members, friends, police, DFS and other community professionals to advance the indoctrination agenda.
In addition, she denied him the kids hundreds of times during his court ordered visitation; used the kids as mediators to relay messages; used police to continually cast a shroud of fear against him; utilized disinformation to continually mislead him; made over 30 false allegations through DFS; changed the kids’ legal residence multiple times and purposely kept information regarding 85 doctors’ appointments from him. All of which were violations of the parenting plan.
Not only did she not face any consequences but instead she received child support, TANF, food stamps, MO Healthnet and legal aid.
On November 16, 2016, after thousands of dollars and 8 years of our lives, it was successfully proven in court that his oldest daughter Kaitie had been parentally alienated from him. Unfortunately by then, the indoctrination was so profound that he was legally advised not to seek custody. He was, however, granted sole legal and physical custody of Mary and Liam aged 16 and 14.
For almost two years, we watched as Mary and Liam thrived. We naively believed that physically separating the kids from his ex-wife and limiting access would prevent it from happening again. We were wrong.
On May 31, 2018, Mary and Liam walked out the front door for their mother’s summer visit, and never came back. All communication was cut off and school districts were changed. Within days, we were accused of 27 counts of domestic abuse and bombarded with investigators calling from DFS and the Taney County Sheriff’s office threatening legal action.
After hearing the accusations, it was clear that Mary and Liam’s indoctrination against us was deep-seated. I am a registered nurse and we own a successful business on Table Rock Lake. Having a good reputation is paramount for our survival. And although false, the accusations were becoming more serious in nature. Reluctantly, Jack and I agreed that we could no longer trust them to be in our home for fear of what they might say next. In the end, we cleared our names and gave his ex-wife full custody of the kids and Jack requested no visitation. After almost 10 years, she had finally successfully indoctrinated all 3 of his children against him.
What we didn’t understand on November 16, 2016 that we understand now, is that the psychological damage of parental alienation runs deep. His ex-wife had been given years carte blanche by the court system to indoctrinate hate and sever ties without facing a single consequence. Physically separating them from her now didn’t matter. The imprinting had been done and we were helpless to stop it despite our best efforts.
In the United States, it’s estimated that over 22 million families are affected by parental alienation. Strides have recently been made in identifying parental alienation as abuse in both the United States and in other countries.
In the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), parental alienation is now listed under diagnostic code V995.51 “child psychological abuse.” In addition, the 2018 World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) is including parental alienation under ”Caregiver Child Relation Problem.” (Von, 2018)
In 2016, Colorado enacted a law which recognizes parental alienation as a form of emotional abuse. The law (CRS 14-10-124 (1.5)(a)(VI) requires a court to consider a party’s ability to foster a positive relationship between a child and the other parent. If a court determines that a positive relationship is not being supported by a parent, the alienating party may face contempt, financial sanctions or even loss of custody. (https://www.denverdivorceattorneyblog.com/denver-custody-parental-alienation/)
In Brazil on July 26, 2010, Article 2 of Law No. 12,318 was passed which makes it a criminal act and defines parental alienation as the interference with the psychological formation of a child or adolescent that promotes repudiation of a parent or damage to the establishment or maintenance of ties with a parent, when such an act is practiced by a parent, grandparent, those who have the child or adolescent under their authority, custody, or supervision.
The Law provides examples of parental alienation, including but not limited to:
- waging campaigns of disparagement of a parent’s behavior in the exercise of parenthood;
- hindering the exercise of parental authority and limiting contact between the child or adolescent and the other parent;
- making the right to have a close family life with the child or adolescent difficult;
- deliberately omitting relevant personal information about the child or adolescent, including educational, medical, and change-of-address data, from the other parent;
- submitting false complaints against a parent, family members, or the grandparents, preventing them from having a relationship with the child or adolescent; and
- moving to a remote site with no explanation, in order to hamper the relationship between the child or adolescent and the other parent or the grandparents or other relatives (art. 2 (sole para.), Law No. 12,318).
Once an act of parental alienation is established, a judge may declare that it has occurred and warn the alienator; expand the regime of family life in favor of the alienated parent; fine the alienator; order counseling; change the custody to or from joint custody; or determine the setting of an interim residence for the child or adolescent (art. id.). (http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/brazil-parental-alienation-criminalized/)
In other words, had our parental alienation nightmare happened in Brazil, it would have been a crime.
On March 22, 2015, at age 16, Kaitie sent the last text message to Jack that he would ever receive. The last time he saw her was in court ready to testify about abuse she’d never suffered.
On May 31, 2018, Mary age 17 and Liam age 15 walked out the front door and never came back. The last time Jack saw them was in court ready to testify about abuse that had never occurred.
Jack and I have started a blog (https://parentalalienationspeaks.com) to bring awareness to this difficult topic. Beyond education, we need change. We need Missouri lawmakers to acknowledge this form of abuse and put a stop to it.
We are asking that you please take up this cause by sponsoring a bill that promotes parental alienation as a form of abuse. Parents should never have to experience the alienation of a child at the hands of a vindictive ex-spouse ever again.
Thank you for your time.
Jack and Cheryl Mefferd
For more information about why we speak: