Amy J.L. Baker’s book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind details the stories of adult children of divorce–voices we need to hear much more often. One of the cases she details is that of David, whose parents divorced when he was six.
David’s father worked long hours but he had positive, loving feelings towards him. He and his two siblings visited their father regularly and enjoyed and valued the experience.
However, as so often happens, after David’s father remarried, his mother’s attitude changed, and she began interfering with the visits. According to Baker, “The primary alienation strategy used by his mother was over-reacting to minor incidents that occurred at David”s father”s house, building a case for the fact that his father was careless and/or dangerous.”
“Something would happen at Dad”s house like even the littlest thing like I remember one time we were at Grandma”s house and my sister had some jacks and we were playing jacks and we went off to do something else and we came back into the room and we were kind of running around and she fell on one of the jacks and one of them kind of hit her thigh and went in a little bit. I remember it wasn”t that big a deal but when we got home you would have thought someone had beat her. I was seven or eight at the time and my sister was five. I remember thinking at some point after this happened several times that…on my way home and it was about a 30-40 minute drive I remember just dreading it and thinking what will it be…what is going to be the thing that upsets her this time.’
“David”s mother had a way of finding out about what happened during visitation and then zeroing in on the most negative aspect of the visit to the exclusion of everything else. She would inquire about the visit until she heard something negative.”
Another of the mother’s alienation tactics was to invoke a rule that if any of the three children did not want to visit, then none could. When David”s younger sister “decided” that she didn’t want to visit her dad’s house, this gave mom the pretext she needed to cut off all visitation.
A third tactic was to try to paint the father as stingy or financially selfish. According to David, the mother would use a meaningless one day delay in the child support check coming as an excuse to malign the dad. David explains:
“There were things with the support checks. The checks came once every two weeks through the court. It was always a big deal when the check arrived. We had to check the mailbox and call Mom as soon as we got home from school and let her know that the check was there and if it wasn”t there it was a big deal. I remember it always showed up the next day if it was late so it was not like it was late.
“There was one incident…one year we went to camp…I can”t remember if it was next summer or two summers after that and we called Dad up and asked him to pay for camp and I remember I got on the phone and my brother got on the phone and my mom got on the other phone and it was real quick and dirty ‘Dad can you pay for camp?’ and either he said no or I”ll think about it or something and then Mom blurted in…there was no negotiation at all. ‘If you can”t pay for camp then forget it.” and we hung up and it was like wow that was fast and it was a big deal, one of those things where there was zero negotiation and no details. I was even crying after the conversation was over and my brother and sister were just balling.’
Eventually the mother moved away with the three children, and tried to prevent the father from finding where they had moved, and the children were denied any access to their father. David turned against his father, and did not realize the way he had been misled until many years later.