Huffington Post Wrong on Holly Collins, Wrong on Parental Alienation Syndrome

October 31st, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Slowly over the years, the mainstream news media have begun to grasp the concept that, generally speaking, fathers are good, devoted parents and children need both parents as they grow up.  Needless to say, it’s been far from a seamless progression from the bad old days of routinely trashing all male parents; we still see parents who fail to pay child support referred to as “deadbeat dads,” even though, year after year, non-custodial mothers pay less of what they owe than do fathers.  
We rarely see the radical maternal bias of family courts in custody decisions challenged, or its partner in crime, failure to enforce visitation orders.  Coverage of domestic violence issues is still stuck in the Dark Ages.  But over the years, the press generally has started to get the idea that fathers’ rights and children’s interests are usually one in the same.

Not so the Huffington Post.  No, HuffPo reliably publishes pieces that would be laughed out of the editorial rooms of responsible publications.  Even so, when this article appeared, I was astonished (Huffington Post, 10,/26/12).  Of all things, it’s a reprise of the 18 year old Holly Collins case and the film by Garland Waller, No Way Out But One.  In a nutshell, the film is based on a premise for which there is literally no evidence – that, as a rule, abusive fathers get custody of their children.  It takes as its “example,” the Collins case.

Put simply, the claim that abusive fathers get custody of their kids is ludicrous.  For one thing, fathers rarely get custody at all; they do in only about 17% of cases.  For another, about 80% of claims of abuse in custody cases are leveled by mothers and up to 85% of those are never substantiated by the court.  But most telling is that the tiny cottage industry that claims, against all the evidence, that courts ignore mothers’ claims of abuse and turn children over to dangerous fathers never seems to come up with a single case in point.

Now, it must be said that, with about one million divorces filed in this country every year, many of them with children involved, it would be unlikely that the courts would never err and give some form of custody to a father who had abused one of his children.  There are just too many divorces and the chance of error too great for that to never have happened.  What also must be said is that, when it comes to child abuse and neglect, mothers do twice as much as do fathers.  That’s the information we get every year from the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why do people like Garland Waller stoop to cases like Collins’ to make their patently untrue point?  If the abusive fathers getting custody is so common, why can’t they come up with a single compelling case?

I won’t go into the details of the Collins case.  If you want to read about it, here’s Glenn Sacks’ short take-down of Collins and here’s his 11,000-word complete and utter destruction of her claims and Waller’s film.  Sacks called Collins’ claims a “hoax,” and that may be putting in mildly.  Briefly, Collins’ claims that her husband was an abuser never stood up to scrutiny, but for years, the Minnesota family court allowed her to have primary custody.  But the children fared so poorly and Collins lied so regularly, that eventually custody was transferred to her ex-husband, where they miraculously improved.  All that was meticulously documented by seven separate Minnesota courts.  Each and every claim of abuse by Collins was investigated and found to be unsubstantiated.  Essentially every judge, mental health expert, guardian ad litem and witness said her claims were either unfounded or actually fabricated.  Indeed, many of her own relatives, including her own mother, stepfather, brother, sister and grandparents, testified against Holly Collins.  Mental health professionals diagnosed her as ill.

In December of 1992, Minnesota Family Court Judge Michael J. Davis found “the evidence is overwhelming that the children are at great physical and emotional risk if the children remained in Holly Collins’ care” and awarded custody of the then-9 and 7-year-old children to Mark Collins.

So Collins abducted the children to Holland where she was able to convince a gullible government that what seven U.S. state courts had found to be untrue, was true.  That was before the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction had come into being, so the children’s father had no recourse.

It should come as no surprise that, once abroad, Holly Collins apparently continued her campaign of parental alienation.  Entirely cut off from their father, the campaign worked.  It’s in the nature of parental alienation that, when one parent has exclusive control over the kids, they will try to please that parent.  So if it becomes clear that Dad is persona non grata to the mother, he’ll become that to the kids as well.  So Holly Collins’ children, now grown, are happy to describe their father as the evil abuser their mother always said – and no court has ever found – he was.

Essentially every word said by Holly Collins is swallowed hook, line and sinker by the filmmaker, Garland Waller, and the Hufffington Post piece.  Do I need to add that no reference is made to the actual findings of the court or the opinions of the mental health professionals and guardians ad litem in the case?  And of course neither Waller nor HuffPo made the slightest effort to ask the Dad his side of things.  Perhaps most risible is that the film is called a “documentary.”  Ha.  Here’s a secret: actual documentary films seek out different points of view on their subjects.  No reputable filmmaker would do what Garland Waller did (or failed to do).  No reputable writer would do what the author of the HuffPo piece did, i.e. refuse to look critically at Holly Collins’ claims.

Huffington Post Completely Misrepresents Parental Alienation Syndrome

The great irony of the article is Waller’s frank misrepresentation of Parental Alienation Syndrome.  If you want to be charitable, you could say she simply knows nothing about PAS.  If you want to be less so, you’d say she was lying and just repeating the disinformation routinely purveyed by the anti-father crowd.  Whatever the case, she’s defending a child abuser, as PAS deniers always seem to end up doing.  Here’s Waller:

PAS says that if a child makes allegations of physical or sexual abuse in the course of a high-conflict custody dispute, it is probably not true and it’s just the child trying to ally himself with one of the parents — usually the mom. And if the protective parent believes their child and says something bad about the other parent, then that parent is bad and is guilty of Parental Alienation Syndrome. And the only way to fix the problem is to take the child away from the protective parent and give custody to the accused abuser.

Hmm.  It’s hard to be so often wrong in so few words.  Those are three sentences, each making a single point, and each point is flat-out false.  First, no paper, study, article or book I’ve read or read about says any such thing.  In fact, the very concept of PAS is that the child’s rejection of the targeted parent is not justifiable by anything that parent has done.  Therefore, if  the parent has abused the child, rejection could well be called justifiable and thus no diagnosis of PAS would be possible.  Second, “saying something bad about the other parent” doesn’t constitute parental alienation, much less PAS.  The statement is too absurd to even discuss.  And third, no sensible mental health professional would say that “the only way to fix the problem is to take the child away from” the alienating parent.  In fact, that’s a last resort.

So the Huffington Post allowed itself to become a mouthpiece for Garland Waller, who has made a very low-budge film about Holly Collins in which she made no pretense of balance and who frankly makes up claims about Parental Alienation Syndrome that are utterly false.  Classy, very classy.

Interestingly enough, Waller informs HuffPo readers that, “I am not at liberty to disclose Holly’s location, but I can tell you that she is living in New England with her four delightful Dutch children. Their Dutch father visits often and is trying to get a green card.”  In other words, it looks like she’s done the same to the Dutch man that she did to her American ex – have children with him and then flee the country to keep him from them.

I’m not surprised Walker was able to get so little money to produce her shameful film.  Neither am I surprised that the Huffington Post gives it a forum.  Both are disgraceful acts with one aim in mind – separating fathers from their children.

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