NBA Star Dwyane Wade’s Custody Dispute a Classic Case of Parental Alienation

Judge Goldfarb found that [the mother] “has embarked upon an unstoppable and relentless pattern of conduct for over two years to alienate the children from their father, and lacks either the ability or the willingness to facilitate, let alone encourage, a close and continuing relationship between them. On the other hand, this court finds that D.T. (Dwyane) will, in fact, encourage a close and continuing relationship between the boys and [the mother].”

For all those who like to pretend that parental alienation doesn’t exist, I urge them to read the judge’s findings in the Dwyane Wade custody matter.  I can’t link to it, but I can quote from it.  The Final Custody Judgment is 102 pages long and is replete with the day-to-day facts of parental alienation by the mother, Siovaughn Wade.

More than that, though, it describes in minute detail the effects that alienation had on the couple’s two boys who were 8 and 3 at the time.  The custody evaluator, Dr. Phyllis Amabile, M.D. J.D. and the judge chronicled the progression of the illness that comes from parental alienation.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have the background to give an opinion about whether those effects on the children add up to a discrete “syndrome” or “disorder” sufficient for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

But what I can do and what Judge Goldfarb and Dr. Amabile did in the Wade case, is observe and describe the behavior of a mother bent on keeping two young children away from their father.  That alienation clearly led to certain behaviors by the boys that certainly looks like PAS to me.  It’s what Dr. Richard Gardner, Dr. Richard Warshak, Dr. Amy Baker and many others have described countless times.

Interestingly, the main tool Siovaughn Wade used to keep the kids from their father was healthcare.  For about two years, she had primary custody and he had visitation rights while the custody case was being resolved.  From the judge’s description and that of the custody evaluator, Dwyane’s visitation was often thwarted by Siovaughn’s claims that the children were ill, needed to go to the doctor or actually at the hospital receiving care.

Time and again those claims proved to be either untrue outright or overblown.  Therefore, a minor earache meant no time with Daddy.  When their older child fell into the swimming pool resulting in nothing more than a minor scratch, Mom whisked him to the hospital and then frantically searched for a camera with which to photograph him lying on a hospital gurney.

The use of the boys’ health as an excuse to prevent visitation with their dad was so frequent and so obvious that the judge, in her opinion, took to using the buzz words “drama/trauma” to highlight it.

As in so many states, one of the factors a judge must consider when awarding custody is

The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Judge Goldfarb found that

This court finds that S.L. (Siovaughn) has embarked upon an unstoppable and relentless pattern of conduct for over two years to alienate the children from their father, and lacks either the ability or the willingness to facilitate, let alone encourage, a close and continuing relationship between them. On the other hand, this court finds that D.T. (Dwyane) will, in fact, encourage a close and continuing relationship between the boys and S.L.

Siovaughn’s attempts to keep her ex-husband out of his children’s lives only got worse with time.

This court finds that the progression and history of S.L.’s attempts to alienate Z.B.D. and Z.M.A. (the children) from D.T. and her unwillingness to facilitate a positive and healthy relationship between them is the major cause of this sad custody trial. Her behavior according to Dr. Amabile is almost in the severe range.

Siovaughn used the children’s health as a way to frustrate Dwyane’s visitation.

Dr. Amabile was critical of S.L. regarding her willingness to foster a relationship between the children and D.T. during this time before court ordered visitation. She stated, “For a long period of time she made visitations challenging for Mr. Wade and the children beyond what could be explained on the basis of concern for the children’s wellbeing.” After the separation she was “definitely being controlling in terms of his access to
them (the kids) … in a bad way.”

At one point she simply packed the kids up and moved them from their Miami home to Chicago where they had no friends and few relatives.  This broke the attachment bond between the older boy and his father.

The move violated a court order, but, throughout the case, Siovaughn exhibited little regard for the authority of the court.  That included violating numerous clear, specific court orders, but also lying to the court numerous times about what she had done and why.  Dr. Amabile called her attitude “I will do as I please.”

The next two years involved motion after motion, order after order, regarding parenting time for D.T…  As Judge Nega aptly stated on May 10, 2010, “There always seems to be some disruption in pick up and drop off. There’s always a struggle about where it’s going to be, who’s going to be present, who’s not going to be present, what the time is, what the location is, and it’s just too stressful for the children. That’s a statement of fact.”

Dr. Amabile specifically noted that even subsequent to court ordered intervention on the issue of parenting time with D.T., S.L. still attempted to interfere with rather than facilitate a relationship between D.T. and his sons that was not in the best interests of the children. “She leaves a strong impression of being controlling and of being resistant to authority on this issue (visitation)” and that included the authority of the court.

Eventually, Siovaughn’s relentless campaign of parental alienation began to bear fruit.  The older boy began to criticize his father and not want to be around him.  In the classic case of parental alienation, when questioned by the custody evaluator, he used words and concepts that could only have come from an adult.

The custody evaluator described one such incident this way:

“The child made a number of negative and critical statements about his father during his interviews with me. He talked about some past experiences with his dad where he described his dad as being harsh verbally, physically, sounded to me as if they were at least somewhat embellished. He talked about his dad having abandoned them and such things as ‘imagine that you’re a mother of a five-year old and you were about to have another child, and imagine your husband walks out on you.’
Very strange thing for a seven or eight year old child to say. That was another example of what I would consider to be an alienated kind of attitude toward his dad.”

All of this was extremely detrimental to the children, particularly the older boy.  It was bad enough that the evaluator recommended Siovaughn see a therapist “who is very familiar with this process of alienation.”  Eventually she got around to doing that, but

Nevertheless, rather than showing some modicum of improvement since the May 6”’ report, S.L.’s behavior, got progressively worse. Frankly, worse does not quite describe her behavior and how she was willing to utilize Z.B.D. as an instrument against the Wade family and ultimately his father.

The bottom line in the case was this:

S.L. has had over two years to demonstrate an ability to foster a relationship between the children and D.T. Rather than demonstrate a willingness to do so, she has manifested only disdain for the relationship between the boys and their father, despite her claims to the contrary. This court finds that the animosity toward D.T. and his family has become all-consuming for S.L. She still referred to D.T. until the end of trial as “my abuser.” Until almost the end of trial, S.L. still sought supervised visitation for D.T…

D.T. on the other hand very credibly and sincerely testified that the children need both of their parents. He stated “I want both parents to be in their kids’ lives … S.L. needs to get healthy.. .to get help dealing with whatever issues she’s dealing with .. . if she does that, she gets healthy, I want her to spend as much time with the kids as she wants to spend.”

D.T. continued, “I’m not trying to take my kids from her. I want to foster a relationship between both parents, where we have equal rights, hopefully one day we can make decisions together, and our kids can see us together as a parent team to know that we have their best interests at hand.”

I wish I could give more of the court’s judgment.  It’s not just one judge, either.  Judge Goldfarb quotes at least two other judges who dealt with various aspects of the case and who both sing the same song about Siovaughn Wade.

I’d like Paula Caplan or any of the other PAS deniers to read the entire judgment of the court and then explain how parental alienation is a figment of someone’s imagination and just a plot by abusive fathers to get custody of their kids.

Compare Caplan’s disgraceful article in Psychology Today with the judgment in Wade vs. Wade and you know which way the winds are blowing on the issue of parental alienation and PAS.

Thanks to Michael for the heads-up.

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