The Lords Should Take Down Helic’s Screed on Parental Alienation

March 9, 2021 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors


For Baroness Helic, I suppose it wasn’t enough to soil the website for the British House of Lords with her dishonest-to-the-point-of-derangement article on parental alienation.  She had to get in bed with a couple of very dicey allies in the process.  Her piece amounts to little but a series of naked assertions unsupported by even minimal evidence.  Occasionally, she managed to drop in a link here and there to give the impression that her article constituted something other than intellectual confectionary.  Alas for her, that too failed.

Remarkably, that’s because her citations run the gamut from utterly irresponsible to actually not standing for the proposition for which they’re cited. 

An example of the former is this:

In America, more than fifty thousand children each year are forced by courts into unsupervised contact with an abusive parent.

The best we can say about that assertion is that there is in fact a document claiming that 58,000 children per year are placed by courts in the custody of abusive parents in the U.S.  Unfortunately for Helic and anyone else who cites it, the document gets nowhere near to establishing its claim.  In the first place, it’s not a study of any case or cases.  It nowhere attempts to look into a representative sample of cases, ascertain whether the allegations of child abuse were true or not and draw a conclusion about the rightness or wrongness of the judge’s decision. 

Neither does it take into consideration obvious facts.  So, for example, there are about 900,000 divorce cases filed in the U.S. each year.  Of those, about two-thirds involve children; those cases involve on average about 1.3 children per divorce.  So there are about 780,000 kids involved in divorce cases each year. 

About 95% of those cases aren’t decided by a judge but by the parents and another 95% don’t involve even an allegation of child abuse, at least if the 2012 study of Nebraska divorce cases is any guide.  That brings the number of kids whose cases are decided by a judge and are alleged to have been abused down to about 2,000.  How many of those allegations are true?  No one knows, but if we assume half to be, then we’re down to 1,000 abused kids in judge-decided custody cases.  Now, how many of those are placed in the custody of their abuser?  Again, no one knows, but it can’t be many.  Whatever the case, 58,000 is just a made-up number; it statistically cannot be true.  Like everyone else who cites the document, Helic did so because she likes its conclusion, not because that conclusion has the least basis in fact.

That comes as no surprise given that the document she referred to was authored by Joyanna Silberg who’s been found by courts to be so biased in regard to issues of child abuse and parental alienation as to be unfit to guide courts in those cases.  Here, for example is one pithy statement by a judge on Silberg:

I need to say something about Dr. Silberg. I’m going to say not as much as I’d like to say. First, I don’t believe her. I disbelieve her testimony. She clearly came to this case with a view. She clearly, respectfully was wearing a jersey. She did not approach this case, in my judgment, scientifically or clinically. She presented, in my opinion, as a cheerleader. There were tremendous analytical gaps in her testimony. While she is certainly qualified on paper, in this case her opinion in my judgment lacks any credible or adequate factual basis…

She waved off anything that didn’t fit with her hypothesis. She disregarded facts that were clearly contrary to hypothesis. I don’t believe her to be blunt. I don’t believe her. She had no factual basis which I credit. She did not employ methodology which to my mind was sound. This was the case of Walt. She gave me a couple, three I told you so opinions, which as Judge Moylan said, are not worth anything. So I give her opinion zero weight. 

This is one person Helic cites.

She goes on to cite what she calls the “harm panel report” conducted by the British Ministry of Justice and published last year.  It’s a 216-page report on how British courts deal with claims of domestic violence in family matters.  One problem for Helic is that the report barely mentions parental alienation and nowhere even attempts to define the term, study the phenomenon, analyze its role, if any, in divorce cases, figure out if parental alienation occurred in individual cases, etc.  The document simply has almost nothing to do with PA.

In short, Helic stoops to citing a document that has virtually nothing to do with her topic.

Not only that, but one of the authors of the “harm panel report” is Liz Trinder, a researcher who, for many years now, has bent over backwards to marginalize fathers in the lives of their children.  I wrote here and here about a survey Trinder did in 2013.  She apparently conducted same for the sole purpose of drawing the conclusion that family courts do a very good job, thank you, of enforcing their orders of child access, 86% of which involve fathers.  Amusingly, in not one of the 205 cases studied did the judge actually issue an order that enforced the previous order.  That’s right, not one, and, to Trinder, that’s just as it should be.

How could Trinder, et al find that courts enforce their orders effectively when not one of them did?  By the simple expedient of not following up to see the results of what they did.  Seriously, I’m not making that up.

The research design did not include interviews with parents. Thus we have only limited file data on whether and how orders are being implemented.

In short, in order to judge whether family court judges were effectively enforcing their orders of contact on behalf of fathers, Trinder, et al, found no case in which the judge actually enforced the order and didn’t follow up on the orders they did issue. 

More amusingly still, Trinder’s assessment of those cases was sunny and upbeat.  According to her, fathers have no difficulty in seeing their children because courts make sure they can.  But when it comes to claims of domestic violence that are most often asserted by mothers, Trinder’s “harm panel report” finds courts to be utterly incompetent, insufficiently resourced and ignorant of the most basic aspects of DV.

Such is the state of Helic’s opposition to the very concept of parental alienation.  Seriously, the House of Lords should take her piece down from its website.  Have they no standards of intellectual honesty?

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