Tim Stelloh on Parental Alienation: Getting it Wrong in Every Way

February 5
, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Last week I posted a piece on an article by Tim Stelloh that appeared in Al Jazeera. On its face the Stelloh article was terrible for several reasons. First, its entire thrust was to cast aspersions on the concept of parental alienation. The writer did so by channeling the intellectual dishonesty of NOW and various anti-father groups. Reading his article you’d never guess at the massive weight of social science – hundreds of peer-reviewed articles from some 40 countries around the world – that underpin both the fact of parental alienation and its often dire consequences for children.

No, like his comrades in alarm, Stelloh prefers to pretend that the idea of parental alienation is nothing more than a nefarious plot by abusive fathers to wrest custody from “protective” mothers. His utter ignorance of the science and his willingness to uncritically parrot the radical feminist party line were bad enough. But, as I pointed out, what was even worse about the piece is the fact that the “example” of parental alienation he chose to present was in fact nothing of the sort. Indeed, throughout his rather long article, Stelloh never once bothered to produce any evidence that the child’s father abused him. Amazingly, he seemed to believe that simply restating the mother’s claims of abuse was sufficient to establish the matter.

In that way, Stelloh’s weak attempt to strike a blow against fathers having real relationships with their children post-divorce fell right into line with every similar piece about parental alienation.  The anti-dad crowd claims that the phenomenon of abusive fathers getting custody of children via the claim of alienation by “protective” mothers is common practice in family courts. Stelloh quoted gender ideologue Joan Meier to exactly that effect.

“When a mother alleges abuse or children allege abuse or fear or hostility to a parent who is alleged to have been abusive, it tends to be very quickly attributed to the mother’s vendetta.”

Of course Meier declined to provide the slightest proof for such a silly assertion, but the point is that those opposed to fathers’ parental rights routinely assert that courts commonly use the claim of parental alienation to give custody to fathers. The problem is that every single “example” of that phenomenon turns out to be wrong. In case after case – Sadia Loeliger, Amy Neustein and countless others – even cursory examination reveals deeply disturbed mothers simply imagining paternal abuse. These cases are thoroughly investigated by multiple experts from the fields of mental health, physical health, law enforcement and the legal profession and invariably reveal only sadly delusional mothers.

In short, the phenomenon claimed by NOW, Meier and others is so common they can’t find a single instance in which it’s occurred.  Stelloh’s Al Jazeera article is cut from the same cloth. It’s a thoroughly dishonest piece of “journalism” that would properly be found in the National Enquirer or, better yet, the trash can.

In my first post on it, and strictly as an aside, I mentioned that I’d like to have access to the real information produced in the course of litigation of the case Stelloh used to illustrate his claims. (His article used pseudonyms throughout rendering it impossible to check his facts.) To my great surprise and pleasure, an intrepid reader did just that; he sent me a link to the opinion of the trial judge which appears here.

Needless to say, my instincts were correct. Judge Lynda Munro’s extremely long, exhaustive and detailed recitation of the facts of the case makes it crystal clear that the allegations of sexual abuse made by the mother against the father were utterly baseless. No one who reads the opinion could come away with any other conclusion.

Did Stelloh even read Judge Munro’s words? It’s not apparent that he did, and I’ll get to a summary of the real facts of the case in my next piece. But first I must say that, having read the judge’s findings, it has become clear that Stelloh’s article, bad as it was on first reading, is actually far worse. At first I thought it was just another screed by an anti-father zealot who thinks attacking the concept of parental alienation is a good way to further that end. But I was wrong. His article is so bad that I believe it qualifies as the worst ever written. With it, we may have reached the very bottom of the barrel. And friends, that’s a long way down.

That’s because, as Judge Munro’s ruling makes clear, the case is not about parental alienation at all. Nowhere in her opinion do the words “parental alienation” or even “alienation” appear. That’s because the issue was never raised either by the father or the mother. Out of the 23 medical, psychological, legal and child protective experts who appeared in the case, not one of them mentioned parental alienation and there were no experts in parental alienation of children who did testify.

Parental alienation occurs when Parent A attempts to brainwash a child about Parent B. Perhaps Parent A tells the child that Parent B doesn’t love him or doesn’t want to see him. Perhaps Parent A tells the child that Parent B abused Parent A, had extramarital affairs that were hurtful to Parent A, etc. The core of parental alienation is this effort to convince the child that the other parent is bad in some way and that the child should fear or hate the other parent and avoid him/her.

Put simply, that never occurred in the case cited by Stelloh and, since it didn’t, the father never raised it as an issue, no expert testified about it and the judge never mentioned it.

In short, Stelloh attempted to illustrate his article on supposedly abusive fathers who supposedly gain custody from supposedly protective mothers with an actual case in which the father wasn’t abusive and didn’t claim parental alienation. Could his Al Jazeera article be worse?

Yes, it could. That’s because, although the judge made no explicit findings on the matter, what becomes painfully clear from reading her opinion is that there was indeed an abusive parent in the case – the mother. The dispassionate reader sees that the mother sexually and emotionally abused the couple’s son and that he suffered terribly because of it. By the end of the opinion the facts strongly suggest a campaign of sexual abuse by the mother that is all but stated in so many words by the judge. And it is that very campaign that got her ousted almost totally from the child’s life. It is that very abuse that resulted in her going from primary parent to strictly supervised occasional visitor.

True, no one ever spoke the words “The mother here is the abuser,” but there is no other conclusion to draw.

Disguised as a journalist, Tim Stelloh omitted all of that from his Al Jazeera piece. It is as total a corruption of the journalistic process as I think I’ve ever seen.

But don’t take my word for it; judge for yourself. My next piece will spell out just what happened in the child custody case between “Jane Doe” and “John Roe” and their little son “Peter” who found himself caught in the web of manipulation, lies and abuse spun by a mother determined to eject his father from his life.

Thanks to Jared for the heads-up.

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