It is no secret that in family law there are those individuals who are willing to stop at almost nothing to cause harm and wreak vengeance upon a spouse who dares to oppose them. Most of these individuals suffer from terrible personality disorders and these individuals are encouraged by the manner in which our adversarial system is constructed and thus the manner in which the courts and therapists enable their behavior. Since the original purpose of all court proceedings was to determine who is to blame, and the power of the state can be used to both identify and punish that person, nothing suits such persons better than the court system.  Here is an excerpt from the following site:

“Cognitive Distortions And Litigation

Few legal professionals understand the attraction of those with personality disorders or traits to the legal process. Yet a comparison of characteristics shows a perfect fit, which may explain why they increasingly show up in court as High Conflict Personalities.

Characteristics of HCPs Characteristics of Court Process
Lifetime Preoccupation: Blaming others Purpose: Deciding who is to blame, who’s guilty
Avoid taking responsibility Court will hold someone else responsible
All-or-nothing thinking Guilty or not guilty are usually the choices
Seek attention and sympathy One can be center of much attention
Aggressively seek allies Gather and bring many advocates to court
Speak in dramatic and emotional extremes Argue or testify in dramatic and emotional extremes
Focus intensely on other’s past behaviors Hear or give testimony on other’s past behaviors
Punish those guilty of “harming” you Court is the most powerful place to impose punishment in our society
Try to get others to solve your problems Many professionals will work hard to solve your problems
It’s okay to lie if you feel desperate In reality, the court rarely acknowledges or punishes lying (perjury)


The most vulnerable parties in all of these proceedings are, of course, the children. And it comes as no surprise to anyone that children can be used as a weapon against another parent. This dynamic is from which stems the concept of “parental alienation” which historically has been called “poisoning the children against (x)”.

Children do not wish to take sides, any more than you would wish to part with either your left arm or right arm. A person who forces a child to make such a choice probably causes permanent damage to the ability of that child to form normal relationships in the future. Alienation, to be sure, probably does more to create future generations of family law litigants than anything else.

Unfortunately for us, California’s family courts rarely protect children against alienators. Alienators can rely upon courts to provide delay after delay until it is far too late for anything to be done about it, and therapists will offer their services at high prices and attempt to “reunify” alienated children with their parent, well aware that the child goes home with the alienator where the indoctrination can go on unabated.

Simply put, there is really no alternative to removing children from the custody of the alienating parent but there is also very little chance the courts will do such a thing. I know this is not good news for parents out there who are victims of alienation, but I see no alternative to placing pressure on the courts to view such matters in a different light.   Until the family courts begin to challenge the credibility of alienators, remove the children from the custody of alienators, and use the police to enforce child custody orders, no matter how old the children are, the alienators are really in control of the courts.


Some examples of behavior which indicates parental alienation are:

• A relentless hatred for the targeted parent;
• Parroting the alienating parent;
• Refusing to visit or spend any time with the targeted parent;
• Having many beliefs enmeshed with those of the alienating parent;
• Holding delusional or irrational beliefs;
• Not being intimidated by the court’s authority;
• Reasons for not wanting to have a relationship with the targeted parent based only on what the alienating parent tells the child;
• Difficulty distinguishing between personal memories and what he or she is told;
*330 • No ambivalence in a child’s feelings; feeling only hatred without the ability to see any good in the targeted parent;
• No capacity to feel guilty about behavior towards the targeted parent or to forgive any past indiscretions;
• Sharing the alienating parent’s cause to destroy the relationship;
• Hatred extending to the targeted parent’s extended family without any guilt or remorse.
Children displaying these tendencies may well by the subjects of parental alienation by one parent. If this is the case, attorneys and judges need to know how to help stop it, as well as deter and prevent further alienation.
List is from 75 N.D. L. Rev. 323

North Dakota Law Review
Douglas Darnall
Copyright (c) 1999 North Dakota Law Review; Douglas Darnall