Parental alienation: More than a half million New Jerseyans are affected by it
Parental alienation is both the psychological and emotional abuse that one parent covertly strategizes to diminish or even, erase the relationship between the other parent and child.
It has become a huge issue in New Jersey, said Julie Grayson, Director of Education and Public Policy at Family Advocate Network Political Action Committee (FAN PAC).
FAN PAC is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of New Jersey voters that advance legislative policies to advocate for children to have equal access to fit parents without government interference. Efforts have been made to raise awareness to create meaningful changes within the family court system by supporting divorced and separated families so all children can love and be loved by both parents.
Grayson said in New Jersey, there are about a half-million people, maybe even more, affected by parental alienation. In these cases, one parent gets to be the parent while the other either becomes a visiting parent or worse, erased from their child's life.
She said the people who do this have more than just anger issues. Many have been undiagnosed with multiple personality disorders or narcissism, so they are hard-wired to be able to engage in a long list of strategies to create a negative image of the other parent, or a completely erased, loving parent from a child.
Early intervention is key. Grayson said if a child is over the house for a playdate and only talks about one parent and not the other or if you constantly see only one parent showing up to events, this shows something is going on in the family dynamic.
Then if you look closely you'll notice manifestations coming out in the child. The child may not talk about one parent, or not provide information to a parent as far as what they're doing, and where they're going as they get older. She said it then becomes pretty obvious there's a problem, one that is both prevalent and severe in New Jersey.
New Jersey has started to recognize this broken bond between parent and child, and the lack of one parent having access to another child. But each judge has their own discretion on how to handle a particular case like this.
"So, you can be in one courthouse with 10 judges and you could go from courtroom to courtroom and you'll have 10 different rulings on a very similar or the same fact pattern and that's disturbing," Grayson said.
Judges are told through a 3-J judicial conference that they should start at a default of 50/50 parenting. But Grayson said many do not implement that. But if they do, and a parent violates that order of enforcement, very rarely are any sanctions brought against the other parent.
New Jersey is still at the stages where they recognize something is going on but nothing is being done about it, she said.
That's why FAN-PAC was at the Statehouse Monday and placed heart-shaped plaques with personal messages dedicated to children and family members to commemorate the loss of a child-parent relationship bond due to separation or divorce.
FAN-PAC has also advocated preventing the "emotional kidnapping of children," as Grayson put it.
"Our platform is that every child, as they go through all their developmental stages in life, needs to be able to have access to the love, nurturing, and experiences of the other parent that is being erased from their lives," Grayson said.
She added that this "parental alienation" can lead to depression, long-term inability to form healthy adult relationships as kids get older, addiction, and suicide. They provide, within the community, the resources for these people to get the necessary help that they need.
More information can be found at www.FANPACNJ.org.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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