Parental alienation is scientifically discredited and legally inadmissible.

Yet, both courts and ‘experts’ still rely on it and remove children from parents.

Richard Gardner invented and promoted the theory of parental alienation in the 1980s based on his pro-pedophilic and misogynistic beliefs. Meier (2013) wrote, “Gardner’s underlying beliefs regarding human sexuality, including adult-child sexual interaction, are so extreme and unfounded that it is hard to believe that courts would have adopted his theory had they known.”

Parental alienation has never been recognized by a scientific organization. 

  • In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees announced that it did not accept parental alienation syndrome for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  
  • In 2008, the American Psychological Association issued a statement on parental alienation. “An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called “parental alienation syndrome, and raised concern about the term’s use.”

Research, Laws, & Academic Articles

The Leadership Council collected research and academic articles about parental alienation and provides an exhaustive list here.

U.S. House of Representatives House Concurrent Resolution 72 passed in Sep 2018.

California Protective Parents Association reports that HCR 72 urges “state courts to determine family violence claims and risks to children before considering other ‘best interest’ factors. The resolution also encourages states to ensure that courts rely only on admissible evidence and qualified experts, and to adopt qualification standards for third-party appointees. It affirms that Congress is prepared to use its oversight authority to protect at-risk children. H. Con. Res. 72 is a child safety resolution that will allow for states to ensure that child safety is the first priority in our courts; family violence matters are resolved before assessing best interest of the child; evidence from court and paid officials will only be accepted from those with the proper abuse and trauma training; and there will be oversight hearings to ensure family court practices are safe for children.”

American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force On Violence And The Family Report 

“Psychological evaluators who minimize the importance of violence against the mother, or pathologize her responses to it, may accuse her of alienating the children from the father and may recommend giving the father custody in spite of his history of violence. Some professionals assume that accusations of physical or sexual abuse of children that arise during divorce or custody disputes are likely to be false, but the empirical research to date shows no such increase in false reporting at that time.”

The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy (Hoult, Jennifer. Children’s Legal Rights Journal, 26 (1), June 2006)

Based on a comprehensive legal and scientific analysis, “the article concludes that science, law, and policy all support PAS’s present and future inadmissibility.”

Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations (Meier, Joan S., Sean Dickson, Chris O’Sullivan, Leora Rosen, and Jeffrey Hayes. GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-56, 2019).

“Analysis of over 2000 court opinions confirms that courts are skeptical of mothers’ claims of abuse by fathers; this skepticism is greatest when mothers claim child abuse. The findings also confirm that fathers’ cross-claims of parental alienation increase (virtually doubling) courts’ rejection of mothers’ abuse claims, and mothers’ losses of custody to the father accused of abuse. In comparing court responses when fathers accuse mothers of abuse, a significant gender difference is identified. Finally, the findings indicate that where Guardians Ad Litem or custody evaluators are appointed, unfavorable outcomes for mothers and gender differences are increased.”

Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation (Meier, Joan S. and Sean Dickson. Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, vol 35(2), 2017)

Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: A Research Review (Meier, Joan S. VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 2013)

A Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. pp 12-13, 2008)

A Word of Caution about Parental AlienationUnder relevant evidentiary standards, the court should not accept testimony regarding parental alienation syndrome, or “PAS.” The theory positing the existence of PAS has been discredited by the scientific community.”

Parental Alienation Syndrome: 30 Years On and Still Junk Science (Thomas, Rebecca M., and James T. Richardson. The Judges’ Journal, vol 54(3), American Bar Association, 2015 

“… there remains no credible scientific evidence supporting parental alienation syndrome … and there remains no test, no data, or any experiment to support claims made concerning PAS. … The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) likewise finds PAS lacking in scientific merit, advising judges that based on evidentiary standards, “the court should not accept testimony regarding parental alienation syndrome, or ‘PAS.’”