Parental alienation: A call to change parenting culture — and law

parental alienation

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On this Like a Mother episode I interview film maker Ginger Gentile, whose latest project is called Erasing Family, a documentary about parental alienation, focused on the now-adult children who grew up without knowing a parent, siblings, or extended family thanks to the wishes of another parent, and a court system historically designed to promote conflict between separated families.

Parental alienation affects millions of families, with one third of children whose parents divorce or separate losing all contact with one parent. But parental alienation goes beyond missing out on a relationship with one parent. Parental alienation means lost relationships with siblings, extended family and friends. The reasons for this human rights travesty are complex, and unfair court systems, unstable, angry parents can be blamed.

But to stem parental alienation requires a drastic paradigm shift in this country, one that stops celebrating mothers as the default better parent, a stopping of upholding stay-at-home mothers as superior to working mothers, and gets away from outdated and sexist assumptions that in times of separation, it is best for kids to have one primary home (with the mom), and occasional visit the other parent (the dad, who pays the mom). On all fronts, science has time and again obliterated these notions:


Children benefit from bonding with fathers just as much as mothers. 

Stay at home mothers are bad for kids, moms, marriage, the pay gap and economy. 

Working moms are good for mothers’ physical and mental wellbeing, marriage, and children.

Non-custodial parents, who are relegated to “visits” with their children by courts, in 40 percent of cases lose contact with their kids.

Father absence is associated with a long list of emotional and psychological affects on children.

Shared parenting, in which children spend at least 40 percent of the time with each parent, is ideal, according to 50 peer reviewed research papers. 

Whether you like it or not, shared parenting, which receives a 70 percent public popularity rating, split equally among men and women, conservatives and progressives, democrats and republics, is quickly being adopted by courts.

Since 2012, South Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Missouri and Kentucky have passed shared-parenting laws, that start custody negotiations with the presumption of equal time, and this year, 25 are considering bills that would do the same. 

In other words: The world is changing, and if you’re not on board with shared parenting, and recognizing the systematic atrocity that is parental alienation, time to get over it. Because faced with it in your own life, you are likely to lose in the face of a court, and if not, but judging society.

Ginger Gentile produced and directed Erasing Dad, a similar project in Argentina, and herself is the victim of parental alienation at the hands of her parents’ divorce.

You can learn more about Erasing Family here, and support this important projecT

I connected with Ginger through our mutual colleague Terry Brennan, the advocate from Leading Women for Shared Parenting, for whom you can thank for all that incredible legislation taking place around the country.

If you are in New York City, on Wednesday, June 7, I am speaking at Erasing Family’s fundraiser event, where you can learn more about the issue and meet Ginger (and me!):




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3 thoughts on “Parental alienation: A call to change parenting culture — and law

  1. This article and podcast was the slap of reality I needed! It made me realize how I was putting my dislike for my kids’ dads ahead of the importance of them having relationships and quality time with their fathers. I no longer make it about my emotions but the needs of my kids. Thanks Emma!

  2. Usually you do your research, but this guest got one by you big time. You said “Restraining orders and domestic violence charges spike around the time of marital separation.” And your tone was incredulous as you repeated that statement. Then instead of properly unpacking that statistic, the discussion that immediately followed suddenly went into tangents about cases in Argentina, and the filmmaker’s personal belief that faking abuse claims are rampant in order to get more money, and “people making silly accusations” — and missed the real point. It seemed your guest had very little understanding of actual abuse dynamics, and you didn’t check her on that. Your guest was too into the fakers vs the real victims if abuse and it was a false dichotomy that glossed over the many degrees and forms of abuse. The reality is family court does not care about any type of emotional or financial abuse, but only sometimes cares about provable physical abuse, and even then the abuser still gets joint custody more often than not.

    In a great many cases, physical abuse starts once the conflict is out in the open and a separation is declared. People are at greatest risk of harm when leaving relationships– that’s such a well documented fact of abuse that it’s not even a debatable point.

    Please do some research into separation violence.

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