The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


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Do Parents Force Children to Choose Between Mom and Dad?

Posted on in Child Custody

PAS, parental alienation, DuPage County child custody attorneyA Michigan judge made headlines earlier this summer when she ordered three children – ages 14, 10, and 9 – to spend time in a juvenile correctional facility when they refused to have lunch with their father. Such an extreme case of parental alienation syndrome is quite rare, but PAS is common in most DuPage County child custody disputes, to one degree or another.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca issued the order in a six-year-old divorce case between a General Motors engineer father and a pediatric eye doctor mother. Much of the rancor in the case stems from an August 2010 incident at a West Bloomfield park; the township is an upscale Detroit suburb. Apparently, the mother locked two of the children in a car to “protect” them against their father; a third child climbed to the top of a piece of playground equipment to escape his father who, according to the child, threatened to kill him if he did not come down.

Police investigated the incident but made no arrests; however, the father later admitted that he forcibly removed the child from the playground equipment to put him in a “time out.” At the same time, although she denied wrongdoing, the mother agreed to volunteer at an animal shelter as punishment for violating a court order.

A representative from Mandy’s Place, the juvenile correctional facility involved in the case, said that the children were making “slow, but hopefully steady progress” towards accepting their father back into their lives; according to Judge Gorcyca, the father has “moved mountains to be a part of these children’s lives.”

Parental Alienation Syndrome

PAS is a controversial disorder that was once classified as “maternal brainwashing” or some other pejorative term. Some consider PAS to be a complete fiction, although it is recognized by many family therapists and other professionals. It often takes one of two forms in a divorce case:

  • Overt: A parent may say something like “Daddy doesn’t love you” or “Mommy abandoned you.” In other cases, a parent uses excuses to prevent or restrict contact, such as “I have to pick up Susie early because she has choir practice” or “Stevie cannot visit you this weekend because he has a soccer tournament.”
  • Indirect: Some caregivers bribe children with things like their own bedrooms or later curfews to alienate them from the other caregiver.

While overt PAS is typically a violation of a court order, indirect PAS is more appropriately handed by qualified family therapists. In either case, it is important to intervene early, before emotional damage becomes permanent.

For a confidential consultation in this area, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today. At the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C., we understand the challenges facing divorced or separated parents and we can help find a solution that works both you and your child.


The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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