Family Court’s handling of violence under examination

A going to Canadian law teacher states New Zealanders need to challenge using “adult alienation”– and subsequent minimisation of domestic violence– in the Family Court. Teacher Elizabeth Sheehy, from the University of Ottawa, discussed her research on Canadian family court cases including domestic violence allegations and adult alienation as part of a panel at the University of Auckland today. Together with Auckland lawyer and women’s rights supporter Catriona MacLennan, Sheehy – a specialist on violence versus women – detailed how adult alienation had  become a frequently accepted “legal concept” in the previous 30 years, regardless of the absence of clinical proof backing it.


Both women talked about how allegations of domestic violence revealed in Family Court matters were frequently countered by claims of adult alienation. In those cases, it was frequently used by dads as a description for why their kids did not wish to see them, or might even be making allegations of abuse versus them, the set stated. Deborah MacKenzie of the Backbone Collective, a group promoting on behalf of locally mistreated women, was also on hand for the panel conversation. The judges see family violence as not relative or determinative of benefits of kids – in sharp contrast with claims of adult alienation. ” It is a term created by American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr Richard Gardner in the early 1980s,” MacLennan stated of adult alienation.

” Dr Gardner presumed that both moms and kids in custody cases incorrectly and maliciously implicated dads of sexual assault and violence as techniques in court procedures. ” As early as 1993, research in the United States questioned the presence of Parental Alienation Syndrome. More than 500 research studies have  now been performed into the so-called syndrome and not one of them has  had the ability to reproduce the 8 attributes declared by Gardner.

All of Gardner’s books were self-published and none was peer evaluated,” she included.

Deborah MacKenzie, Catriona MacLennan and Professor Elizabeth Sheehy. Image: Teuila Fuatai Sheehy, MacLennan and MacKenzie connected making use of adult alienation in the Family Court system to the termination and reducing of domestic violence allegations in cases. ” The typical thread that emerges from the cases is that moms’ concerns about domestic and sexual violence are dismissed as lies, or reduced, so they can be marked down,” MacLennan stated. Sheehy, who described this as “domestic violence being siphoned” from the Family Court system, described how claims of adult alienation had the tendency to be seen more seriously than those of domestic violence.

” We’ve got an outstanding Domestic Violence Act that’s never ever, ever been appropriately used.” She indicated a 2001 research study, commissioned by the Canadian Bar Association, that took a look at 5170 reported cases and 2138 court files, included interviews with 70 males and females, and surveyed 150 family legal representatives.

Scientist Linda Neilson found that “optimal gain access to” with the parent who didn’t have daily care of kids was stressed “beyond” a safe environment, quality of care, and appropriate financial backing for kids, Sheehy stated. “The judges see family violence as not relative or determinative of benefits of kids – in sharp contrast with claims of adult alienation,” Sheehy stated.

“Those are viewed as straight appropriate to kids’ benefits, and for that reason are worthy of or need resolution by the judge.” Up until the baselessness of adult alienation was comprehended and commonly accepted by those operating in the Family Court, domestic violence would not be handled effectively, she alerted.

” The more judges have included it as a legal concept, or take legal notification of it, [the simpler it is] to gain access to for litigants – they do not even need to get a specialist.” In one Canadian case Sheehy analyzed, the judge had used other judgments as precedent to “find adult alienation” in the event.

” Once that takes place, we remain in a hornets’ nest,” she stated.

MacLennan included: “We’ve got an exceptional Domestic Violence Act that’s never ever, ever been appropriately used. We do not need to change the law, we just need to apply the Domestic Violence Act appropriately and stop using situational violence and adult alienation – constructs which are totally synthetic”.