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I just read a very interesting article from Slate magazine about whether Parental Alienation Syndrome should be added as a mental disorder to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). As more fully expanded on in the Slate article, Parental Alienation Syndrome is a controversial issue and whether it should be given the rank of mental disease along with bi-polor disorder, clinical depression, schizophrenia, and the like, is a VERY controversial issue. This article includes the position of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (based here in Reno) that the so-called syndrome has been disproven by science and testimony of such a syndrome should be stricken by the presiding Judge.

The article also touches on the issue that in most instances, parental alienation is linked to moms rather than dads and the behavior of some moms in some custody cases. It has also evidently taken on a new life with the assistance of father’s rights groups.

Certainly I have neither the scientific background nor training to comment on the appropriateness of inclusion of the “syndrome” in the DSM. I will say that in my experience as a Nevada family lawyer, divorce and custody battles are extremely hard on everyone involved. Moms, dads and kids. I have the occasional case where a parent appears to be actively trying to alienate the children from the other parent. However, in most cases, parents are just trying to get through a horribly difficult, emotional process and sometimes make mistakes along the way. Sometimes it’s my client, sometimes it’s the client on the other side of a case. I think every case is unique and as lawyers, we should be circumspect about the impact we have on families, including labeling certain actions or behaviors as “parental alienation syndrome” when it might just be a parent trying to adjust to new circumstances and situations.

However, in those cases where a parent is clearly trying to align the children against the other parent, Nevada’s public policy is “To ensure that minor children have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with both parents after the parents have become separated or have dissolved their marriage; and To encourage such parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing.” In such a case, I think it is appropriate to bring in evidence of behaviors of a parent which are impacting the children and the relationship between the other parent and child.

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