March 15, 2019 will mark four years since the formation of PLAN. In the last four years, we’ve helped parents and grandparents find the resources they need to face the challenges before them. Even though our first goal was to advocate for Civil Gideon rights for parents in family court, we soon became aware of the growing problem of parental alienation—the purposeful erasing of the targeted parent and their extended family from a child’s life in order to exact revenge or assert control. The resulting mental health crisis is evident.
Children who are alienated from the targeted parent by a vengeful custodial parent grow up and struggle with a variety of mental health issues, including not being able to form healthy relationships, drug use, pornography, unable to sustain employment, and unresolved anger. Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS, is the lay term for the mental suffering caused by the controlling parent. When PLAN learned how serious the crisis is, we took a stand. In December of 2015, just months after we formed, we sent a letter supporting a Michigan family court judge who had enough of a parent’s bullying and purposeful alienation of the targeted parent. Her sound decision ordering the alienated children to have lunch with their father sparked outcry from pro-female parent groups claiming the judge was abusive. PLAN and many other parent’s rights groups sided with the judge. Below is our letter to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission:
December 17, 2015
Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission
3034 West Grand Blvd., Suite 8-450
Detroit, MI 48202
RE: Jugde Lisa Gorcyca
Dear Commission Members,
Once again, social media has served up an unfounded attack on a member of the judiciary based on nothing but the shrill emotions of uninformed lay people. On behalf of the Executive Board of the Parent League and Advocacy Network, U.A (“PLAN”), I urge you to ignore the made-for-TV hysteria of a few special interest groups and find that Jugde Lisa Gorcyca acted properly when she recognized that the Tsimhoni children were victims of malicious brainwashing by their mother and ordered them to communicate with their father, something their mother desperately tried to prevent, not because of abuse or poor parenting, but because she purposely tried to alienate the father in order to punish him after the relationship ended. This situation, where one parent manipulates and controls children in order to exact revenge on the targeted parent and that parent’s extended family, is rampant in the United States, estranging whole families because one parent is allowed to degrade and alienate the other.
The Court of Appeals of Michigan has recognized the emotional harm that results when children are alienated from one side of their family by a parent bent on punishing the targeted parent or their family. In Keenan v. Dawson, the father of a young boy refused to let the maternal grandparents visit the child after the mother’s death. The father was suspected, and eventually convicted, for killing the mother. Not only did the father punish the mother by killing her, he continued with his hateful alienation of her family by refusing to let the maternal grandparents communicate with the boy. In finding that denying him access to his maternal grandparents would adversely impact the child’s mental and emotional health, the Court held that it is vital for a child to know about a parent’s medical history, lifestyle choices, and other behaviors that make each individual unique. 739 N.W.2d 681 (Mich. Ct. App. 2007).
Clearly, the Court of Appeals recognizes that children are impacted in a deeply negative way when the targeted parent and that parent’s side of the family are maliciously alienated by the other parent. Judge Gorcyca recognized that the Tsimhoni children had already suffered emotional and mental harm as a result of their mother’s revenge-based alienation of their father and acted to prevent further harm to the children. Even though she did not actually kill their father, the mother set out to remove him and his family from the lives of the children. After hearing the disturbing facts of the case, Judge Gorcyca did what a competent judge does. She made the right decision in the face of uniformed pressure from the public, whipped up by agenda-driven ideologues. That she is now facing punishment for her sound legal reasoning and commitment to the judicial process because of the chattering class on social media is troubling.
In recognizing the disturbing level of manipulation employed by the mother, Judge Corcyca was absolutely correct in comparing the children’s’ level of brainwashing to that of the Manson Family cult, because as reputable legal and mental health professionals have demonstrated, the parent who is doing the alienating is using the same mind-control techniques used in cults of every sort. Many psychologists have likened the effect of such mind control on children to the Stockholm Syndrome, a well-known disorder in which hostages eventually come to identify with their abductors.¹
Other psychologists have studied the effects of parental alienation on children, and have discovered that in addition to identifying with the controlling parent, children who are being alienated from the other parent believe that the only way for the controlling parent to love the child is for that child to hate the targeted parent.² This has documented long-term effects on the child as they mature to adulthood.
As much as it saddens reasonable people, young people are routinely placed in handcuffs for breaking the law. Children cannot choose which laws they will follow and which laws they will not. Nor can children refuse to see one parent or that parent’s side of the family when the parents are married or living together as a family, absent proven abuse. If this were the case, no child would ever have to visit an elderly or disabled relative. They could simply invoke their right to refuse to see certain family members at will. However, no such right exists. Judge Corcyca demonstrated remarkable judicial fortitude when she refused to let the mother of the Tsimhoni children manipulate the Court in the same manner she had manipulated the children. In finding that the Tsimhoni children could not make the decision to cut their father and his side of the family from their life, Judge Corcyca upheld the sound legal principles which recognize that children cannot consent to adult agreements or refuse to follow the law.
The Commission should not bow to pressure from hysterical social media outlets and uninformed lay people. Judge Corcyca demonstrated that she understands how the subtle manipulation used by the Tsimhoni children’s’ mother was damaging the children and their father. We are asking the Commission not to rush to judgment, but consider the emerging science that supports the growing number of mental health professionals who point to Parental Alienation Syndrome as a real and dangerous effect of the purposeful alienation of one parent and that parent’s family.
On behalf of the Executive Board of PLANTM, I thank you for allowing us to express our concerns on this serious issue.
Jerri L. Cook, juris doctor
PLAN Executive Director
Cc: The Honorable Lisa Gorcyca
¹ Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D, The comparison of parental alienation to the “Stockholm syndrome,” Southern England Psychological Services 2006, http://www.parental-alienation.info/publications/46-thecomofparalitothestosyn.htm (accessed December 17, 2015)
² Edward Kruk Ph.D. , The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children, Undermining Loving Parent-Child Relationships as Child Maltreatment, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201304/the-impact-parental-alienation-children (Posted Apr 25, 2013).