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Parental Alienation-When Children Reject Parents Whom They Love

Public Symposium, Thursday 14 September, 2017   5.30pm – 7.30pm, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

View Video Recording of Symposium

We thank the speakers for generously agreeing to make their presentations public to support an ongoing dialogue on this important topic.  Please note: there is a synchronisation issue with this video. An updated recording will be uploaded as soon as this is rectified.

Hosted by: The Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, The University of Adelaide, and Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

Guest speakers: 

  • Kerry Antoniou BLaws (Hons) Uni of Adelaide, Director and Principal Lawyer, Alpha Family Lawyers
    Stan Korosi  M.Counselling, MACA, Clin. PACFA, ARCAP Reg., Family Law Counsellor (ACA).  PhD candidate (Gold Coast University)

Overview

There is nothing more wonderful than the privilege of being a parent.  But for all its rewards, families and parenting can be tough, particularly when life stressors take their toll.  When a relationship between parents breaks down, there are inevitably consequences for the family.  Family laws are in place to protect, first and foremost, the welfare of children in the circumstances of domestic fragmentation.   Child welfare agencies often take over when the complexity of this fragmentation greys our appreciation of the impact on our children.

A situation may occur in relationship breakdowns, where children reject one of their parents as a consequence of parental conflict. However, in some cases children may reject a ‘good enough’ parent because they have been coerced by their other parent. Children who unreasonably reject a loved and loving parent are considered to have been alienated from a loving parent by the other parent.

Parental alienation was first observed in clinical settings in the 1980’s prompting a concerted effort by clinicians and practitioners to have this phenomenon recognised as a diagnosable pathology in the form of parental alienation syndrome, which remains controversial to this day, notwithstanding that diagnostic categories relevant to PA now exist. This scenario, referred to as the parental alienation (PA), can have significant adverse outcomes for both alienated children and the parents whom they reject. Research suggests that mothers and fathers experience parental alienation at approximately the same prevalence, however the way they experience alienation differs between men and women, and this is influenced by societal and cultural norms.

But parents are not the only ones who experience PA. Grandparents may also be denied access to their grandchildren. Parental alienation can be considered a form of emotional abuse of children and of rejected parents, perpetrated by a parent. It is illegal by way of specific provisions in family law in some states of Mexico and in Brazil.  “Preventing a family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family is an example of family violence set out in section 4AB(1)(i) of the Commonwealth's Family Law Act (1975) . However, the question remains as to whether social and legal responses to this presentation are adequate when children are left in the care and responsibility of parents who alienate them - a situation unlikely to occur in cases of sexual abuse.

This pubic symposium reviewed the issue of parental alienation and how current family law legislation and services are structured to protect children, as well as mums and dads (and significant others). Our guest speakers reviewed the steps that parents (and others) can take and the resources available to them. The latest research addressing this important, complex and emotive social issue was also presented by Mr Stan Korosi.

A bit about our speakers

Stan Korosi is a professional counsellor and psychotherapist who specialises in parental alienation and parent-child reunification.  He is a member of the international Parental Alienation Study Group comprising 340 mental health and legal professional members across 32 countries, He is currently undertaking research into the social definition of parental alienation. Stan’s focus is working with excluded and alienated parents to reunite them and their children and where this is not possible working with alienated parents to reconcile with themselves.  He also counsels and coaches parents through the family law legal process and in engaging with family consultants in order to obtain recommendations in favour of their children and their children’s relationship with them.

Kerry is a barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia and the High Court of Australia. She is Director and Principal Lawyer at Alpha Family Lawyers in Adelaide and Associate Teacher in the Law School at the University of Adelaide where she has been teaching family law since 2002. Kerry has been actively involved as a member of the Advisory Panel of the World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights Inc. between 2003 and 2005.  She was also a member of the Family Law Committee of the Law Society of South Australia between 2008 and 2012. Kerry is also a member of the Australian Family Law Council and the Women’s Lawyers Association of SA Inc.

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