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Research looks at parental alienation syndrome

When parents in North Carolina go through a divorce, they could end up in a contentious custody battle as well. In some cases, a parent may allege that abuse has occurred. There are cases in which the other parent may counter this with a claim of parental alienation.

However, some experts say that there is no basis for the concept of parental alienation. It is based on the work of a child psychologist who saw a large number of child sexual abuse cases during custody battles in the 1980s and who theorized that mothers were inventing these allegations. Since then, parental alienation has become a gender-neutral accusation, but studies have found that the way those accusations are treated in court is not. One researcher who did the first-ever national study of parental alienation syndrome examined data on court cases from 2005 to 2014. The study found that mothers were less likely than fathers to win a custody case when they claimed parental alienation.

When mothers reported abuse and fathers claimed it was because of parental alienation, mothers were two times more likely to lose custody than in cases in which fathers did not. This has left some women in a situation in which they wonder whether they should report abuse since they might lose access to their children.

A parent who is concerned about a child's safety with the other parent might want to discuss the situation and how to get child custody with an attorney. It can help to have documentation to back up the claim. This might include hospital or police reports and testimony from others, including teachers, neighbors, doctors or social workers. In some cases, a court might grant supervised visitation to the other parent that could be changed on certain conditions. For example, the other parent might be required to attend parenting classes.

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