April 2014: A letter to PASG (Parental Alienation Study Group) about recent verdicts from Sweden where one parent has resisted contact for the children with the other parent without a substantiated cause, and has lost custody because of that

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Report from Lena Hellblom Sjögren, April 2014:

Some verdicts from Sweden where one parent has resisted contact for the children with the other parent without a substantiated  cause, and has lost custody because of that

 Introduction

In Sweden the concept of parental alienation is not yet accepted, not by the National Board of Medicine and Welfare, not by the Swedish Psychological Association, not by the Child and Youth Psychiatric organization, and not by the Swedish Save the Children.[1]  But there are some  family law lawyers, some judges and some social workers who through  their work have gained  insight about children suffering in high conflict separation cases where one parent  acts as if the child also has to separate from the other  parent.

The solutions found are different; mostly the alienating parent who takes control over the children gains sole custody and the children lose the other parent in their life. This is, as far as I have seen, often due to the  application of the principle of continuity, and the belief that a change would disturb what is called the child´s need of peace and quiet.

The loss of a parent, who has done no harm to the child, but due to the other parent´s implacable hostility[2]  towards that parent, causes the child constant stress. Constant stress  influences the immune system; thus causing the child not only psychological, but also  physical damages. [3]

Some Swedish verdicts will be presented, none of them speaking explicitly of parental alienation, but practically demonstrating insight about  the child´s need of close contact with both parents, and therefore giving sole custody to the parent who shares that insight.

 

Stockholms tingsrätt/District Court Stockholm, Verdict 2nd of July 2012 in case no. T 19036-10

Family: Mother, father met 2004, married 2005, got a son in summer 2006, and twin daughters in spring 2008.

Incidents: Mother moved with the children autumn 2008. Accused father of having physically abused her.  Applied for and received secret identity – and also sole custody. Father was sentenced against his denial to four months in prison (he has taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights). Mother accused father of having sexually abused the son, police and prosecutor did not believe her. Father was to have visitation rights with the children. Mother resisted, also after she had been sentenced to pay a fine that also was raised by a court decision  every time she didn´t let the children meet with their father.

Claims to the court: The mother wanted sole custody, or shared  custody and the children living with her, and no visitation rights  for the father with the children.

The father  wanted  sole custody, or shared custody and the children living with him, and visitation rights  for the mother with the children.

The verdict: Sole  custody of the children  to the father and visitation rights for the mother with the children every second weekend from Friday at 3 p.m. to Sunday 3 p.m.

Excerpts from the reasons given by the court for this verdict  (my translation):

The judgment of the child´s best interests cannot be done according to a model, but must always be made after a total judgment including all circumstances. Some circumstances are thus of a kind that they never are allowed to be forgotten. Such a condition is the child´s need of a close and good contact with both parents…

In a case like this it must be considered that there can be strong contradictions between the parts after a history of a relation filled with conflicts, and that worries from one part can be real without at the same time being justified. Therefore  more must be demanded than just a statement about the child not being well…

It shall here be stressed that the starting point in custody conflicts is that the parent who is considered the best to encourage a good contact between the child and the other parent is the one that shall be given custody. Destroying visitations must be seen as something serious and can lead to a change of custody to the other parent…

It seems obvious for this court that it is the mother´s actions that is behind the fact that no visitations have occurred and that her wish is to exclude the children from contact with their father…

The court can come to no other conclusion than that the mother has tried – and succeeded – in preventing the children´s visitation with their father…

The children´s statements of violence in summary appear as learnt. Also it ought to be noted that the mother during the five police interrogations with her in connection with her leaving the home on the 25th of September 2008 not once mentioned that the father had used violence against the children…

Seen against a background – that she is the mother of children hiding from a perpetrator who wants to hurt them – the mother is surely making a very good job. But the court has found that there is no reason to live hidden.

 

Lycksele tingsrätt/District Court Lycksele,  Verdict 12th of July 2013 in case no. T 594-12

Family: The same as in the verdict of July 2012 above.

What happened after the verdict  of July 2012 giving sole custody to the father?

The children met with their father for the first time in 4 years on the 25th of August in 2012 together with a person appointed by the social services to supervise their contact. After the visit the mother called that person and claimed that the father had abused the boy.  From the 5th of  October  2012 the mother kept the children in her home. When the father came to a  visit which had been decided by the court, the mother cancelled it. She also informed the social services, that was in charge in the community where she had moved to with the children, that she had no intentions to cooperate in planning a movement for the children to their father as decided by the court.

The social services in the community where the father lived decided on the 10th of October 2012 to take the children into forced custody, and the children were placed in a temporary foster home together with the person who had supervised the few visits the father had had. As the father agreed to the placement  the forced custody was taken away; the father moved into that home after two days, and stayed there with the children for one month. After that intermediate transition the children went home to the father´s home, where they slowly started  kindergarten and school while the father had taken free from his work.

A quote referring information from the father:

When he met the children in the temporary foster home they said that their father was dead and in heaven. “ Daddy /called by his first name/” was something else, something horrible. The boy was acting out, wild and without boundaries and decided over the sisters who were rather passive and retracted. When he first came the boy was afraid and hid himself in his cap . The fear went away after some days. The girls came and hit him and said: Mummy has said that you hit us when we were babies….

Legal facts: The mother filed complain against  the verdict from July 2012 to the higher court in the Stockholm area, but that court decided not to try the case again. After the decision of taking the children into forced custody the local court decided preliminarily  to give the mother certain visitation rights under supervision.

The mother later sued the father to have sole custody to the same local court, in the area where she had moved with the children and stayed hidden from the father for several years. If the court decided shared custody she wanted the children to stay with her, or on the third hand she demanded shared and equal residence. The father resisted all her demands but agreed to her seeing the children one weekend per month, 10 am to 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays under supervision.

The verdict: continued sole custody for the father, and visitation rights for the mother  until July 2015 under supervision with the children one weekend a month: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.

 

Gävle tingsrätt/District Court Gävle, Verdict 12th of July 2013 in case no. T 3248-11

Family: The child, a girl was born in early spring 2004. The father  had a son from an earlier relation who was 12 years old in summer 2005  when he and the mother separated. The daughter at that time was 1.5 years old.

Background: The  parents had different explanations for their separation, referred in the verdict.  According to the father the mother was jealous when he occupied himself with his son, for example played football. She asked him to choose which family he preferred, he said he could not give up his son, and wanted to be a present father also for his daughter. The mother claimed that they separated  for the same reason, as she said, their daughter is afraid of the father: the father according to the mother had abused her physically and mentally.

Sole custody was given to the mother with visitation rights for the father. The mother wanted to be present, or have her father present during visitation. It didn´t function. The mother explained that for every visitation it had become more and more obvious that the daughter was not well on these occasions and didn´t want to see her father  The mother consulted  some people in the organization “Children´s Right in Society” (BRIS= Barnens Rätt I Samhället) and got support for the  standpoint  that it is not right to force the girl to see her father . She claimed she had seen that the girl feels much better when it has been calm and no visitations. The maternal grandmother  testified that it must be the child´s decision if she wants to see her father; you cannot force a child, what a child wants you have to respect.

As the years went by, the father gave different suggestions how to reestablish contact with the  daughter to the mother, for example by inviting the daughter and her classmates when it was time for lambs; the father had 230 sheep, but it did not happen. The mother told the school staff that the father should not be allowed to the daughter´s school. The father asked the mother to have  a picture of their daughter for many years, but didn´t receive any.

The verdict: sole custody to the father .

Statements made by the court for this verdict:

The mother and her parents have given a nearly implacable black picture of the father. The maternal grandmother has told that ´she speaks about /the father´s  full name/ as little as possible´ and that she doesn´t use the word father about him…

The court sees a worrying pattern of halfhearted attempts to establish contact between daughter and father that – consciously or unconsciously – have been sabotaged. The court states that it is just as bad independently of whether it is consciously or unconsciously . Regarding what is in the best interests of  the child that is an irrelevant question…

The mother as sole custodian has a particular responsibility to establish a well founded emotional contact for the daughter with her father…

Apparently – consciously or unconsciously – the mother and her parents are not capable to realize the serious consequences for the child not to have a loving relationship with her father…

It requires an honest engagement in the sense that the father  consequently is mentioned positively as an important person for the child, to love and be loved by. The mother´s stubborn referrals to quarrels in history depict a lack of ability, or unwillingness, to separate her own opinion of the father and experiences in her relation with him, from the child´s need of both her parent.

 

Hovrätten För Nedre Norrland/Appellation Court for the south part of the north of Sweden/, Verdict the 13th of December 2013 in case no. T 929-13

Family: the same as in the verdict above from the lower court, Gävle tingsrätt. The mother had complained and her complaint had been supported by the superior court.

Verdict: The superior court confirms the verdict from the lower court (sole custody to the father).

Reasons given by this higher  court for this verdict:

The mother has as an explanation for the daughter´s reluctance to meet her father said to be that the daughter has experienced how the father has physically and mentally abused the mother. After she was 18 months old the daughter and the mother have not met the father together without another person being present. The traumatic events that should  still influence the daughter´s behavior according to this should have happened before that. According to the court  this explanation for the daughter´s behavior does not appear as plausible…

Independently of what the daughter could have expressed regarding her will to see her father the court  is of the  opinion that there is  no foundation to expect something else than that she, as most children, has a need of a close and good contact also with her father. By restraining the daughter from getting a close contact with her father without acceptable reasons,  the mother has evidently not lived up to her responsibility as a parent. Moreover there is an impending risk that the mother also in the future will act accordingly. The preconditions for the daughter to have a good relation with her father therefore appear as small if the mother is sole custodian for her…

The mother and the father live pretty close to each other something that might imply  that  changes concerning school, friends  and alike  do not have to arise. It has been made clear that the father is prepared to let the transfer take the time that is needed for the daughter and that he is willing to cooperate in the planning the social services consider appropriate to facilitate the transfer of custody…

The problems that can arise in connection with a transfer of custody are considered to be of a temporary  nature at the same time as it can be presupposed that it in a longer perspective is  in the daughter´s best interests that preconditions are created for her to have a close and good relation with both her parents.”

 

Varbergs tingsrätt/Varberg District Court, verdict the 23rd of December 2013 in case no. T 816-09

Family: Daughter born 2004, her parents separated when she was 2 years old.

Legal incidents: Father requested visitation rights in court in spring 2006 after the separation.

The court in spring 2008 gave sole custody to the mother and visitation rights every second week for the father.

In spring 2009 the father sued the mother to have shared custody when there had been no contact between the daughter and  him.

The court , after recommendation from the social services that had made references to alleged sexual abuse, decided that the mother should keep sole custody and that there should be no visitation rights for the father. After police investigations ended in autumn 2009 without any substantiation regarding  the mother´s accusations towards the father of  having  sexually abused the daughter, the court gave some visitation rights back to  the father. The mother claimed that the daughter behaved in a worrying way in connection with visitation. The mother demanded to be present or close to her daughter during visitation with the father.

The visitations stopped in spring 2010. A psychologist made an investigation; she was quoted in the verdict: Extensive research results imply that a child needs to have contact with both parents not to risk among other things his or her mental well-being or problems with drug addiction…. In this context it is important to know that the will expressed by the child can be the result of suggestive influences.

The girl was placed in an institution together with her parents as part of a social investigation, the mother interrupted her stay  there and took the daughter with her. As it was found out that there could be a risk for the mother preparing  to go abroad with the daughter, the court made a preliminary decision  about joint  custody for the parents in December 2010.

The mother moved to another city.  New investigations were made by new social workers there. A second mediator was appointed  by the court to help the daughter meet with her father. She  (a social worker) reported that she could not get the girl to come with her to see the father.

In spring 2013 the court decided to give sole custody to the father and to make the mother pay 50 000 SEK if she had not on a certain day come with the daughter to the institution for the social investigation.

The mother filed complaint to the superior court and requested inhibition. This was not accepted. The mother refused to follow the verdict. The mother took the daughter  to different doctors and there were reports about severe attacks of panic. The lower court decided to execute the verdict and ask the police to assist in taking the child from the mother.

The verdict: sole custody to the father.

The mother´s demands to have certain visitation rights were not accepted and she was condemned to pay 75 000 SEK of the father´s costs in court together with her lawyer Eva Kornhall. [4]

 

Göta Hovrätt/Appelation Court for the nothern part of the south Sweden/, verdict  on the 10th of March 2014, in case no T289-13

Family and background: Mother moved to Norway after separation in 2009.  She and the father  – they have four children (born 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000) – agreed on having the two youngest living with them in turns.  The youngest daughter moved to the mother in Norway in 2010. An escalating conflict arose since the parents could not agree on the rights for their youngest son to have regular contact (visitation) with his father in Sweden. The son born in 2000 stayed with his mother in Norway when he had celebrated Christmas there in 2012. He, or the mother, sent an sms to the father on the 4th of January: Hello dad. A /the name of the son/ wants to live with mum now and go to school there. The son was kept in Norway by his mother, he got problems in school, as he didn´t speak Norwegian. Already in Sweden he had language difficulties (dyslexia) and also health problems (asthma) .

The mother claimed that the son did not want to see his father, and accused the father of not wanting to listen to the son´s own will. She argued, according to the lower court´s verdict (October 11, 2013), that it was “mental abuse to force a 13-year- old to a school where you have been bullied and to live with someone you had not wanted to live with for years above being afraid of expressing your will”.

Legal decisions : The lower court (Skaraborgs tingsrätt,  Case no. T229-13) decided to give sole custody to the father and to force  the mother to pay 20 000 SEK, if she did not leave their son to his father  in his home the day after the verdict.

The mother appealed against this judgment , and the higher court decided to permit a new trial of the case, and until that had been done, to inhibit the lower court´s  verdict.

Thus the son kept on living with his mother  in Norway, who said in the higher court that she trusts the son to contact his father if he wants that, and that you cannot force a child to visit his father  if the child doesn´t want that.

The higher court´s verdict: Confirmation of the lower court´s verdict, that is sole custody of the son to the father, and under a penalty of 20 000 SEK to return the son to his father  – this time  – at the latest the 17th of March 2014. The mother´s rights to visitation with the son were  decided to start two months after the verdict, when the son had settled with his father and had come to some peace there.

Excerpt from this higher court´s judgment:

The investigation made demonstrates that the mother since Christmas 2012 has contributed to isolate the son from his father, although she as the residential parent has had a responsibility to act to fulfill as much as possible the son´s need of contact  with his father. This is obvious as the son in principal has had no contact at all with his father since  Christmas 2012, that the mother has entrusted to the son to decide when and on which terms visitation should take place and that the mother has given no information about the son to his father. Also the parents three oldest children have been involved in the conflict concerning the youngest son and seem in different ways to have chosen their mother´s side. The circumstances thus tell that the youngest son with his mother is in a negative surrounding in relation to his father, which is not in his best interest.

 

I apologize for not being fluent in English and hope you understand my translations and my text.  I think that you might recognize similarities with cases in your country? Anyway these verdicts make me feel hope for the future  as they demonstrate that the child´s legal and human right to family life and to keep his/her identity in these cases have been respected and not violated.

Best and warm regards from

Lena in Sweden

[1] The slander on different websites and among some  bloggers, also lay judges, in Sweden politically appointed by their local fellow party members,  is that  PAS is a non scientific theory to help pedophile fathers.  Unfortunately,  until now, this has been the most common picture given of parental alienation in Sweden. I think this is due  to the serious desinformation given by academic scholars, such as Christian Diesen  and Eva Diesen, formulated  in the second edition of their  book Abuse against women and children, Norstedts Juridik 2012, page 170:

The suspicion that mothers, usually in connection with custody disputes, accuse the ex-partner of sexual abuse of the children (for example, related to the application for visitation rights) has forwarded a quasi-scientific theory called PAS, parental alienation syndrome.  The theory, launched by the American child psychiatrist Richard Gardner (advocate for pedophilia), teaches that these mothers suffer from a mental defect that makes them alienate the children from the father at any price.  Up until now this theory has hardly been used for defense in Swedish criminal cases, but in quite a number of custody cases.  It must be regarded as an important cleaning task for the courts to not allow expert statements based on PAS, as the theory lacks scientific confirmation.”

[2] A Danish judge, Svein Andersen, who  in his book “The parents´ duties. The children´s rights”/ Foreldres pligter. Börns rettigheder” from  2004, compared family law in   England, Scotland, Australia and Canada for possible inspiration to reforms in the Nordic countries, used this term when he described what we call parental alienation. Nord 2004:2, Nordisk Ministerråd, Köpenhamn 2004. The Danish judge stated that there are two instances when it can be justified to separate a child from a parent:

  • When the child suffers physical violence and/or abuse from a parent.
  • When a parent demonstrates implacable hostility against the other parent, which implies that the child is mentally l abused by  this parent..

[3] On February 7,  2014  a big Swedish study on stress identified among 5 year old children  from about 10 000 Swedish  families was presented in the Swedish media, see Carlsson,  Emma,  Frostell  Anneli,  Ludvigsson Johnny , Fagersjö Maria:  Psychological stress in children may alter the immune response,  Journal of Immunology February 2014. See also: Segerstrom Suzanne, C., Miller, Gregory. E.: Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta analytic study of 30 years of inquiry, Psychological Bulletin 2004 130 (4):601-630

[4] The lawyer  Eva Kornhall wrote a formal letter in November 2010  to the Social Department  in the Swedish parliament and asked them to prohibit PAS. She has taken  several other actions to calumniate the concept of parental alienation in co-operation with other women who present PAS as a theory to help pedophile fathers.

A colleague to this family law  lawyer, Lena Feuk,  earlier stated when interviewed in a magazine , “Dare to see” /”Våga se”  2006:2, published by a Swedish  support center against incest, that PAS is a defense for pedophiles.

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