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When a child is resistant to seeing a parent, the reasons can be reduced to two basic phenomena: alienation or estrangement. Alienation refers to a child’s resistance or refusal to see a once loved parent, typically within the context of divorce or post divorce. In the case of “Estrangement” it is that parent’s own actions that have caused the child to not want to be with that parent.

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“Could you become a high-conflict person’s (HCP’s) Target of Blame? If you’re not watchful and careful, yes. HCPs generally pick on people they are close to or people in authority positions. These close personal or supervisory relationships usually involve the types of people we’re inclined to invite into our lives, often without knowing much about them.

Avoiding and deflecting high-conflict behavior is like avoiding illness. You can protect yourself from becoming someone’s Target of Blame by vaccinating yourself with knowledge of the personality patterns of high-conflict people. I call this personality awareness.


In fact, with personality awareness you will be more confident in dealing with people, because you will know how to recognize the warning signs of dangerous personality patterns before they do you much harm.”

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Parental Alienation: What Can an Alienated Parent Do? Credit:   Susan Heitler Ph.D.

Resolution, Not Conflict

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” Is your partner emotionally explosive, regularly picking fights, and blaming others for all their troubles? Bill Eddy sheds light on how to manage conflict and communication with a high conflict person.”

https://www.modernseparations.com/podcast/04 

Christina: What type of preparation do you recommend?

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I have included below most of the text of the amended Illinois SB 4113, which seeks to establish a rebuttable presumption that an award of equal parenting time to each parent is in the best interests of the minor child(ren) in a divorce case.

For many years, my firm has represented Fathers in complex child custody cases, and in many cases  my Dad clients were rightfully awarded the primary custody of their children.  I have fought vigorously to level the playing field for my Dad clients through the years, some who faced false allegations, false OPs and other challenges in their divorce cases. These cases can be battles, but with the right strategy and management, the right decisions can be reached in these cases. Equally so, I have fought for women, in their own custody cases, some facing false allegations of parental alienation from a narcissistic husband.  My goal has always been to develop strategies for both my male and female clients to combat parental alienation, false allegations, and to create outcomes that serve both my clients and the true best interests of the children.

So with SB 4113, the question becomes whether this legislation will, in and of itself, create that level playing field for parents?  I note that many of the more vocal Bar associations have opposed this bill, and I can say that some judges with whom I have discussed this do not favor the bill. But, the idea of such a bill has a lot of favor, especially with men and women who, for too long, have been impacted by a legal system that oftentimes does not serve the best interests of children fully.  Will SB 4113 create that foundation so that the court is required to factor in a presumptive 50/50 allocation of time to both parents?  I am hopeful that SB 4113 perhaps undergoes some revisions that might make its passage more palatable.  I note that a 50/50 presumption is a satisfying idea, but that in many cases, many judges and clinicians do not believe that a 50/50 time allocation is appropriate in most circumstances and with most families.  An equalization of time is beneficial where the parents live proximate to each other, where the parents both share positive parenting traits, work schedules can accommodate 50/50 time, the age and circumstances of the kids favor shared time, and myriad other factors that can benefit a true shared parenting environment.  I believe that a shared parenting bill could be written that might be more dense, more detailed and more fleshed out that might give a solid and detail-rich shared parenting bill a real likelihood of passage.

I believe in and support shared parenting, in those cases where it is the right thing to do for both parents and kids.  In cases where there is negative parenting, parental alienation, and/or domestic violence or psychopathology, I also believe in rooting out these pathologies and restricting parents that harm kids and the other parent.

SB 4113 now moves on to the full house for consideration, and it will be interesting to see whether it reaches the desk of the Governor for signature in its present form.

AMENDMENT TO HOUSE BILL 4113
2     AMENDMENT NO. ______. Amend House Bill 4113 by replacing
3 line 18 on page 7 through line 11 on page 11 with the
4 following:
5     "(750 ILCS 5/602.7)
6     Sec. 602.7. Allocation of parental responsibilities:
7 parenting time.
8     (a) Allocation of parenting time. Best interests. The court
9 shall allocate parenting time according to the child's best
10 interests. Unless the parents present a mutually agreed written
11 parenting plan and that plan is approved by the court, the
12 court shall allocate parenting time. There is a rebuttable
13 presumption that it is in the child's best interests to award
14 equal time to each parent. In determining the child's best
15 interests for purposes of allocating parenting time, the court
16 shall consider all relevant factors, including, without
17 limitation, the following:
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 2 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1         (1) the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
2         (2) the wishes of the child, taking into account the
3     child's maturity and ability to express reasoned and
4     independent preferences as to parenting time;
5         (3) the amount of time each parent spent performing
6     caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24
7     months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation
8     of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2
9     years of age, since the child's birth;
10         (4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between
11     the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect
12     to the child;
13         (5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child
14     with his or her parents and siblings and with any other
15     person who may significantly affect the child's best
16     interests;
17         (6) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school,
18     and community;
19         (7) the mental and physical health of all individuals
20     involved;
21         (8) the child's needs;
22         (9) the distance between the parents' residences, the
23     cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each
24     parent's and the child's daily schedules, and the ability
25     of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
26         (10) whether a restriction on parenting time is
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 3 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1     appropriate;
2         (11) the physical violence or threat of physical
3     violence by the child's parent directed against the child
4     or other member of the child's household;
5         (12) the willingness and ability of each parent to
6     place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
7         (13) the willingness and ability of each parent to
8     facilitate and encourage a close and continuing
9     relationship between the other parent and the child;
10         (14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other
11     member of the child's household;
12         (15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex
13     offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so,
14     the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment
15     the offender has successfully participated in; the parties
16     are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this
17     paragraph (15);
18         (16) the terms of a parent's military family-care plan
19     that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent
20     is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being
21     deployed; and
22         (17) any other factor that the court expressly finds to
23     be relevant.
24     If the court deviates from the presumption contained in
25 this subsection, the court shall issue a written decision
26 stating its specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 4 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1 support of the deviation from the presumption.
2     (b) Restrictions Allocation of parenting time. Unless the
3 parents present a mutually agreed written parenting plan and
4 that plan is approved by the court, the court shall allocate
5 parenting time. It is presumed both parents are fit and the
6 court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time as
7 defined in Section 600 and described in Section 603.10, unless
8 it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent's
9 exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child's
10 physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. If the court
11 deviates from the presumption contained in this subsection, the
12 court shall issue a written decision stating its specific
13 findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of the
14 deviation from the presumption
15     In determining the child's best interests for purposes of
16 allocating parenting time, the court shall consider all
17 relevant factors, including, without limitation, the
18 following:
19         (1) the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
20         (2) the wishes of the child, taking into account the
21     child's maturity and ability to express reasoned and
22     independent preferences as to parenting time;
23         (3) the amount of time each parent spent performing
24     caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24
25     months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation
26     of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 5 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1     years of age, since the child's birth;
2         (4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between
3     the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect
4     to the child;
5         (5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child
6     with his or her parents and siblings and with any other
7     person who may significantly affect the child's best
8     interests;
9         (6) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school,
10     and community;
11         (7) the mental and physical health of all individuals
12     involved;
13         (8) the child's needs;
14         (9) the distance between the parents' residences, the
15     cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each
16     parent's and the child's daily schedules, and the ability
17     of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
18         (10) whether a restriction on parenting time is
19     appropriate;
20         (11) the physical violence or threat of physical
21     violence by the child's parent directed against the child
22     or other member of the child's household;
23         (12) the willingness and ability of each parent to
24     place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
25         (13) the willingness and ability of each parent to
26     facilitate and encourage a close and continuing
 

 

10000HB4113ham002 – 6 – LRB100 14598 HEP 38212 a
1     relationship between the other parent and the child;
2         (14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other
3     member of the child's household;
4         (15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex
5     offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so,
6     the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment
7     the offender has successfully participated in; the parties
8     are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this
9     paragraph (15);
10         (16) the terms of a parent's military family-care plan
11     that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent
12     is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being
13     deployed; and
14         (17) any other factor that the court expressly finds to
15     be relevant.
16     (c) In allocating parenting time, the court shall not
17 consider conduct of a parent that does not affect that parent's
18 relationship to the child.
19     
14 on page 16, by replacing lines 19 and 20 with the following:
15     "(a) After a hearing, if the court finds by a preponderance
16 of the evidence that a parent"; and
17 on page 18, lines 8 and 9, by changing "clear and convincing a
18 preponderance of the" to "a preponderance of the".
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An article published in one of the leading bar journals discussed the use of social media postings as evidence in court cases. The article happened to concern a criminal case, where a Facebook posting allegedly made by a defendant using his mother’s Facebook page had statements from the defendant admitting to the time, place and means of the crime. Certainly Facebook and other social media are much more often employed these days in divorce and child custody cases, where parents try to assemble negative information and evidence concerning their spouse’s behaviors, infidelity, or use the social media platforms to stalk or otherwise gather information about their former partners and their habits and behaviors.


Whenever evidence is to be used in a court hearing, the evidence must meet certain tests for reliability.  One does not have to be a forensic IT expert to know that a fraudulent Facebook page or identity can be created, or that a post can be posted by someone claiming to be another person.  Because of the nature of this possible lack of trustworthiness, courts have struggled to define the foundations that must be laid in order to admit social media evidence.

Social media evidence has garnered the most distrust. As one court explained, “[t]he concern arises because anyone can create a fictitious account and masquerade under another person’s name or can gain access to another’s account by obtaining the user’s username and password.” Another concern is that regardless of whether the information is genuine or fabricated, it is “available by performing a Google search… forever,” giving the impression that it is accurate and true. Griffin v. State, 19 A.3d 415, 421-22 (Md.)  Generally, a witness authenticating electronic evidence must “provide factual specificity about the process by which the electronically stored information is created, acquired, maintained, and preserved without alteration or change, or the process by which it is produced if the result of a system or process that does so.” As pointed out by Griffin, the “most obvious method [of authentication] would be to ask the purported creator if he/she indeed created the profile and also if she added the posting in question.” Id.

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The Illinois legislature is considering now a Shared Parenting bill that would create a legal presumption that shared child custody and parenting would be the “presumed” status for divorcing parents, absent a showing that such shared parenting is not appropriate.  I have had a chance to discuss this bill with some of the judges with whom I appear before (it’s not unusual for experienced lawyers and judges to talk about important issues in private settings, without discussing specific cases).  I’d say that the majority do not support presumptive shared parenting, insofar as the limitations created by such a bill would be problematic in ways that are discussed in the article, below.

The other side of the coin with this issue is that, in my experience, without  “push” from the legislature, many judges still consider some parents as “visitors” in their children’s lives and resort to recommending parenting schedules that are anachronistic, and akin to the “standard order” visitation schedules that were common in the last century in many Illinois counties.

In my practice, my approach and view is that every family system is different, and there is no “one size fits all” approach that works for a parenting plan after divorce.  Many myriad factors need to be evaluated and considered, with the aim of providing the children with the best possible developmental outcome from the divorce of their parents.  For good and loving parents, the children should have substantial contact with both parents; the clinical research supports this idea.  For parents with deficits, or histories of personality disorders, substance abuse, or violence, or traits as parental alienators… the standard is very different, and the parenting plan needs to address these problematic issues, too.

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I stumbled upon this article this week and thought it helpful to all that are dealing with the isolation that being in a relationship with a toxic narcissist causes. So much of the narcissist “gamebook” has to do with control. Many narcisisist feel a strong and toxic need to control those in their families.  Even in divorce proceedings, the need for control is paramount, including control over the children or the finances.  If you are in a divorce posture and need good advice about mananging these toxic personalities in a divorce or child custody case, these kinds of issues are what my Firm has focused on for decades.  Here are some examples from this article from MindBodyGreen: ” He or she isolates you from your longtime friends and family.
A sophisticated narcissist doesn’t explicitly forbid you to spend time with the people who are important to you. Instead, they might charm these people, and says things like, “She’s cool; I like her.” But later on, they might say something like “She’s really shallow—I’m not sure she’s good for you.”
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One of the pleasures of my practice in managing only Family Law cases (primarily divorce and child custody cases, and post decree problems with financial and child related issues such a modifications to custody or support orders) is the opportunity to meet with some really fine, caring, and interesting people, and help them navigate through their family issues, develop strategies that work, and to offer some effective approaches to their complex issues, based on years of my experience in this work managing complex divorce and post-decree cases successfully.

What are some good questions to ask during an initial consultation?  My approach is to take time in these first meetings, to listen carefully, and to provide solid recommendations that are both effective and potentially game-changing, along with cost effective approaches so that my clients are not affected by high legal costs. Being highly effective, and cost-effective, is a longstanding hallmark of my approach.

What are good questions for a client to ask during an initial consultation with a lawyer? : 

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I came across this podcast that features Megan Hunter, and offers some useful information about Personality Disorders and Divorce.  A significant of my practice involves divorces and child custody issues that feature traits of personality disorders that affect the custody and wellbeing of children. Megan distinguishes between a situational aspect of divorce, where parents under high stress exhibit negative behaviors, and that of divorces that involve Personality Divorces, False Allegations, and potentially toxic levels of Parental Alienation.

Megan is an executive with my colleague Bill Eddy’s High Conflict Institute. Bill Eddy is the author of Splitting and I was privileged to work with Bill and Randi Kreger on the 1st Edition of Splitting, having offered the name of the book to Bill (it was a natural thought…splitting indicating a synonym for a divorce, and the psychological phenomenon that some PDs have), providing some limited content, and writing the foreword for the 1st Edition.


Megan Hunter is the CEO of Unhooked Media – a company focused on relationship and conflict resolution through print, digital, and the spoken word. She is the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Personality Disorder Awareness Network.

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