Parental Alienation. Two words that will strike terror into the heart of a parent going through a child custody battle. It’s a concept that dates back to probably the second generation of humanity. The true meaning of parental alienation is where one parent tries to sever the relationship between a child and the other parent. It happens with mothers and fathers, straight couples and gay couples. Rich people and poor people. Highly religious families and completely atheistic ones.
It ALWAYS damages the children, and for those of us who are most active in the Family Law industry, it’s considered child abuse. The long term effects of destroying the relationship between a child and a parent are a laundry list of societal ills, and personal traumas.
I’ve represented mothers and fathers who are the targeted parent, the alienated one, and frequently the mental anguish they go through literally drives them to thoughts of suicide. I still have in my filing cabinets the DVDs of an alienated parent who was so close to killing themselves that they sent me DVDs for their children to watch when they came of age.
As a legal theory, it is not allowed in court. We can only speak about the effects, we can never use the term ‘parental alienation’ because certain lobbying groups are very powerful in the courts and psychiatric world. But make no mistake, it exists, and judges know it.
I have a website dedicated to the topic, www.parentalienationsucks.com where I post information about the subject. I’ve done YouTube videos about it, and blogged on my www.mensfamilylaw.com website about how to handle it. Which is why I am considered a resource for people to reach out to, and how I met my friend Ginger Gentile, who is an activist filmmaker. She has a movie premiering on Vimeo this week as part of Parental Alienation Awareness day. Her groundbreaking documentary Erasing Family premiered in the middle of a sold-out screening tour just as the Coronavirus pandemic began in the U.S. Based on the immense success of its tour, Gentile will be premiering the film online on Saturday April 25th to coincide with Parental Alienation Awareness Day.
“We were in the middle of a sold-out community screening tour with over 25 cities when the Coronavirus pandemic shut us all inside. Many are isolated from loved ones, missing holidays and not being able to visit in a hospital, a reality too familiar to families erased by the divorce courts,” said Gentile.
“The film has one of the largest organic audiences, as half of all families go through divorce and over 25 million parents in North America report being erased from their children,” said Gentile. Similar subject matter propelled the 2019 movie A Marriage Story to an Oscar-nomination, but Erasing Family features real people with their actual, very personal and at times gut-wrenching stories.
The film follows young adults fighting to reunite with their broken families. It took years for the filmmakers to find young adults willing to go on camera to tell their stories as many did not want to talk about being brainwashed to hate a parent after divorce, due to shame. Family courts are often overwhelmed with cases, and few protocols exist to help these families, forcing them to fight for custody instead of helping them to be co-parents. Yet there is a happy ending as these broken families are being reunited on screen which will inspire other children to reach out to their own erased parents. It also highlights how showing the reforms to make separation of the parents healthier are urgently needed.
“Joint Custody is still not the norm, and many bar associations oppose making it the default option as there is a lot of money to be made in custody battles,” said Gentile. “Right now, only one state, Kentucky, has such a law passed in 2018.”
I saw the film when I attended the Parental Alienation Study Group Conference in Philadelphia last year. Even for a hardened, seasoned attorney like me, it made me cry. The emotional journey Gentile brings us on, was painful, but worth it.
A special phone number for those who might need emotional support after watching the film has been set up. The number to text between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm (EST) is (865) 4-FAMILY (865-432-6459).
“Erasing Family brought me to tears as Ginger Gentile’s brilliant production looks through the eyes, hearts and words of children as their childhood is erased, as one of their parents is erased. This film wisely refrains from taking sides but leaves us with the indelible impression that if we don’t wish to leave a child behind, we need to not leave a parent behind,” quoted Dr. Warren Farrell, co-author (with John Gray) of The Boy Crisis.
Gentile met President & Co-Owner of Glass House Distribution, Tom Malloy, through a Father’s rights group on Facebook. After screening the film, Glass House immediately made a deal to sell the film worldwide.
“A film like this is so important because it doesn’t favor one side or the other but focuses on the damage inflicted on children from misguided egos of parents and calls for social change. We knew we had to do our best to get this film out into the world,” says Malloy.
Erasing Family starts its Exclusive Screenings through Vimeo on Demand on April 25th, 2020 with a Q&A with Director Ginger Gentile at 8pm EST on facebook.com/erasingfamily. Tickets are available at vimeo.com/ondemand/erasingfamily. The film will be released to VOD platforms everywhere, including Amazon, Tubi and YouTube this upcoming summer.
I suggest you watch this if you have family that is facing a child custody battle or divorce. It’s a realistic view of how much harm the battle does.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra