Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

International Abduction: The Tip of the Iceberg

What the Goldman case can tell us about parental alienation

Posted Sep 21, 2011

Today I finished reading David Goldman's memoir of his 5-year ordeal to be reunited with his son Sean who was taken to Brazil by David's wife and then retained there by the stepfather and grandparents. It is only because the mother died that David was able to prevail in his battle to have his son returned to him. As David rightly notes in the book, hundreds of other children remain separated from their "left-behind-parent" because the countries in which the children are harbored are not signatories of the Hague convention (such as Japan) or refuse to comply with the Hague guidelines (as seems to be the typical scenario for children taken to Brazil). As of the writing of the book, the U.S. did not have a coherent policy or practice for dealing with this problem. Even with the clear-cut facts of the case (David was the biological father of Sean, David had fought for his parental rights from day 1 of the abduction, the mother died in childbirth leaving David as the only available parent) David still needed the assistance of the major media and several high level political figures that came together to support his cause. Facts alone did not bring Sean home.

In addition to contact interference of the worst kind (removal of the child to a foreign country half way around the world) the caretakers of Sean appeared to have also engaged in other forms of parental alienation including denigrating the father to Sean, not allowing Sean to have photographs of his father, interfering with mail and telephone communication, forcing Sean to choose sides, among others. The abductors -- as David refers to them throughout the book -- also took advantage of every legal loophole they could find in order to drag out the case, knowing that time was on their side. When it appeared that they had lost the legal battle, they resorted to emotional manipulation, mudslinging, and blatant disregard of the law. These tactics and attitudes are also all too common in parental alienation dynamics that play out every day in family courts across the country.

Reading the book may not be an eye opener for any seasoned targeted parent about the attitudes and actions of alienating parents but it will serve as yet another reminder of how much alienated children are victims of their circumstance and need their targeted parents to remain stalwart in their efforts to save them from the abuse of the alienating parent.