There's some news making the headlines that hits quite close to home in my family - the topic of Parental Alienation (via the Alec Baldwin mess).
I'm not a big fan of Mr. Baldwin's politics or his temperamental antics, but on this issue, I can relate and sympathize.
My brother, one of the most gentle and kind men I know, has been going through the nightmare of parental alienation for more than five years now.
His marriage broke up after nine years and two children. During the marriage, my brother was the "attentive" parent -- the softball coach, the guy who went to Indian Princess with his daughter, the tee-ball leader, and on and on. His wife, who had been married before and raised two other children now out of the nest, was the "absent" parent - never attended the softball games, didn't take interest in the kids' activities, and pretty much did nothing for them, declaring to my brother during the marriage that she had already had "her kids" and these were really "his kids".
After the breakup of the marriage, the kids continued to see their father on a regular basis, even spending 'extra' time with him above and beyond what the court ordered, and things seem to be going okay, as well as they could go in the wake of a marriage break-up. The kids still continued to see all of us -- aunts, uncles, grandparents - whenever possible, and relationships were amicable all the way around.
After a while, my brother started dating a woman and became engaged to her later on, and this seems to coincide with the timeline where the trouble really began.
Without going into great detail, the tone of the relationships changed with an event where one of the children (who is ADHD) threw a temper tantrum, leading to the exes becoming hostile with each other during the situation. While the event ended without incident, my brother's ex wife chose to blow up the situation into a huge deal and decided to use it as an opportunity to alienate my brother from his children. And it's only spiralled downward from there.
For over five years now, my brother (and the rest of us) have been alienated from the children completely. He pays full child support but is not able to see them. His ex has taught the children to fear and hate him (and us). They have gone from freely spending time with all of us to hating and fearing us, for absolutely no reason other than the spite and hatred spewed by their mother.
During the last five years, my brother has been through two lawyers, three judges, countless court hearings, years of counseling sessions (with and without the children), close to $100,000 in legal fees (which he cannot afford), and years of heartache and lost time with his children, all to no avail. Nothing has changed.
He's done everything the court has told him to do. His ex wife has done nothing the court has told her to do. But the courts will not enforce any judgement on her. She's been in contempt of countless court orders, and the judges won't do anything about it. At this point, she knows they won't, so she stands in court and agrees with the judge, then walks out and does none of it....and gets away with it every time.
In the meanwhile, the children have grown from being 8 and 10 to becoming teenagers. Soon, the eldest one will be graduating from high school. And my brother has missed all of it, all the while writing an expensive child support check into a black hole each and every month.
And it's not just his loss. Grandparents have lost grandchildren in all this; as an aunt, I have lost a niece and nephew forever. Since I have no children of my own, they were particularly important to me. Our side of the family has lost two precious members that we will probably never get back. The worst part is that they live across the city from us. I can drive to their house in 20 minutes, but we are unable to see them. We've tried, but their mother has taught them to hate us, and they now refuse to see us.
We've sent endless birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, cards, checks, letters, you name it, only to find out that they are thrown in the trash as soon as they arrive.
On Monday, there is another court hearing to ask the judge to once again enforce its judgment on the mother, who has failed to do what the court told her to do over a year ago. I feel certain it will once again result in nothing. She won't be made to do anything, and once again we will have all wasted our time.
I cannot begin to describe the heartache and frustration the family has gone through in losing these children, all because of the vile hatred of their mother. My brother is more than heartbroken, and no one will help him. Not the courts or the judges or the counselors or anyone. It is monumentally unfair. Something needs to be done about Father's rights, and I can only hope that Alec Baldwin's situation helps to shine a light on it. He is an unlikely hero for me, but at this point, we're looking for anyone or anything that can help, because the Texas courts won't.
Parental alienation is a crime against everyone involved, but mostly against the children, who are hurt the most by it.