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Disappearing Dads – A Report from the Canadian Association for Equality Panel Discussion 26 November 2015

Due to the tremendous force of gender role expectations, it has been a struggle for divorced men to bring their personal struggles into the public sphere. On a chilly November evening, I headed downtown to attend a lecture on “Disappearing Dads”, hosted by the Canadian Association for Equality. The event was heavily protested. The irony of the backlash at this lecture was that we were joining together to discuss an issue that affects men and women alike.

Parental alienation is a dynamic that arises following separation and divorce. One parent, in a struggle for power and control, engages in a campaign that denigrates and targets the other parent. The children are caught in the middle. While some research shows that the father is more likely to be the targeted parent, other research demonstrates that parental alienation is an equal opportunity aggressor among men and women alike.

Are there warning signs for potential alienators and disappearing dads? Child psychologist, Dr. Sol Goldstein, advised that we look out for a parent who is controlling, and yet feels controlled. Alienators will exhibit the behaviour they claim the other parent is performing. Family law lawyer, Brian Ludmer, discussed that the alienator will make statements that absolve him or her of any responsibility. The alienator will agree to therapy that absolves them, i.e. agreeing to therapy for the other parent and children only. Another key feature of alienation cases is that the alienator uses delay tactics.

Dr. Goldstein noted that alienated children will go on to have bad relationships, and failed marriages, and will be more prone to alienate their own children. The alienated child feels disenfranchised and is more prone to engage in a host of self-destructive behaviours. Parental alienation hurts children, and the ramifications are serious and long-lasting.

Disappearing dads and parental alienation is a dynamic that affects separating families. At the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre, we focus on helping parents maintain meaningful relationships post-separation. I work to assist clients to manage the ongoing conflict and access appropriate resources as the campaign of alienation occurs. I can tell you that the pain felt by the alienated parent certainly does not discriminate by gender. Our firm’s clients, male and female alike, are equally devastated by the impact alienation has on their children.

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