Please “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at “Ask_Carolyn.” Post questions for consideration for this column. I’ll also be giving these social media hints and clues to what the next exciting answers are from the Dancing Divorce Attorney. Today’s first Ask Carolyn addresses the sobering issue of parental alienation in child custody with a brand new case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Really, mousetraps as a solution in Parental Alienation Syndrome? Readers, please comment on the appropriateness of therapy with mousetraps.
I am a father and I haven’t visited with my son in six months. I want visitation, but his mother is poisoning my son’s mind against me. I have a court order and my attorney is going for contempt. I heard about Parental Alienation Syndrome. What is this?
Carolyn Answers …
Parental Alienation Syndrome is devastating to the development of an emotionally healthy child. The intent of the alienating parent is the destruction of the present and future relationship of a child with the other parent.
Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals dealt with an extreme situation of Parental Alienation Syndrome in McLean v. King (2017), a case originating in Caldwell County. The child was born in 2003 and primarily lived with the mother. It appears to me from the facts that the mother had transferred distrust and anger she held for the father to the minor child, who was only 12 at the time of the mother’s contempt trial in 2015. It takes a couple of years for a case generally to make it through the process at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. This poor child is now 14.
In McLean v. King, the court ordered visitation with the father every other weekend. Given the problems with visitation, the court entered a rather bizarre order that required the child, who would allegedly at age 12 not get out of the car at the father’s house to sit in the mother’s car in the father’s driveway all weekend. I cannot imagine not being able to make a 12-year-old get out of the car, but this mother could not. There were more than 100 visits where the mother and 12-year-old sat in the car in front of father’s residence and did not get out of the car. (No, I am not making this up.)
OK, so here’s another use for a mousetrap. The therapist of the mother and child suggested the child set mousetraps in the father’s yard and write greeting cards to stick in the mousetraps as a venting or release of emotional anxiety. The child also wrote words like “Freedom” on the mousetrap with a marker and placed the mousetrap in the father’s yard. Another activity was to play loud music and dance around the car in the father’s driveway. While the court doesn’t say this, was the mother merely trying to annoy the father? On one occasion when the mother could not stay with the child in the father’s driveway, the mother’s lawyer shows up for duty at the father’s house. What was the therapist, a college professor at Applachian State, thinking? Mousetrap therapy?
I am newly separated, and I am struggling with thoughts of the past, particularly the bad and angry moments of that dreadful prior relationship. I was so preoccupied with these thoughts, I missed my turn-off to my neighborhood yesterday. I have to stop thinking about her. I need to move on. Her belittling words still ring in my head. I am productive at work, but not outside of work. Someone suggested yoga, and that helps. However, I have not mastered the meditation part of yoga, and my mind wanders. My yoga instructor reminds the class to stay “in the moment?” I’m not sure what “in the moment” means, but I’m pretty sure I am not doing this? Any suggestions?
Carolyn Answers …
“In the moment” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “totally, completely 100 percent immersed in the situation at hand.”
We all have the past, present and hopefully the future. In divorce recovery, the past is usually unpleasant. You should grieve the loss and get over the past. That gets you to the present. How do you savor the present in your divorce recovery? How can you be “in the moment?”
To me, being in the moment is utilizing all my senses to what is going on around me right now? What do I see? What color is it? What do I feel? Is the touch rough or smooth? What do I hear? Taste. What does that chocolate chip in the cookie do to my taste buds? You’ve got the idea. When I first started the divorce recovery process a few years back, I started yoga. While I love yoga and strongly recommend it, I found that my mind could still wander to the past. That’s where the dancing started, as I found dance much like yoga – but with music that occupied the remainder of my thought process. For me, it was the perfect solution – the dance getaway for my mind, so to speak. This divorce makeover led to the Dancing Divorce Attorney.
To me, being in the moment is turning off the autopilot. You missed your exit driving, so it seems you were on a dangerous autopilot. The last six years I have been flying an airplane. It is one thing to fly an airplane with the autopilot on and another to fly the plane with the autopilot off. When the autopilot is off, the pilot mostly needs to be in the present watching altitude, airspeed and engine gauges. Of course, there is still a future part of planning to land or consideration of weather ahead, but for the most part, the pilot is in the moment ready to react as required. Contrast flying with a sophisticated autopilot; the pilot might be able to do some other tasks unrelated to flying and do them safely. You have to turn off the autopilot to be in the moment.
Go back to yoga. Be more observant. Quiet your senses and observe your breathing. Good luck with your divorce recovery.Republicans are red and Democrats are blue, and neither one give a rat’s posterior about you.
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Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.