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During divorce, emotions fly high, conversations become heated and threats are often made. One parent alleges abuse by the other parent. Yet, the other parent counters with claims of parental alienation (brainwashing). So, which is it — abuse or brainwashing? The courts must examine the facts and decide which it is.

Minnesota Case of Two Missing Sisters

Following a bitter divorce in Minnesota, ABC News reported about a case with claims of abuse and parental alienation in 2016. After the father was awarded custody, his two teenage sisters disappeared for almost three years.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation involves one parent feeding lies to the children about the other parent who is portrayed as bad and unloving. The alienating parent hammers on the other parent’s flaws until the children completely withdraw and may even pull away from the whole extended family. Often in these cases, the alienated parent is accused of being abusive.

The court has the job of determining whether abuse actually exists or whether the parent claiming abuse is simply alienating the children.

Mothers Alleging Abuse Often Lose Child Custody Cases

According to George Washington University law professor Joan Meier, judges often assume children were brainwashed to lie instead of believing that abuse actually occurred. She says that child abuse cases must be substantiated by strong evidence or you will lose custody because the court will assume parental alienation occurred. She did a pilot study where 80 percent of parental alienation cases involving mothers alleging child abuse against the father ended up with the mother losing either primary or joint custody of the kids.

Charges Against Mother in the Minnesota Missing Girls Case

In the Minnesota case, the mother lost child custody after alleging abuse, and when her girls disappeared she faced felony charges for hiding the girls and was put in jail with bail set at $1 million. The girls were discovered nearly three years later, living at a farm less than three hours from their home. When they disappeared, no Amber Alert was issued, no police press conferences were held and no manhunt was undertaken to find them.

Slowly, the truth came to light in this case after the girls were found. On July 28, a jury found the mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, guilty of six felony charges for hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years.

Seek Legal Help Early on in Your Child Custody Case

It is important to seek legal help early on in a divorce case so your attorney can gather necessary evidence to prepare a strong case on your behalf or effectively negotiate an acceptable settlement. Attorney Chris Palermo offers compassionate legal help an can help you protect their rights.