Legal Update: Introducing a New Legal Column, By Brian Ludmer, B.Com., L.L.B., LudmerLaw, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (PASG LEGAL COLUM January 2018)

By Brian Ludmer, B.Com., L.L.B., LudmerLaw, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 416-781-0334

WELCOME TO LEGAL UPDATE. I am pleased to accept the mandate of Ed-itor of this column, which will appear in each issue of PAI.

As discussed at the PASG Conference in Washington, DC, there is a broad-based request from PASG members for sharing information, thoughts, strategies, and advocacy on the legal process and substantive legal issues relating to paren-tal alienation as a part of a multidisciplinary response to the challenges facing families having difficulty restructuring in a healthy manner.

The goal of the Legal Update column will be to discuss emerging trends, share answers to frequently faced challenges with the legal system, and develop substantive law and innovative approaches, all in a dialogue with a worldwide audience. Collectively, this exchange of infor-mation, thoughts, proposals and solutions should advance the jurisprudence and, through collec-tive advocacy, legislation to assist families (and the mental health practitioners assisting them) in dealing with the challenges of parental alienation.

We are compiling a list of the lawyer members of PASG (currently, approximately 40 of the over 400 members) whom we hope to reach out to and solicit thoughts, information, and precedents from in the coming months. In addition, all members of PASG, but in particular the lawyer members, are encouraged to forward thoughts for subjects of future columns of Legal Update.

We will be working on compiling jurisprudence from around the world (and particular provinces, states, and other subdivisions of countries around the world). We hope to develop accessible state-ments of law on particular issues commonly faced in these cases.

It has been my experience that the Courts in Canada have been open to accepting insights from cases across the country, even if they are not binding on the local Court. Since the foundational principles of family law legislation are remarkably similar in most countries, there should ultimately not be any reason why Courts should not be open to jurisprudence from other Courts around the world, particularly from jurisdictions where the jurisprudence has advanced further towards solu-tions, such as Canadian jurisprudence.

I will be working with Stan, Bill and others with a view to structuring a separate Legal Issues and Precedents Tab on the PASG website, so that these resources can develop in a focused way

Future topics

Some of the topics I am working with for future columns include:

  • How to deal with the voice of the child in PA cases;
  • Expert evidence issues;
  • Legal recognition of parental alienation as a concept;
  • Legal responses to parental alienation;
  • Legal process/delay issues;
  • Dealing with children’s counsel and guardians ad litem;
  • Legal case strategy;
  • Case management and review orders; and
  • Deconstructing failed responses by the legal system

Since it is now broadly accepted that parental alienation dynamics constitute child abuse (risk of emotional harm or actual emotional harm), the failure of the child protection system in almost all jurisdictions to consistently demonstrate an appropriate response (and instead “punting” the matter back to the civil family dispute system) will also be examined.

I recently had a meeting with one of the child protection authorities in Ontario where the issue of training and standards for child protection workers was discussed and we await a follow-up to take us up on our offer to come in and conduct such training for free.

Our PASG members in the UK await the completion of the CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) policy review. It is unknown at the present time whether this is will result in a consistent, insightful, and robust response. However, any and all recognition of the perva-siveness and intractable nature of these dynamics is, of course, a positive development.

I welcome and encourage input from all of the PASG members as to how you would like to see this column and initiatives on the legal front develop to be of greatest assistance to the families we serve, to the community at large, and to the PASG membership.

Here is hoping 2018 is our breakthrough year in fostering timely, efficient and robust solutions to the dynamic of parental alienation. Its continued existence in the face of known solutions is unacceptable.