A Johannesburg father has been barred from seeing his eight-year-old son for three months after experts found his bad-mouthing and undermining of the mother amounted to parental alienation.

TimesLIVE reports that during the three months, the child is to continue therapy to overcome his belief that his mother and her family are dangerous.

Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) Judge Leicester Adams described his order as being ‘protective separation’, citing the child’s best interests were of paramount importance. The matter came before Adams as an urgent application brought by the mother of the boy who has been ‘caught in the middle of a tug-of-war’ between his parents, who never married but had been granted joint holders of parental responsibility with shared contact.

The plethora of litigation resulted in a court appointing a curator ad litem for the child in November. Clinical psychologist Leonard Carr, who was appointed to conduct a full investigation into the child’s circumstances, found that while there had been professional interventions, the child was ‘more at risk than ever’.

His psychological functioning was ‘in a process of rapid and very concerning decline’ and drastic measures were needed to put an end to the conflict between his parents.

Carr said the child was susceptible to ‘clinging onto the most actively influencing and persuasive parent’s belief system to help him make sense of his chaotic world’. He said parental alienation made the world in which the child was being raised ‘treacherous and emotionally dangerous’.

‘To survive he must learn to become at best a tactical liar and remorseless politician, at worst become so bound up in the alienating parent’s delusional belief system that his attachment bonds are disputed and he himself becomes delusional.’ 

Adams said Carr also found the parental alienation had resulted in him targeting his mother as someone who had no valid emotions and experiences and he had become convinced that she and her parents were harmful or dangerous.

The clinical psychologist recommended three months of protective separation. 

TimesLIVE says the father opposed the application and launched a counter application in which he sought an order appointing two other clinical psychologists to analyse Carr’s report, in effect an attempt to restart the whole process, Adams said. He said another expert in the ongoing litigation had found the father’s behaviour was governed by ‘pathological envy’ and he had been indulged ‘to fight’ through the court system and a protective attorney with the aim of ‘devastating the other parent’ and ‘take back that what is felt to be stolen’.

The mother, Adams said, had submitted that this pathological sense of entitlement came from his perception that he is intellectually and morally superior to her. Adams said the curator ad litem, Advocate Marc Haskins, had agreed with Carr’s finding and recommendations.

Adams ordered the suspension of the father’s parental rights and responsibilities and that the child must reside with his mother.

He further ordered the child have no contact with his father for three months, after which contact would be supervised for two hours a week and two hours on weekends. The child is to continue having therapy to assist in the ‘recovery of his true self and repair the damage done to his attachment bond with his mother and his maternal grandparents.

‘Once the treating psychologist confirms the child is ready, the respondent (the father) may be reintroduced into his life under controlled and monitored conditions and safeguards in place to prevent a repeat of the past years of conflict and alienation,’ Adams ruled.

He dismissed the father’s counter application.

Full TimesLIVE report