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Courts - USA - parental grief syndrome

November 13, 2002

Honorable John Ashcroft
United States Attorney General
NW Tenth Street and Constitution Ave.
Washington, DC 20001

Second warning of the dangers of Parental Grief Syndrome

Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:

In my letter of January 21, 2002, I attempted to bring to your attention the injustices in the family courts that are "creating environments conducive to domestic violence, suicides and what may very well even become homicides in the near future." Since then, the course of my practice as a family psychologist, the frequency of contacts from severely distraught and potentially dangerous [to themselves or to others] parents who have been improperly separated from their children confirms the continuing need to intervene in our state because "Nothing was done and nothing will be done to prevent this catastrophe from continuing? without outside intervention. I believe that your office has both the means and the authority to prevent the violence that must inevitably occur until these injustices are remedied.

As a pertinent example of the consequences of the failure to come to grips with these issues, you may wish to consider the case of John Allen Muhammed. From all indications, in proceedings I have found to be typical throughout the family court system, he was dehumanized by the process that tore him from his children possibly resulting in a severe form of the psychological disturbance Parental Grief Syndrome. We must ask is Mr. Allen Muhammed simply a cold-blooded killer or was he driven into his destructive mental state by being torn from his children by an improper family court process. Mr. Allen Muhammed is an extreme example, but there are many others, as I indicated in my original letter, and I have no doubt that unless some action is taken there will be yet others. We must also ask how many of these are soon to become a John Allen Muhammed or a Thomas Alaimo [suicide 2-6-01].

The essential feature of Parental Grief Syndrome is the development of characteristic symptoms in a parent following the loss of custody and/or the loss or reduction of parenting time as the result of the legal process. While Parental Grief Syndrome was first named at the On Step Institute?s symposium ?The Paternal Instinct? in November 1999, the syndrome itself was immediately recognized by the symposium?s participants. The seriousness of the disorder is clearly indicated by the fact that there has been at least one suicide per month in the NY metropolitan area wherein Parental Grief Syndrome is implicated.

Humans have an instinctual need to love, nurture, protect children - when this instinct is frustrated serious emotional problems occur. For example, historical records suggest that this was the case within the slave population wherein the breakup of the family was considered the worst of slavery?s evils. There is overwhelming evidence of a strong inborn need for parents, both men and women, to fight for their children. With the current legal system having made resistance in the courts to separation from their children effectively impossible, parents? anger is often turned inward frequently leading to suicide or other self destructive behavior.

It is for these reasons that I call on you once again, to plead with you to bring immediate legal action that will put a halt to the violation of constitutional rights in the family courts of New York State and others that that have simply ignored what the United States Supreme Court has called improper interference in the right of fit parents to exercise ?the care custody and control of their children? see for example, Troxel v. Granville, 99-138 [U.S. 06/05/2000 U.S. Supreme Court, November 1999.

Mr. Ashcroft, children have a need and a right to both parents. Please act now to protect that right.
Robert Palumbo Ph. D.

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