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Another syndrome -- the divorce-related, malicious mother syndrome -- has been identified in cases in which mothers not only try to alienate their children from their fathers, but are committed to a broadly based campaign to hurt the father directly (Turkat, 1995). The diagnostic criteria for this syndrome are listed in Figure 1.

Some examples of the more extreme behavior observed in such individuals include the following: making one's children sleep in a car to prove that their father has bankrupted them; burning down the house of the ex-husband: making false allegations of sexual abuse; manipulating other people to harass the ex-husband: spreading vicious lies about the ex-husband; trying to get the ex-husband fired from his job; and driving an automobile into the ex-husband's living room.

Women with this syndrome interfere chronically with visitation. Though they also engage in serious attempts to alienate the child from the father, they an not always successful. Thus, a full parental alienation syndrome is not required for a diagnosis of divorce-related. malicious mother syndrome.

In addition. these women are skillful liars, highly manipulative, and quite adept at recruiting others to participate in the campaign against the father. As is true of parental alienation syndrome, there is an absence of necessary research on this abnormality.

    Figure 1:
    Diagnostic Criteria for Divorce-Related, Malicious Mother Syndrome
    (Adapted from Turkat, 1995, with permission of the publisher, Plenum Publishing, New York.)


  1. A mother who unjustifiably punishes her divorcing or divorced husband by:
    • attempting to alienate their mutual child(ren) from the father;
    • involving others in malicious actions against the father;
    • engaging in excessive litigation.
  2. A mother who specifically attempts to deny her child(ren):
    • regular, uninterrupted visitation with the father;
    • uninhibited telephone access to the father;
    • paternal participation in the child(ren)'s school life and extracurricular activities.
  3. The mother's behavior is pervasive and includes malicious acts towards the husband, such as:
    • telling the child(ren) lies about the father;
    • telling others lies about the father;
    • acting against the father in ways that violate the law.
  4. The syndrome is not specifically due to another mental disorder, but another disorder may coexist.

Difficulties in the Courtroom.

Individuals with either of these syndromes may be willing and able to lie in court in a fully convincing way. Sometimes, their manipulative skills are so well developed that they are able to influence others to provide false testimony against the victimized parent. They may run circles around opposing counsel. When accused of visitation interference, they often have what appear to be wonderful explanations for their behavior; some may even be accurate. For example: "I offered many times for him to see his daughter but he just doesn't cooperate; every time he comes to pick up Billy, Billy cries and refuses to go: he never follows the schedule, your honor, no matter how hard I try. ..."

What typically is left out of such testimony is the fact that the interfering parent is either lying or has manipulated the child or the situation to give a false impression that he or she is innocent of the charges.

If the interfering parent continues to violate successfully the visitation regulations, over time the victimized parent often becomes so emotionally and financially depleted that the case fades from the court's purview. Unfortunately, outside of the courtroom, the visitation interference continues, often with increased strength.