“Unfriendly Parent” Doctrine for Child Custody

Should courts give preference in child custody to the parent who is more likely to be cooperative with the the other parent? In many states, the answer is yes — the so called “friendly parent” doctrine. Here’s an intriguing article from Washington family lawyer Margaret Dore in the Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law, arguing that the “friendly parent” doctrine and the related concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome are harmful for children and should be abolished by courts.

On close examination, the friendly parent concept presents a paradox.
This is because in a child custody dispute, the parents are in litigation
against each other. The purpose of this litigation is to take custody away
from the other parent, which by definition does not foster the other parent’s
relationship with the child. The friendly parent concept, however, requires
parents to make the opposite showing, that they will “most likely foster . . .
the other parent’s relationship with the child.”

With this inherent contradiction, the results of a friendly parent
analysis are unpredictable and at times, bizarre. The friendly parent
concept also encourages litigation and conflict between parents; it renders
parents unable to protect themselves and their children from abuse,
violence, and neglect at the hands of the other parent. Because of these
problems, this article argues that the friendly parent concept should be
eliminated from child custody practice, and that existing friendly parent
statutory provisions should be repealed or judicially overturned.


  1. Shawn says:

    The articles thesis ignores the multitude of laws already on the books that helps parents “protect themselves and their children from abuse,violence, and neglect at the hands of the other parent.” The question in our state is which parent is more inclined to foster a healthy continuing relationship between the child and the other parent. But that is just one of 12 named and infinite un-named factors in a custody determination. If there is a “bad” parent (abuse, neglect, drugs, etc) the court will never even mention the “friendly parent” rule. If, however, there are two parents on equal footing and one of those parents has engaged in unsubstantiated mud-slinging or filing baseless motions to restrict visitation, the court can turn use this logical and equitable rule to change custody or otherwise deal with an “unfriendly” custodial parent.

    As for creating “unpredictable” or “bizarre” outcomes, that is the nature of the beast. A family is taking there problems to a complete stranger who probably has nothing at all in common with them (how many of your family law clients hang out with the judges or psychologists that determine their fate?) This has been so since biblical times, remember wise old king solomon and his brilliant idea of cutting the baby in half?

  2. robin krueger says:

    I am finally past the age of raising my children, as they are now 19 and 26. However there was a time when my ex was taking me to court for full custody because he was newly married and didn’t want to pay child support anymore (not that I for one moment deny that he loved our son deeply) however it was his new wife who pushed the issue. I was a very young mother, not perfect, but doing the best I could. A bit on the wild side, when my son went to his fathers the party boots came on. My ex used my party time as an excuse to accuse alcoholism and neglect. This couldnt have been further from the fact. It was a very close case, but I kept my son by the Grace of God, only to find some really interesting facts later about his father’s life with his new wife. I came to pick my son up from visitation one sunday evening and walked into his father’s house and it was a complete pig stigh! Not much longer I began hearing roomers that he and his wife were on cocaine. Now had I not thrown myself to the mercy of the court after the lies his father told about me…..he would have gotten custody. Can you imagine someone like that almost beating me in custody? This is where guardian ad litem set ups scare the hell out of me! The untruths that come out about innocent parents trying to just make it. That cost me 2,500.00 to fight and that is money that could have went to my sons education. Tell me where the justice in that is will you? Birdielived@hotmail

  3. thom says:

    my ex has continued to keep my children from me since 1996. on occasion, i have managed to hunt them down online just to verify that they are still alive. however, my ex has made sure that both the children, now 17 and 21, wont have anything to do with me and the ex claims that it has always been their wishes. i have always had partial custody and full visitation rights but due to her moving out of state and moving constantly from place to place to the point that i didnt have any idea of where they were located. due to this, i havent been able to visit them at all. she has never allowed unsupervised visitation for me with my children and has estranged them from me to the point that now they have no desire to visit with me or have anything to do with me or be part of my life. of course there is no way that i can get back the last 10 years of my life with my children or force them to be part of my life in the future at this point. as expected, the state is still pursuing me for child support including arrears and interest, including wage garnishments, and keeping my tax returns. my divorce was done in talladega county in the court of judge sims and i even took her back to court for hiding them from me. she left the court room and disapeared again for quite some time before i found them online. she moves back and forth from florida to georgia every few years and she filed in florida to have my tax returns taken and talladega dhr doesnt even give me credit for child support payments on the thousands of dollars in tax returns they take. also, talladega dhr takes half my net pay in garnishment and i was forced to use my rent money to pay two months in advance support to get my drivers license reinstated. my case worker seems incompetent and frankly, im starting to think she has a mild case of downs syndrome. where do they find these nitwits that have so much power. there is a clause in the divorce decree that she (my ex) is not to estrange them in anyway but seems the courts hands are tied since she does not reside in this state. im a disable vet and my child support was based on my military pay. i was medically discharged in 1996 and have had a difficult time holding down any job that pays decent here in the state of alabama. i even paid Michael Givens attorney at law to take this back to court to straighten this out and he was disbarred and disapeared with the money i paid him in advance. im basically being forced into the street at this point and am between a rock and a hard place. is there anything i can do to get some relief on this. is there any grounds from this blatant case of parental alienation syndrome to acquire some damages to provide me some relief so that i can get on with my life. the oldest child hasnt lived with her mother for 3 years and the younger plans on moving out next year when she turns 18. my ex has remarried and now has a 4 year old child, has never had a job, ever, and my youngest has claimed (via the internet) that she doesnt have shoes to wear, but that my ex now resides in a lavish home complete with pool and that any moneys recieved via dhr from me go directly into the mortgage and towards the new todler. is there some reason why dads are persecuted to the point of homelessness while mothers only have to move from one lavish lifestyle to the next to keep fathers from knowing their children. my ex is not pursuing this and has not filed a contemp order according to my case worker, and it seems that only talladega county (and the state of florida where tax returns are concerned) is pursuing this and intent on putting me in the street. seems going to court to have my child support adjusted will only raise it and put my tail out in the air to be locked up. there is no current order to pay arrears, just the current support order. should i try to go back to court now, will waiting till the last one turns 18 to go before the judge benefit me in any way? seems im screwed no matter what. and advice or assistance you can give me is greatly appreciated. even though i served my government and my country for over a decade and am now disabled because of it, that very government is now taking every dime i have in one way or another from taxes, child support, and the price of gasoline and most likely judge dobson is intent on locking me up in jail, and even a licensed attorney, MICHAEL GIVENS, stole money from me and disapeared. needless to say i have no trust in the justice system, attorneys, or the government in any way at this point in my life. any help or advice would be great. something may be rotten in demark, but it smells plenty right here in the good ole south. might have to move to canada, eh.

  4. I am a Disable Gulf War Veteran with 4 kids and a wife. Two of my kids or grouwn 19 and 21. I own the mother of the oldest two $80,000.00 back pay for child support. please understand it took me from 1992 until 2005 to get the VA (veteran affairs) to acknowledge that I have a serious injury from the War. This is why I own so much, I am not a dead-beat-dad. Now I am hiding from the police because I have a warannt for my arrest. I only get 1300 amount for the VA and the courts want me to pay 700 a month to my ex-wife who is now remarried and has two more children of her own. She works as a Federal Prison Guard and her husband is a SGT. at Texas Department of Crimmanl Justice (TDCJ) another prison System her in Texas. Can someone help me please, sometime I just want to check-out and be though with everthing! My number is #903-545-0006 and my E-mail is wileyhccs@yahoo.com Please help me.

  5. Lee Borden says:

    Two facts occur to me: (1) hiding sounds like a bad idea and will not ever address the problem in a meaningful way, and (2) Mom’s new husband’s income is irrelevant.

    With those facts acknowledged, my guess is that your best strategy is to stand tall and acknowledge that you owe this money but have no chance of paying it, and then set about agreeing on a payment plan with which you can comply. You’ll probably be paying child support for quite a long time, but you won’t be cringing every time you hear a knock on the door or the phone rings.

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