“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statutory provisions should be repealed or judicially overturned.

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