Gender Bias and the Myth of Parental Alienation, with Prof. Joan S. Meier

Season 2Episode 1January 5, 2020

Everyone’s heard of the vengeful woman who accuses her ex-husband of child abuse during a divorce, but is parental alienation real, and how does alleging abuse affect custody decisions?

Everyone’s heard of the vengeful ex-wife who accuses her ex-husband of child abuse just to get back at him during a divorce. There’s even a scientific-sounding term for it: parental alienation. But is parental alienation real? And are judges taking allegations of abuse seriously enough? We spoke to Professor Joan Meier from George Washington University Law School who has some, frankly, startling data on the subject. How does alleging abuse affect custody decisions? Is there scientific proof that alienation exists? And what can we do to persuade the courts to do a better job of investigating abuse?

Topics in this episode:

  • Realizing children aren’t being protected.
  • Junk science: parental alienation syndrome.
  • The myth of the vengeful ex-wife.
  • Women are not considered as credible as men.
  • What the research really show?
  • What should the courts be doing?
  • Reaction by judges
  • What can we do about it?


Joan S. Meier, professor of clinical law at George Washington University Law School

The study referred to in this episode, “Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations,” and other research by Professor Meier are available on the law school’s website

‘A gendered trap’: When mothers allege child abuse by fathers, the others often lose custody, study shows,” is a Washington Post article about the study.

Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP) provides pro bono appellate representation in compelling domestic violence cases and trains attorneys and courts around the country

DV LEAP’s Legal Resource Library include briefs and court opinions, training materials, publications, links to domestic violence organizations, case digests, and custody resources

Transcript to come.