Assemblymember Beall: Junk Science Should Be Thrown Out of Court
(Sacramento) – Assembly Bill 612, legislation from Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. (D-San Jose), outlawing unscientific “alienation’’ theories that have fueled bitter and expensive child custody battles, cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday when it was approved by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. Supporting the measure at the hearing was award winning television star Nancy Lee Grahn (General Hospital’s Alexis Davis) and others.
The bill seeks to prohibit courts from considering nonscientific theories when making decisions on child custody or visitation. The American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family “noted the lack of data to support so-called ‘parental alienation syndrome,’ ’’ according to an association statement.
AB 612 would also eliminate training in non-scientific theories, such as parental alienation theories, from Judicial Council-approved education for family court professionals.
"We want to change a harmful family court practice that apparently has gone unchecked for some time, resulting in innocent children being improperly placed,’’ Beall said. “This legislation requires family courts to follow the legal principals of accepted evidence. Pseudo 'syndromes' should not be allowed as evidence in life-altering custody determinations.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome presupposes that the custodial parent brainwashes the child to make false statements against the other parent. The theory or syndrome has been employed by some abusive parents to regain custody of the victimized child, experts say.
“Too many times, court evaluators are sidetracked by this pseudo syndrome into presuming the child’s hostility toward the non-custodial parent resulted from ‘programming’ by the custodial parent while completely ignoring symptoms of abuse or domestic violence by the non-custodial parent,’’ Beall said.
By prohibiting non-scientific theories, the bill makes evidentiary standards in family court more consistent with other courts.
Here are links to audio of Assemblymember Beall and Nancy Lee Grahn: