Parental Alienation: Who's to Blame?

November 1, 2013
Sara says her ex-husband, Mark, has brainwashed their three grown children against her, and she just wants to reclaim a place in their lives. Mark and his new wife, Mikel, say they’re afraid of Sara but are willing to face her onstage with Dr. Phil. Can these exes put the past behind them and make peace? And, is Sara’s 22-year-old daughter willing to fix their broken relationship?  








More than 16 million kids in the United States are at risk for hunger each day. Fortunately, you can help. Visit Feeding America to find your local food bank. And, help Dr. Phil raise enough money for 10 million meals. Donate today!



SaraMark, Sara's ex-husbandMikel, Mark's wifeJulie, Sara and Mark's daughter

A Five-Year Silence

Sara explains that her marriage fell apart and then her children and husband turned on her. Her ex-husband, Mark, explains why he's scared of his ex-wife and obtained a restraining order against her.

“Mark started making me out to be a bad person, that I was crazy, that I was irrational.”

"Sara started more and more to get angry about things that made no sense.”

 
In a previous interview, Mark’s wife, Mikel, says she felt threatened by Sara. She says after receiving ugly emails from Sara for several months, she also got a restraining order against her. “When someone is that unstable and that angry, you just don’t know what they’re capable of,” she says.

Mark and Mikel say they haven’t had any contact with Sara in a year, but they’ve lifted their restraining orders in order to face her with Dr. Phil.

Mark tells Dr. Phil that he has always encouraged a relationship between Sara and their children but says Sara needs to make some changes before it’ll happen. 

Sara tells Dr. Phil that it’s been over five years since she’s seen her children. “I want to move forward with my children,” she says. “I’m a wonderful person, and I’m a kind mother.” Sara denies sending ugly emails to Mikel and says their restraining orders against her are another example of how they’re trying to alienate her from her children.

Dr. Phil tells Mark and Sara that parental alienation and false allegations of parental alienation will come back to bite them.
 
“Experts have validated it. They told me,” Sara insists.
 
“Well, here’s an expert telling you the jury is still out. Children can become alienated by the acts of a spouse, or they could become alienated from a parent by the acts of that parent,” Dr. Phil says.


A Daughter Estranged

Sara and Mark’s daughter, Julie, 22, agreed to come on the show and face her mother, but their two sons adamantly refused. Julie says she hasn’t spoken with her mother in over four years.

In a previous interview, Julie says her mother has left her hundreds of voicemails and emails. “She’ll address them to: 'Dear My Wonderful but Mentally Abused Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome,' telling me I’m sick, like, how long am I going to let my father control me? I need to learn to stand up to my dad, like, five, six pages long, just ranting, just all of her complaints,” Julie says. “I’ve just completely ignored her.”
 

Julie confronts her mother. “Why do you think I went to boarding school?”

Julie tells Dr. Phil that if anyone disagrees with her mother — judges, pastors, therapists — she claims her father paid them off.

“You do blame a lot of people,” Dr. Phil tells Sara.

“I don’t blame anybody,” Sara says. “I’m stating the facts.”

“Sara, I said that the fuel that moves this train is insight. What ownership do you have in this problem and what could you do to inspire an open mind on her part?” Dr. Phil asks.

“What I could do is to continue to love you,” Sara tells Julie.

Julie argues that she and her mother didn’t have a good relationship long before her parents got divorced. When Sara cites the fact that Julie did so well in school, Julie says, “Just because I did well doesn’t mean you didn’t hurt me.”

Julie tearfully explains that from third grade through fifth grade, she was cutting herself. “It was always when my mom would yell at me for stupid reasons, and I felt like I could never do anything right,” she says. “No matter what I did, she would always be yelling at me, so I would run to bathroom and cry every day … I didn’t know what to do. I could never make her happy.”

When Sara suggests they just work on moving forward, Julie tells her, “I can’t move forward without you recognizing that you have some things to work on as well.”

Does Sara have any insight into what she may have done wrong?

When Sara denies Julie’s accusations, Dr. Phil says, “You really don’t want to hear any of this, do you?”

“I think it needs to be heard with a therapist because this is delusional,” she says.

Julie tells her mother, “You’ve gotten way worse. I think you need help. You need to realize dad is not doing anything — you are the reason why we don’t talk to you, because of the things you’ve done, and we want to help you. That’s why we’re here.”

Dr. Phil explains the tools that alienators can use to brainwash children against a parent. Is it possible that Sara is alienating her children from herself?


Dr. Phil offers professional counseling for Sara and Julie to foster a healthy relationship moving forward. They accept.