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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Testimony on the Racket of "Parental Alienation" in the Rhode Island Family Court

Last night I testified before the Judicial Nominating Commission against a lawyer seeking to become a Family Court judge. I am posting that testimony here with linked documents for commissioners, candidates, and the public. (These links do not work from the body of the text, but only from the references given in the footnotes.)

Please notify me, Anne if you have any concerns or corrections regarding this testimony. Thank you. 
§ 8-16.1-4  Criteria for selection of best qualified nominees. – The commission shall consider, but is not limited to, the following factors in selecting the best qualified nominees: intellect, ability, temperament, impartiality, diligence, experience, maturity, education, publications, and record of public, community, and government service. … The commission shall also consider the candidate's sensitivity to historically disadvantaged classes, and may disqualify any candidate with a demonstrated history of bias towards any of these classes.[i] 
Your criteria for selecting nominees includes impartiality, diligence, publications, and sensitivity to historically disadvantaged classes. Barbara Barrow wrote an article for the Rhode Island Bar Journal that disqualifies her for the bench on those grounds. I am posting this testimony with linked references so you can examine the sources for yourself.

Barbara Barrow’s article, “Parental Alienation Syndrome in Divorce”[ii] is simplistic and ignores factual evidence. What she leaves out is significant. She says that Richard A. Gardner, M.D., introduced “Parental Alienation” in the 1980s. She does not mention these facts:

·      Dr. Gardner was a psychiatrist on a mission to normalize sex between adults and children.[iii]
·      He was a leading lobbyist against mandatory reporting of child sex abuse.[iv]
·      He set up his own publishing company in New Jersey called “Creative Therapeutics.”
·      He published his theories without standards of peer review that are essential to establish scientific claims.
·      He falsely identified himself as a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, a claim Columbia denied, asserting he was only a volunteer.[v]
·      Dr. Gardner served as an expert witness in more than 400 custody cases.
·      He committed suicide in 2003.[vi]

Gardner held that children who claim to be sexually abused by fathers, should not be believed. He hypothesized that the mothers had alienated, brainwashed, coached, and programmed their children. In one of the last interviews Gardner gave, Garland Waller asked what a mother should do when her child accuses a father of sexual abuse. Gardner replied the mother should say: “I don't believe you. I am going to beat you for saying that. Don't you ever talk that way again about your father.”[vii]

A Brief Chronology of Parental Alienation in Rhode Island Family Court

1991: Gardner publishes Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. In his final paragraph, he admits that the “vast majority (probably over 95%) of sex abuse allegations … are valid,” but he says he wrote the book to give that 5% whom he considers falsely accused “the sympathy and attention they deserve.”[viii]

1994: Courtroom testimony shows a court-ordered psychologist identifies Gardner as his source, and Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr. comments that he, too, is reading Gardner.[ix]  

1996: Chief Judge Jeremiah hires David Tassoni, who falsely claims to have college and law degrees. Tassoni soon becomes Chief Mediator and Case Manager.

2004: Tassoni helps to produce a 374-page training manual, Guardian ad Litem Practice in Rhode Island Family Court (Rhode Island Bar Association Continuing Legal Education Sponsored with the Rhode Island Family Court, Center for Advanced Legal Studies, October 4 - 5, 2004). The manual devotes an entire section to “Parental Alienation.”  

In the high-profile custody case of a Family Court deputy sheriff accused of domestic violence, Tassoni tells me he is searching for a psychologist who “understands Parental Alienation.” He finds one in a tiny suburban office. She moves into an elegant suite downtown as the court-appointed therapist who does “co-parenting” and “reunification therapy.” These are catchwords often associated with coercive “parental alienation” defense strategies. I have found them in Rhode Island guardian ad litem reports and court orders that placed children in the sole custody of alleged abusers or sent them back and forth between parents, even when one parent was documented as abusive and the other was protective.

2006: The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges publishes A Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases[x] and unequivocally states that judges should rule testimony on “parental alienation” inadmissible and strike it from evaluation reports because the concept has “no grounding in reality,” and it fails evidentiary standards. 

I write an op-ed in the Providence Journal about the “Discredited Parental Alienation Syndrome”[xi] and residents of a Rhode Island town ask me to research a case in which a 3-year-old complained about her father’s “sausage games.”[xii] The guardian ad litem was a close friend of the father’s criminal defense attorney and their “parental alienation” argument persuaded DCYF to give the father sole custody. He eventually took his daughters out of state and then out of the country. The neighbors had helped bring to Rhode Island a nationally recognized out-of-state attorney who specializes in fighting parental alienation cases, but the father’s lawyers successfully invoked Rhode Island’s pro hoc vice rules to block his participation. I later testify about the case and write about it online, giving names of lawyers and clinicians, as well as referencing these sources.

2010: I document the “sausage games” case in the textbook Domestic Violence, Legal Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues.[xiii] Court records in this and other cases show how lawyers and psychologists use “parental alienation” and coercive “co-parenting” and “reunification therapy” to stretch out these cases for their own financial profit at great harm to these families. 

2011: The new Chief Judge Hiaganush Bedrosian brings in state police to examine David Tassoni’s credentials, and Tassoni resigns. He claims to have mediated over 750 cases, but he is never charged with fraud on the court, and he sets up a mediation business.

Meanwhile, advocates of “parental alienation” defense strategies try unsuccessfully to pressure the American Psychiatric Association to add “parental alienation” to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

2012: Barbara Barrow’s article appears in the RI Bar Journal, as if to restore the credibility of “parental alienation” after Tassoni’s downfall. I ask the editor-in-chief if I may write a response, and he says no, because I am not a lawyer.

2013: The American Psychiatric Association refuses to include “parental alienation” in the DSM-5.

2015: When I examine the letters for and against Barbara Barrow, I find one of her most ardent supporters is the guardian ad litem in the “sausage games” case. A letter in your file opposing Barrow comes from a stepfather whose stepson has complained about sexual abuse by his birth father. The stepfather writes that Attorney Barrow is not a neutral guardian ad litem. Following Dr. Gardner’s pattern, Barrow blames the mother for “coaching and/or ‘suggesting’ to the child…,” but then permits the alleged abuser to coach the child.

Families that have been traumatized by coercive control, domestic violence, or sexual abuse are “a historically disadvantaged class.” Such families need two things to heal: safety and the rule of law.
Commissioners, this is not about political correctness. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the American Psychiatric Association have absolutely rejected “parental alienation” on both legal and scientific grounds. They recognize this as a racket in which a small group of lawyers and psychologists can enrich themselves for years at the expense of vulnerable children and families, as we have documented over more than two decades in Rhode Island. 

We need this Commission to become well-informed about the racketeering use of “parental alienation” and to discern which candidates have the personal integrity not to allow these schemes to persist in their courtrooms. Please ask all candidates for Family Court -- and in the future, for appellate courts -- what their opinions are of “parental alienation.” See if they understand why coercive strategies for “co-parenting,” and “reunification therapy” can be dangerous for these children and their protective parents.  

We need you to do three things:  
1.    Become well-informed about these abusive rackets by reviewing the sources; [xiv] 
2.    Nominate prospective judges who recognize and will not tolerate strategies based on the junk science of “parental alienation”; and 
3.   Do not recommend as “highly qualified” Barbara Barrow or any candidate willing to compromise the safety of children and the rigors of the law to permit courtroom strategies based on “parental alienation.”  
Thank you. 


[iv] Gardner, R.A. (1995). Written testimony on HR3588 – Proposed revision of the child abuse prevention and treatment act (CAPTA) (Public Law 93-247) and
Dallam, S.J. (1998). Dr. Richard Gardner: A review of his theories and opinions on atypical sexuality, pedophilia, and treatment issues. Treating Abuse Today, 8(1), 15-23, as cited in
[vii] Garland Waller videos: Debating Richard Gardner; Small Justice: Little Justice in America’s Family Courts
[viii] Richard A. Gardner, Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited (Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, 1991, p. 140.
[ix] P92-4797, Transcript, April 11, 1994, p. 18.
[xi] Anne Grant, “Family Court Devastation: Discredited Parental Alienation Syndrome,” Providence Journal, June 27, 2006, B5.
[xiv] Further resources are available at The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence,

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: