Vigil brings awareness to alienation
By Jessica Ciparelli
They want their voices heard, and the message they are trying to get out is that the family court system needs to be re-vamped and more education and training in the judicial branch is needed.
Close to a dozen fathers who consider themselves alienated from their children, and their supporters, gathered on the north steps of the Capitol in Hartford on April 25. They gathered to bring awareness of their plight and to observe "Parental Alienation Awareness Day." Sixteen governors, including Gov. Jodi Rell and John Balduacci, governor of Maine, have signed proclamations declaring April 25 as "Parntal Alienation Awareness Day."
What is parent alienation? It is defined as the mental manipulation of children with the purpose of destroying a relationship they shared with a parent. It has become a growing issue in cases of divorce and separation, and it deprives the children of their right to be loved and cared for by both parents, according to the governor's proclamation.
"A lot of the focus is on the fathers because it does mostly affect fathers," said Chris Kennedy of Ellington, who runs the Connecticut Civil Rights Council. "But it affects mothers too - it's parental alienation.
According to "Father's for Justice," a 501(c)(3) organization that fights for the truth, justice and equality in family law, which helped sponsor the vigil, children from fatherless homes account for 63 percent of youth suicides, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders and 71 percent of all high school dropouts. the organization also quotes a statistic that 40 percent of custodial mothers admit to using visitation as a weapon against the father.
"Don't people realize that children are not always better off with their mothers?" said Brenda of Bolton, who was there as a vigil supporter. "The kids are the ones that suffer. Mothers aren't always the better nurturers."
Manchester resident Ken Krajewski, state coordinator for "Fathers for Justice" is fighting to see his own two children; his son, 8 and daughter, 14. Sixty family members have been affected by the alienation that Krajewski has endured.
"I've been dealing with this for two years," he said, noting he hasn't seen his children in a year. He and his ex have been in court at least 18 times in the last two years, Krajewski said. "I'm going to keep fighting for my kids," said the former marine.
"I've lost four years that I'll never recover," said Chris Kennedy, referring to the time he had gone without seeing his son and two daughters. "It's gotten to the point where I see them two hours a weeek." Only in the last four months, has he gotten unsupervised visitation with his daughters.
Kennedy's marriage ended in 2002. At first, the two decided to maintain joint custody. A few days later, his ex-wife decided she wanted sole custody.
"There were no changes in circumstances," said Kennedy. A hearing was held, along with a family study, which recommended that the joint custody agreement be upheld. The judge heard all th evidence, he said, but opted with giving the mother sole custody.
By 2005, amongst what he called false accusations against him, Kennedy had been arrested three times, had two civil restraining orders and two criminal protective orders and DCF launched an investigation. All have been dismissed or he was acquitted, he said, except one restraining order, which expired in 2004.
"I have clearance with the Department of Defense, yet the court doesn't trust me with my teenage daughters," said Kennedy, who works for Pratt & Whitney. "You're dragged into a maelstrom, and no one's there to stop it."
For some, two hours a week would be more than they currently see their kids, including Krajewski and Joe, who declined to give his last name, from Windsor.
"The actual law that governs divorce laws is skewed towards the mothers to the point that fathers have no say or recourse," said Joe, who has not seen his five children, ranging in age from 7 to 16, in over a year. "After the first year or two, most fathers give up - they have so many issues and so few resources. He said the same resources afforded to the mothers is not aforded to the fathers, including pro-bono services from lawyers or to try to gain assistance in going through institutions of the state. Many times, the alienated parent is left broke from paying legal fees. Krajewski has paid $50,000 in legal fees so far.
"We're not only fighting our exes, but we're fighting the state - it makes it nearly impossible to get any help or assistance," Joe said. "It's a rotten system - it's basically set up to support itself."
For more information on Parent Alienation or to volunteer your time to the cause, contact Kennedy at 871-8538 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Fathers for Justice website at www.fathers-4-justice.us.
A rally to revamp the family court system is also being planned in Washington, D.C. from August 15-17.
To view video from the vigil, visit www.remindervideos.com.
To contact Jessica Ciparelli, email her at email@example.com.
Vigil supporters from Ellington, Manchester, Windsor, Colchester and Bolton brought the issue of Parental Alienation to the Capitol. Photo by J. Ciparelli