Sunday, August 30, 2020

Parental Alienation is Now Illegal In Puerto Rico

Just last month, July 19, 2020, the Puerto Rican government passed Law 70-2020 to explicitly call out parental alienation. The original, Spanish text can be found here. The full text of the law (as translated by Google Translate) is as follows.  

LAW

To amend Articles 7 and 9 of Law 223-2011, known as the "Law Protecting the Rights of Minors in the Custody Award Process", in order to contemplate the parental alienation in the custody determination; and for other related purposes.

STATEMENT OF MOTIVES

The family is the main protagonist in the upbringing and development of our minors. The family experience modulates and guides children through childhood and towards maturity, it is in the family where we can find explanations for the behavior and conduct of our minors. An adequate emotional and affective bond between parents and children translates into healthy family development for both. Unfortunately during the last decades we have seen changes in the family structure, this due to the increase in divorces or separations. 

After a divorce or separation, as the case may be, and once custody of the sons and / or daughters has been established, the State guarantees the right of both minors and parents to relate and maintain the appropriate family tie. In this way, a regime of visits to the non-custodial parent is established; They have important psychological functions for the development of childhood, in addition to safeguarding the emotional bond between the child and his parents. 

However, and even when the State guarantees the aforementioned right, there are occasions when one of the parties obstructs the filial relations of their sons and daughters with the other parent; in certain cases transforming the conscience of their children, through the use of different strategies, in order to prevent, obstruct or destroy their links with the other parent. 

This behavior, known as Parental Alienation, originates mainly in the context of disputes over the custody and care of children. The effects of parental alienation on minors and the alienated parent are considered a variant of emotional and psychological abuse, being one of the most subtle forms of child maltreatment, which in turn can produce permanent psychological damage in the bond with the parent ( a) alienated; as well as in the integral development of the minors involved. 

Although there is no pattern applicable to all cases, important factors have been identified that alert to its presence. That is why the judicial determination must not be sustained in legal statements without the presence of specialists in human behavior. In most jurisdictions it is seen as a problem to be addressed through civil and non-criminal channels. The criminal process can place you in the uncomfortable situation of testifying to penalize one of your parents. Apart from this, the complexity of the alienating behavior presents a challenge for criminal legislation. We understand that custody determination and its subsequent evaluation in family court must be the most appropriate mechanism to address these situations and provide remedies that tend to advance the emotional health of the minor and strengthen family relationships as much as possible. 

It is the public policy of the Government of Puerto Rico to ensure the best interest, protection, and comprehensive well-being of children and adolescents, and in the duty to ensure that well-being, reasonable opportunities and efforts must be provided to preserve family and community ties when it does not harm them. For this reason, this Legislative Assembly considers it necessary to update the definitions of this statute in order to continue effectively guaranteeing the well-being and protection of children on our island.

DETERMINED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF PUERTO RICO:


Section 1.- A new subsection (13) is added, and the current subsection (13) is renumbered as subsection (14), in Article 7 of Law 223-2011, so that read as follows:

"Article 7.-Criteria to be considered in the custody award

When considering a custody application in which controversies arise between the parents regarding it, the court will refer the case to the Social Relations Unit Family, or the licensed professional that it deems necessary, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors or social workers, who will carry out an evaluation and will give a report with recommendations to the court. , as the court, when issuing its determination, will take into consideration the following criteria:

      ...

(13) It will analyze the presence of parental alienation, or any other reasons that may cause resistance cia of the minor to relate to his parents. Parental alienation refers to the obstruction by one of the parents of the filial relationships of their sons or daughters, minors, with the other parent, through the use of different strategies, with the purpose of transforming or indoctrinating the conscience. of their sons or daughters, in order to denigrate, prevent, obstruct or destroy their ties with the other parent and the minor presents thoughts or feelings of rejection towards the other parent; demonstrates negative attitudes towards this or if, in effect, the affective bond between the minor and the other parent has been affected. All actions arising from this subsection must occur repetitively so that they constitute a pattern and not based on isolated events. 

Parental alienation may be evidenced, without being understood as a limitation, in the following ways: 

(i) Refusing to pass the phone calls or trying to direct the content of such calls to the children. 

(ii) Organize activities with the children during the period that the other parent should normally exercise their right to visit or find ways to hinder the reunion between them. 

(iii) Intercept letters, messages or packages sent to the children. 

(iv) Devaluate and insult the other parent in front of the children.

(v) Refusing to inform the other parent, on purpose, of the activities in which the children are involved, such as school, family, social or other functions. 

(vi) Talk rudely about the new spouse of the other parent.

(vii) Prevent the other parent from exercising their visitation rights. 

(viii) Make important, non-emergency decisions about children without consulting the other parent.

(ix) Change (or try to change) their surnames or first names.

(x) Prevent the other parent from accessing the children's school and medical records.

(xi) Go on vacation without the children and leave them with another person, even if the other parent is available and voluntary to take care of them.


(xii) Discredit the clothes or gifts that the other parent has bought them, and prohibit them from wearing them. 

(xiii) Threatening children with punishment if they dare to call, write or contact the other parent.

(14) Any other valid or pertinent criteria that can be considered to guarantee the best welfare of the minor. ”

Section 2.- Article 9 of Law 223-2011 is amended to read as follows:

“Article 9.-When joint custody will not be considered as beneficial and favorable for the best interests of minors.

Joint custody will not be considered as beneficial and favorable to the best interests of minors in the following cases:

(1) ...

(2) ...

(3) ...

(4) ...

(5 ) ...

(6) ...

(7) ...

(8) ...

If, after granting joint custody, one of the parents, recklessly, arbitrarily and unfairly refuses to accept said decision, and performs acts to hinder the relationship of the other parent with the minors, the court may alter the decree and grant custody to the other parent. Faced with the proposal of acts constituting parental alienation, the court may order an evaluation to the Social Unit of Family Relations or the licensed professional that it deems necessary, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors or social workers, who will prepare reports and present their findings and recommendations to the court. The court may, if deemed necessary, evaluate the parties or any other evidence it deems pertinent. 

When evidence has been found that one of the parents has committed parental alienation, by the party that has custody of the minors, the court will evaluate the removal from custody or other precautionary measures at the discretion of the judge. If the parental alienation is committed by a relative, stepmother, stepfather or partner of the parent, the court will take measures to protect the minors.

When you are a parent who engages in the conduct of parental alienation, the court will evaluate ordering psychological therapy as a protective measure prior to the decision of removal from custody. In case of ordering psychological therapies, the court will evaluate the progress of this to make new recommendations, if necessary and merit.

Any parent who causes emotional or psychological harm to minors by the behavior of parental alienation, will be ordered to pay for psychological therapies that entail the repair of such harm in minors.

The court will have the discretion to take the measures and issue the orders it deems pertinent at any stage of the process. ”

Section 3.-This Law shall take effect immediately after its approval. 
LAW

To amend Articles 7 and 9 of Law 223-2011, known as the "Law Protecting the Rights of Minors in the Custody Award Process", in order to contemplate the parental alienation in the custody determination; and for other related purposes.

STATEMENT OF MOTIVES

The family is the main protagonist in the upbringing and development of our minors. The family experience modulates and guides children through childhood and towards maturity, it is in the family where we can find explanations for the behavior and conduct of our minors. An adequate emotional and affective bond between parents and children translates into healthy family development for both. Unfortunately during the last decades we have seen changes in the family structure, this due to the increase in divorces or separations. 

After a divorce or separation, as the case may be, and once custody of the sons and / or daughters has been established, the State guarantees the right of both minors and parents to relate and maintain the appropriate family tie. In this way, a regime of visits to the non-custodial parent is established; They have important psychological functions for the development of childhood, in addition to safeguarding the emotional bond between the child and his parents. 

However, and even when the State guarantees the aforementioned right, there are occasions when one of the parties obstructs the filial relations of their sons and daughters with the other parent; in certain cases transforming the conscience of their children, through the use of different strategies, in order to prevent, obstruct or destroy their links with the other parent. 

This behavior, known as Parental Alienation, originates mainly in the context of disputes over the custody and care of children. The effects of parental alienation on minors and the alienated parent are considered a variant of emotional and psychological abuse, being one of the most subtle forms of child maltreatment, which in turn can produce permanent psychological damage in the bond with the parent ( a) alienated; as well as in the integral development of the minors involved. 

Although there is no pattern applicable to all cases, important factors have been identified that alert to its presence. That is why the judicial determination must not be sustained in legal statements without the presence of specialists in human behavior. In most jurisdictions it is seen as a problem to be addressed through civil and non-criminal channels. The criminal process can place you in the uncomfortable situation of testifying to penalize one of your parents. Apart from this, the complexity of the alienating behavior presents a challenge for criminal legislation. We understand that custody determination and its subsequent evaluation in family court must be the most appropriate mechanism to address these situations and provide remedies that tend to advance the emotional health of the minor and strengthen family relationships as much as possible. 

It is the public policy of the Government of Puerto Rico to ensure the best interest, protection, and comprehensive well-being of children and adolescents, and in the duty to ensure that well-being, reasonable opportunities and efforts must be provided to preserve family and community ties when it does not harm them. For this reason, this Legislative Assembly considers it necessary to update the definitions of this statute in order to continue effectively guaranteeing the well-being and protection of children on our island.

DETERMINED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF PUERTO RICO:


Section 1.- A new subsection (13) is added, and the current subsection (13) is renumbered as subsection (14), in Article 7 of Law 223-2011, so that read as follows:

"Article 7.-Criteria to be considered in the custody award

When considering a custody application in which controversies arise between the parents regarding it, the court will refer the case to the Social Relations Unit Family, or the licensed professional that it deems necessary, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors or social workers, who will carry out an evaluation and will give a report with recommendations to the court. , as the court, when issuing its determination, will take into consideration the following criteria:

      ...

(13) It will analyze the presence of parental alienation, or any other reasons that may cause resistance cia of the minor to relate to his parents. Parental alienation refers to the obstruction by one of the parents of the filial relationships of their sons or daughters, minors, with the other parent, through the use of different strategies, with the purpose of transforming or indoctrinating the conscience. of their sons or daughters, in order to denigrate, prevent, obstruct or destroy their ties with the other parent and the minor presents thoughts or feelings of rejection towards the other parent; demonstrates negative attitudes towards this or if, in effect, the affective bond between the minor and the other parent has been affected. All actions arising from this subsection must occur repetitively so that they constitute a pattern and not based on isolated events. 

Parental alienation may be evidenced, without being understood as a limitation, in the following ways: 

(i) Refusing to pass the phone calls or trying to direct the content of such calls to the children. 

(ii) Organize activities with the children during the period that the other parent should normally exercise their right to visit or find ways to hinder the reunion between them. 

(iii) Intercept letters, messages or packages sent to the children. 

(iv) Devaluate and insult the other parent in front of the children.

(v) Refusing to inform the other parent, on purpose, of the activities in which the children are involved, such as school, family, social or other functions. 

(vi) Talk rudely about the new spouse of the other parent.

(vii) Prevent the other parent from exercising their visitation rights. 

(viii) Make important, non-emergency decisions about children without consulting the other parent.

(ix) Change (or try to change) their surnames or first names.

(x) Prevent the other parent from accessing the children's school and medical records.

(xi) Go on vacation without the children and leave them with another person, even if the other parent is available and voluntary to take care of them.


(xii) Discredit the clothes or gifts that the other parent has bought them, and prohibit them from wearing them. 

(xiii) Threatening children with punishment if they dare to call, write or contact the other parent.

(14) Any other valid or pertinent criteria that can be considered to guarantee the best welfare of the minor. ”

Section 2.- Article 9 of Law 223-2011 is amended to read as follows:

“Article 9.-When joint custody will not be considered as beneficial and favorable for the best interests of minors.

Joint custody will not be considered as beneficial and favorable to the best interests of minors in the following cases:

(1) ...

(2) ...

(3) ...

(4) ...

(5 ) ...

(6) ...

(7) ...

(8) ...

If, after granting joint custody, one of the parents, recklessly, arbitrarily and unfairly refuses to accept said decision, and performs acts to hinder the relationship of the other parent with the minors, the court may alter the decree and grant custody to the other parent. Faced with the proposal of acts constituting parental alienation, the court may order an evaluation to the Social Unit of Family Relations or the licensed professional that it deems necessary, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors or social workers, who will prepare reports and present their findings and recommendations to the court. The court may, if deemed necessary, evaluate the parties or any other evidence it deems pertinent. 

When evidence has been found that one of the parents has committed parental alienation, by the party that has custody of the minors, the court will evaluate the removal from custody or other precautionary measures at the discretion of the judge. If the parental alienation is committed by a relative, stepmother, stepfather or partner of the parent, the court will take measures to protect the minors.

When you are a parent who engages in the conduct of parental alienation, the court will evaluate ordering psychological therapy as a protective measure prior to the decision of removal from custody. In case of ordering psychological therapies, the court will evaluate the progress of this to make new recommendations, if necessary and merit.

Any parent who causes emotional or psychological harm to minors by the behavior of parental alienation, will be ordered to pay for psychological therapies that entail the repair of such harm in minors.

The court will have the discretion to take the measures and issue the orders it deems pertinent at any stage of the process. ”

Section 3.-This Law shall take effect immediately after its approval. 

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