Parental Alienation

New Challenges for a Family

On Monday, 10-year-old Valor Howell, who was allegedly abducted by his mother from Grand Forks in 2004, returned to Canada. The reunion may be a joyful one for his father and two teenage sisters, but it will also be the beginning of a new set of challenges for the boy, and the father that searched for him for nearly seven years.

"The question now is how to repair your bond," said Vancouver lawyer Lorne MacLean, who specializes in family law.

"The boy might not remember his father, and two older siblings, or he may have a negative viewpoint about the father due to parental alienation," said MacLean.

"You have to get the child to reorient; the child will have a distorted view of past events."

Valor was found after police were called to settle a scene between the mother and son in a Chandler, Arizona laundromat.

When Valor's identity became known, the mother, Jamie Howell, was arrested, and the boy was reunited with his father, Garrett Taylor of Kelowna.

Taylor had spent years using private detectives and public forums, like Facebook, to try to track his son down. After the alleged abduction, he was awarded sole custody by a B.C. court.

Abduction, or simply disappearing with a child, is "the highest level of gatekeeping or access-blocking, and it is clear that a parent who does that cannot make proper decisions on behalf of the child," said MacLean.

Parental alienation, physical distance and sometimes even abduction is not uncommon in high-conflict cases, said Bob Finlay, a Vancouver family counsellor and mediator who specializes in reunification therapy.

Finlay hasn't worked with Taylor or Valor, but he said an abduction case like this would typically involve a destructive pattern of alienating the child from the parent left behind and creating dependency on the abductor.