Every seasoned district court judge and child custody lawyer has seen cases where a parent, during a custody case, attempts to alienate his son’s or her daughter’s love and affection for the other parent in order to win the custody case. A parent’s attempt to brainwash, manipulate, or control a child to diminish or destroy the child’s love and affection for the other parent is generally known as referred to as parental alienation.
Parental alienation often arises within the context of divorce or child custody disputes, and may be motivated by a parent seeking a better custodial schedule, or by a parent’s jealousy or desire to punish the targeted parent or appear superior in the custody proceedings.
Examples of parental alienation include the following conduct:
- Disparaging the other parent in front of the child
- Telling the child the divorce is the other parent’s fault
- Telling the child that the other parent does not want him or her
- Making the child feel or believe he or she must pick one parent over the other
- Making the child feel guilty for wanting to spend time with the other parent;
- Taking actions to limit or discourage contact between the child and the other parent;
- Withholding gifts, emails, or text messages for the child sent by the other parent;
- Allowing or encouraging others to make negative comments about the other parent in the presence of the child
- Leading the child to believe the other parent doesn’t really love him or her or loves other (children) more;
- Leading the child to believe that the alienating parent has been hurt, wronged or victimized by the other parent and needs the child’s protection; and
- Encouraging or rewarding the child for demeaning or denigrating the other parent.
When a parent engages in parental alienation, not only can it undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child, but it can have a devastating and long-term emotional impact on both the child and the other parent. It may take years of dedication and hard work for the maligned parent to overcome the damage, bridge the emotional divide, and reestablish a relationship with the child who has been alienated. Some parents in such situations enduring such abuse from the other parent give up on a relationship with his or her child, while others struggle relentlessly to salvage the parent-child relationship.
Judges understand that, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, such as abuse, neglect, or endangerment, children benefit from having regular contact and maintaining loving relationships with both parents. If you have reason to believe that you are the target of parental alienation, you will benefit from having a consultation with an experienced family law attorney. There are certain legal remedies that are available to a targeted parent, such as seeking a change or modification of child custody or visitation. In the alternative, a targeted parent can request that the court place restrictions on specific behaviors of the alienating parent that may be detrimental to the targeted parent’s relationship with the child.