Parental Alienation involves the actions of one parent to encourage and condition a child into alienating the other parent. This behavior is characterized by actions of one parent that vilifies the other parent, and in effect, encourages the child to reject the other parent. These actions can have devastating impact on the important relationship you have with your children, as well as affect the custody situation. To help you recognize the signs of parental alienation, the effects it can have on your life, and what potential avenues you may pursue to address this issue, we have provided a quick overview below. If you feel you are the victim of parental alienation you should see an attorney immediately. Contact us online or call (248) 479-6200. Time can be a critical factor in addressing this issue. Parental alienation should be addressed before it is too late and has an irreversible effect on your relationship with your children and on your custody arrangement.
Parental Alienation – The History of the Concept
Parental alienation is the conscious or unconscious brainwashing of a child by a parent that alienates a child from the other parent. When this occurs a child will often speak negatively and have a changed personality toward the other parent. In certain cases, the child will refuse to even see or talk to the other parent.
The term was coined as parental alienation syndrome in the 1980’s by psychologist Dr. Richard Gardner to characterize a child’s unwarranted rejection of one parent in response to the actions, behavior, and attitudes of the other parent. This behavior can have a devastating emotional impact on a child and their relationship with their parent. This is different than when there are legitimate allegations of abuse or other legitimate causes for alienation. Parental alienation specifically involves illegitimate and improper grounds for alienation.
Parental alienation is particularly common in a highly conflicted divorce with a lot of fighting between the parties. This negativity can affect the children and cause them to feel the need to side with one parent over another parent. It is important to note that this is not always the result of the intentional actions of a parent, and is commonly the unintentional result of the negativity between the former spouses. Parents should do their best to work together to spare the children the negativity of the divorce and ensure that the child’s relationship is preserved with both parents.
How to Recognize Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is incredibly common in a divorce and results from both the intentional and unintentional actions by a parent. It may happen to gain advantage in a situation or because of malice against the other spouse. It may also be due to negligent behavior resulting from the frustration of the divorce. The likelihood of a child being affected by parental alienation increases dramatically in the event of a hostile and contentious divorce.
The symptoms of parental alienation vary from minor actions taken by a parent to alienate your children from you to more extreme and substantial actions. Signs of parental alienation include:
· a parent sharing too many of the negative details of the divorce to a child, such as child support owed or the reason for the divorce
· talking badly about the other parent in the child’s presence
· scheduling the child’s activities and taking other actions to prevent the other parent from visiting the child
· excluding the other parent from the child’s activities and life
· making a child chose between the parents
· having the child inform on the activities of the other parent
· making decisions that involve the child’s life without consulting the other parent
· telling the child that the other parent caused the breakup to happen
· refusing to allow the other parent access to the medical and educational records of the child
· a parent telling or showing to the child that they are unhappy with the child spending time with the other parent
· implying to the child that the other parent’s home is unsafe or unwelcoming
· telling the child they do not have to see their other parent when they are required to
· asking the child to call them regularly to check in when they are with the other parent
· alleging to the child unfounded allegations that the other parent is abusive
This is just a few of the more common symptoms of parental alienation. The variations of parental alienation are too numerous to list and can include any behavior by one parent that serves to alienate and vilify the other parent in the eyes of the child. While these are some of the common symptoms, a qualified mental health professional is the only one that can properly diagnose parental alienation syndrome. This professional may be able to testify in court as an expert as to the parental alienation. This is particularly necessary due to competing psychological theories and opinions on the concept of parental alienation. The concept of parental alienation does not have complete recognition in the psychology field and, as a result, you may need to present your case more carefully and be prepared for counter-expert testimony.
What Are the Effects of Parental Alienation?
The effects of parental alienation are broadly twofold. First, the alienation can dramatically impact your relationship with the child. This negative effect on the parental relationship can be hard and difficult to reverse. This is a reason that if you feel parental alienation has occurred you should address the situation immediately. In some cases the relationship can never be repaired. Secondly, the alienation can negatively affect a party’s standing in divorce proceedings. The allegations made, and the feelings of the minor child, can affect the disposition of child custody and parenting time disputes, as well as other parts of the divorce process.
Has Your Child Been Affected by Parental Alienation?
If you feel you are falling victim to parental alienation, see an attorney and inform the friend of the court immediately. Actions can be taken to minimize and address the danger. The most important thing to note and accomplish when addressing the issue of parental alienation is to make sure all parties are aware that they should do what’s best for the child. The parties should work collaboratively to minimize the negative effects the divorce can have on the child.
In the event a parent is engaging in behavior that amounts to parental alienation, an attorney can take steps on your behalf to stop this behavior. Many behaviors associated with parental alienation are in violation of a custody or parenting time order. An attorney can file a motion on your behalf to enforce the order the other parent is in violation of. They can also ask the court to hold the other parent in contempt. In extreme cases a change of custody may be warranted.
As stated it is important that the parties work collaboratively to address the issue for the best interests of the child. Many courts have programs in place to instruct and mediate between the parents to insure that parental alienation does not occur. For example, in Oakland County the Friend of the Court has a program called SMILE which instructs the parents on how to focus on the children during a divorce. Collaborative practices you can engage in during a divorce to resolve the issue can be the best solution. It can press the importance of focusing on the children while minimizing the adversarial and contentious aspects of divorce that can also affect the children.
We Can Help
As previously mentioned, if you feel you’re the victim of parental alienation time is a crucial issue to minimize both the legal repercussions and the negative relationship with your children. An attorney is often necessary to insure that your complaint is found to be justified and taken seriously. To properly allege parental alienation a party needs both expert testimony and an attorney to prove to the court this is occurring. A court might otherwise find the alienation unfounded and refuse to get involved. If you are concerned or have questions please call our office for a consultation.