What Is Parental Alienation?

father and child
Jun 28, 2024 | Content

When parents live apart, sometimes one person holds a grudge or becomes bitter about the relationship. Unfortunately, when parents do not have the skills to manage their feelings appropriately, they might try to damage their children’s relationship with the other parent.

This behavior is called parental alienation, and it can be extremely damaging to a child. Speak with a local child custody attorney when you believe your co-parent is trying to influence your children to turn against you.

What Does Parental Alienation Look Like?

Parents are human, and sometimes, a breakup’s emotional distress and financial pressure can lead them to say things they should not have said. If this happens once or twice, it is unfortunate but probably not actionable. Parental alienation occurs when a parent makes a concerted effort to influence the children’s opinion of the other parent negatively.

Sometimes, the efforts are verbal. One parent might claim the other is a cheater, liar, bad spouse, or some other insult. A parent might describe the other’s bad behavior and say it was the reason for the breakup. They might claim that the other parent left the family because they do not love the children.

Interference with visitation is another form of parental alienation. Examples include refusing to have the children ready on time for visits or demanding they be returned early. Encouraging the children to confront their other parent or checking in with them excessively while they are in the care of the co-parent could also be parental alienation.

How Alienation Hurts Children

Children whose parents have decided to live apart are already going through a lot. They might blame themselves for the breakup and wonder what they did wrong. They must also adjust to a new living situation and a new routine, which can cause anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.

Adjustment is easier when both parents can reassure the children that they remain their parents’ priority and their future is bright. It is more difficult when one or both parents focus on placing blame on the other.

Insulting the other parent might cause a child to feel guilty about loving that parent. It could damage their self-esteem if they resemble the “bad” parent in some way. Alienating behavior puts the child in the middle of an adult conflict and can force them to choose sides, damaging their trust in their parents at the very time they most need to feel confident in them.

Possible Legal Responses

It is critical to take action when parental alienation is harming the children or damaging the relationship between the child and co-parent. A parent who believes their co-parent is alienating the children should consult an experienced custody attorney immediately.

A judge must consider the children’s best interests when choosing a response to parental alienation allegations. In some cases, the judge might order the alienating parent to undergo a psychological evaluation and counseling, and counseling for the children might also be appropriate.

A parent might ask the judge to enforce the existing custody order and hold the alienating parent in contempt for non-compliance. In some cases, seeking a modification of the existing order might be more protective of the children.

Consult an Experienced Attorney If Your Co-Parent Is Alienating Your Children

Experiencing parental alienation is unhealthy for children and the alienated parent. When your co-parent engages in this behavior, you must intervene to protect your children’s mental health and your relationship with them.

Explore your options with a local child custody lawyer. Get in touch today.

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