Children can be incredibly vulnerable to manipulation and coaching. That’s why there’s so much at risk when child custody disputes arise. With your relationship with your child and your child’s very wellbeing on the line, you should do everything you can to protect your and your child’s interests. So, if you feel like your child’s other parent is pitting your child against you, then you may want to start considering if parental alienation is occurring and, if so, how to stop it.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is a process of manipulation whereby one parent programs a child in a way that distances them from their other parent. Some experts consider this a form of psychological and emotional child abuse.
Parental alienation can occur in a number of ways. In many cases, a parent feeds false information or intimate details to the child in hopes of changing their perception about the other parent. For example, a child may be consistently told that his or her other parent doesn’t love him or her, or the child may be told, either truly or falsely, that the other parent was engaged in an affair during marriage.
But parental alienation can take even more severe forms than that. A parent might go so far as to cause a child to believe that they were neglected or abused by their other parent. This can go so far as to sometimes lead to criminal investigations. The alienating parent then uses the child’s falsely held belief to restrict or deny the other parent’s access to the child.
What are the symptoms of parental alienation?
If you keep your eyes and your ears open, then you can probably spot signs of parental alienation. These symptoms include:
- Unfair criticism from the child without justification
- Unwavering support for the alienating parent
- Your child’s use of age inappropriate language when criticizing you
- The other parent’s scheduling of fun activities with the child when you are supposed to be spending time with the child
- The resentment that the child displays toward you is extended to your family
- Your child shows no guilt or conflict for the way he or she feels or acts toward you
There may be other signs of parental alienation, too, such as a custodial parent’s abuse of his or her gatekeeping function, thereby cutting you out of the child’s life then using that lack of access to lead your child to believe that you don’t want to have contact with him or her. Be cognizant of these signs and take note of them.
Using the legal system to address parental alienation
Oftentimes, parents who engage in alienating behavior do so in an attempt to modify custody or visitation in a way that reduces or eliminates the other parent’s access to the child. This means that you need to be prepared to defend against those modification requests, but you can also use evidence of parental alienation to support your own request for modification.
You’ll have to be armed with compelling evidence and persuasive legal arguments, but the family courts are becoming more receptive to arguments regarding parental alienation. With that in mind, then, it’s in your and your child’s best interests to aggressively take legal action if warranted.
You don’t have to fight parental alienation on your own
Parental alienation cases can be difficult, but you don’t have to face them alone. Instead, you can choose to work closely with a skilled family law professional who can help you gather evidence and tailor legal arguments to support your position. This may mean asking for a child custody evaluation and having an expert ready to testify on your behalf, but it’s important that you don’t despair during these challenging times. You can fight to protect your child, preserve and rebuild your relationship with him or her, and hold your child’s other parent accountable. Hang in there, and consider seeking the support that you need to maximize your chances of achieving the outcome you desire.