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Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can have lasting effects on your child later in life. If your ex-spouse is poisoning your child against you, it is important to protect your relationship with your child.

Divorce is difficult for parents and children alike and it can cause a rift in some relationships. This is especially true in situations where the divorce was very heated or involved an intense custody battle. Unfortunately, ex-spouses having negative feelings toward each other is quite common. However, when those feelings are projected on to the child with the intent to poison him or her against the other parent that is when parental alienation occurs.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a form of abuse in which one parent intentionally interferes with the relationship between his or her child and the other parent. According to the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse that has lasting effects on the individual into adulthood. As maintained by the APSAC, parents alienating their children typically send the message through words and actions that:

  • The parent is needed and the only parent who really loves the child,
  • The other parent is too busy for the child or dangerous, and
  • The child cannot have a relationship with both parents and must decide whom to love and to be loved by in return.

Through these behaviors, the child not only misses out on a much-needed relationship with the other parent, but also begins to view him or herself as only receiving love when needed by another individual. The child's self-confidence and own self worth can also suffer as a consequence far into adulthood, leading to life-long damage.

What warning signs should I look for in my child?

A parent who is alienating his or her child may be doing it consciously or subconsciously and there are many difference forms of alienation. Here is a list of some common signs to look for if you suspect your ex-spouse is trying to turn your child against you.

  • The child constantly makes excuses for not wanting to spend time with the alienated parent
  • The child is disrespectful or abusive to the alienated parent, often in front of the alienating parent
  • The child tells lies about past abuse perpetrated by the alienated parent
  • The child no longer seems to have any positive memories about his or her past experiences or events with the alienated parent
  • The alienating parent prevents the child from receiving phone calls or visiting the alienated parent, or makes visits as difficult as possible
  • The alienating parent or child destroys gifts or communication from the alienated parent
  • The alienating parent makes the child feel guilty for spending time with the alienated parent or for feeling love for the other parent
  • The alienating parent makes disparaging remarks about the alienated parent or family members in front of the child

This is not an exhaustive list and parental alienation can be complex to diagnose and prove. If you see some of these signs or behaviors, it is important to speak to an attorney about your rights and how to protect your child.

What you can do about it

Your child needs to have a strong loving relationship with both parents. If your ex-spouse is preventing this from happening, it is important to stop this form of abuse and to protect your child from the lasting damage of parental alienation. Changes or modifications to your custody order can be made by the court if parental alienation is proven and the court determines that changes would be in the best interest of the child. This is always the standard that the court looks at to make a custody determination or modification.

If you fear that your child is suffering from alienation due to the actions, behaviors or messages perpetrated by your ex-spouse you should speak to a family law attorney to discuss your options. At McCormack & Phillips, we have experience helping victims of parental alienation. Call us today to discuss your circumstances and help you protect your child.