Whether a divorce is amicable or difficult, it’s important that both parents continue to support their children and continue their relationship with them. Unfortunately, not all parents are of this mindset.
There are many cases where a divorced parent attempts to spend time with their child, and the child rejects them. Suddenly something has changed, but the parent can’t understand why their child is turning away from them. This situation now has a name: parental alienation.
Parental alienation syndrome, or parental alienation, is simply manipulation used by vindictive parents to turn their child against their other parent. While turning children against parents has been going on for decades, it has only recently been named.
Whether a mother or a father, the other parent has no idea why their children no longer want to see them, dislike them, or act out in their presence. This is usually due to their other parent working to poison your relationship. Parents who ascribe to this way of thinking are of the belief that it will make them look better in the eyes of the court, their children and possibly get full custody without visitation rights. This is a mistaken belief that frequently backfires.
How does it work?
Parental alienation can come in many forms:
• Undermining or disrupting the child’s relationship with one parent by the other
• Disrupting the child visitation time and contact with the other parent
• Causing the child to reject one parent for reasons that are untrue, leading to favoring the other parent
• Telling the child that the divorce was “all their fault,” and giving the child details about the divorce they didn’t need to know
• Convincing the child that they do not have to participate in visitation, even though there is a court order requiring them to visit
• Asking a child for detailed information about the other parent’s home or other details about the visit
• Comments such as, “if your mother/father really loved you, she/he would be here with you.”
Suspicions that your child’s other parent is working to discredit you in your child’s eyes may be justified but difficult to prove. This is particularly true if you’re experiencing disrespect and “backtalk” from the child in front of the other parent. If your child is angry with you for no apparent reason, they are reluctant to spend time with you or talk about the other parent as if they can do no wrong, there is a strong chance that this is what they—and you—are experiencing.
If you are the parent who constantly speaks ill of the other parent, you may not realize that you’re doing it. It’s important to watch what you say in front of your children to avoid convincing them that everything was the other parent’s fault, or that they are a bad person. Unless the other parent truly is bad, it’s safest to keep complaints about the other parent away from the children.
Combatting Parental Alienation
Although not a medical condition, parental alienation can do long-term damage to your child and you. If you see evidence of alienation, it’s important to act quickly to put a stop to it and save your relationship with your children before the other parent destroys it. It’s important to work on keeping a strong, positive, and loving relationship with your child or children. If you’ve noticed acting out or an abrupt change in behavior, start by speaking with the other parent about the behaviors.
It’s possible that the other parent is responsible for this behavioral change and will deny everything. If this happens, document the behaviors that show a change in the relationship. Take notes of what the child says and their demeanor as they deliver it. Otherwise, it will be difficult to prove in court.
Consider getting your child or children in therapy if the alienation is long-term and serious. If necessary, you can also consider requesting a modification of your parenting agreement to limit the time your child spends with the offending parent. Your family law attorney can work with you to renegotiate the schedule and discuss your concerns with the judge.
You may also consider enrolling yourself in parenting classes to help deal with being the targeted parent and to work on continuing a good relationship with the child.
Once the behavior has become ingrained, your relationship with the child will continue to deteriorate if it isn’t stopped. It’s possible that, even after therapy, expert opinions, and other interventions, the parent causing the alienation may refuse to stop. It may take waiting until the child is old enough to figure things out on their own before it’s resolved.
Let Wendy L. Hart Help With Divorce And Child Conservatorship
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of parental alienation syndrome, do not take a “wait and see” attitude. Continued parental alienation can actually affect the outcome of your conservatorship case. Work with a family law attorney who can help you.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with divorce, property, and child custody issues. We represent both men and women for family law matters. Visit our Mansfield office, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336 for an appointment.