Parental alienation often involves situations where one parent criticizes the other parent with the goal of ruining the relationship between the other parent and child. A child can sometimes develop resentment or outright reject a parent that is being vilified by the alienating parent, a behavior that most often occurs following a high conflict divorce or contentious child custody proceeding.
All too often a child who rejects one parent does so without a justifiable reason other than being indoctrinated to dislike that parent by a custodial parent. Unfortunately, the child not only misses out on a good relationship with the alienated parent, but can suffer from an increased risk of future relationship issues, depression, and substance abuse. For the rejected parent, the heartache is excruciating – the once good relationship they had with their child is lost.
What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?
Not all that surprisingly, parental alienation is gaining acceptance as a recognized disorder, which has led to more research on the causes, evaluation, prevention and treatment of the condition.
Recognizing Parental Alienation
Recognizing that parental alienation is at work is the first step to solving the problem. Hallmarks of parental alienation include the favored parent using multiple alienating behaviors that result in a child avoiding, resisting, or refusing a relationship with the other parent where a positive relationship existed previously. Typically there is no history of abuse, neglect, or serious deficiency in parenting by the rejected parent to justify the alienation of the parent.
Parental Alienation: Mild, Moderate or Severe
Mild parental alienation may manifest as a child showing reluctance to spend time with an alienated parent, but enjoys a relationship once the parenting time is underway. If a parent suspects that a child is suffering from early stages of parental alienation, a typical intervention may be to seek the help of a counselor to help the parents find common ground to support each other’s relationship with the child. It may also include asking the court to intervene early, ordering an offending parent to stop undermining the relationship between the alienated parent and child.
Moderate cases of parental alienation may find a child who strongly objects to contact with the alienated parent. Again, the intervention is focused on the parents resolving their differences with the help of a counselor who will strive to reduce conflict and improve communication. Counseling sessions may start out between the parents and eventually include the child to support family cohesion. This approach will only work if the alienating parent is willing to disengage from alienating behaviors and support the program.
Severe parental alienation involves an alienating parent who is convinced of their righteousness in shunning the other parent – a parent is knowingly and proactively ruining the relationship between the child and targeted parent. This behavior more often than not results in severe parental alienation where a child refuses the relationship with the other parent all together. Because a parent purposefully causing a child to reject a relationship with the other parent may constitute psychological abuse, a change in custody may be appropriate on a temporary basis until the issue can be addressed meaningfully. Seeking legal representation is advised.
Preventing Parental Alienation
Of course, the prevention of parental alienation is the best approach, which can start by parents putting their differences aside and prioritizing the best interest of the child. Educating psychiatrists, social workers, educators, lawyers and judges to help parents avoid the pitfall of parental alienation while defaulting to a shared parenting time arrangement in a divorce can set families up for success. Where parental conflict runs high, referrals to family mediation for dispute resolution is strongly recommended.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
It is very difficult and painful for divorced or separated parents dealing with parental alienation. If you believe an ex spouse or partner is sabotaging your relationship with your child, it is important to seek help. Contact the child custody lawyers of Probst Law Offices to discuss your concerns and pursue a strategy to improve your relationship with an estranged child. Call today at 414-210-3135.