Parental Alienation in Custody Disputes
Divorce can be a trying time. Homes and routines are uprooted, tensions run high, and in most contested matters, mud will be flung. This kind of malicious behavior is incredibly damaging to divorce cases, especially when there is a child custody component to the action.
Parental alienation occurs when one parent speaks badly about their former spouse either to, or in front of, their children. Parental alienation is usually intentional, and the primary care parent is typically the party who creates a wall between the non-custodial parent and children. They do this by manipulating their children into believing their other parent is inherently “bad”. These claims are often unjustifiable, and can wreak havoc on the parent-child relationship.
Signs of Parental Alienation
Signs that a child is being alienated from the non-custodial parent will vary on a case by case basis, but often include:
- Extreme behavior or mood changes when around the non-custodial parent;
- Repeating negative or false statements about the non-custodial parent, i.e.: calling them a liar or cheater;
- The child starts to blame the other parent for the divorce;
- Refusing to spend time with the other parent; or
- A child is unable to give a reason why they feel exaggerated levels of anger or hatred towards their other parent.
In addition to the signs that a child may exhibit, there are also indicators to let the non-custodial parent, lawyers, and psychologists know that that the primary caregiver is trying to alienate their ex. These may include:
- Speaking badly about their ex in front of the child;
- Convincing the child to lie about abuse or domestic violence allegations;
- Not enforcing visitation orders, or blocking the other parent’s access to the child;
- Refusing to provide copies of school or medical documents to the non-custodial parent;
- Having the child “spy” on the other parent to relay information; or
- Asking the child to choose which parent they want to live with, or who they love more.
Preventing Parental Alienation
The main reason why one parent will try to alienate the other is because they are hurt. They are mad. Sad. Confused. They let their emotions get the best of them and do not think rationally. Divorce should always be child-centered, and the only way to accomplish this is to have the child’s best interest in mind. Speaking ill of the other parent is never in a child’s best interest. Not only can this malicious behavior lead to alienation, it can make co-parenting very difficult- if not impossible.
In order to prevent parental alienation, each parent needs to be mindful of their words and actions. It is okay (and even healthy) to vent frustrations about the divorce, but this should never be done in front of children. Instead, parents should turn to their friends and family members for emotional support. Alternatively, it is also recommended that adults become active to help beat the divorce related blues, and start to socialize with new people.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Parental alienation is committed in underhanded and sneaky ways. Family law attorneys are trained to recognize signs of alienation, and are well equipped to address this serious matter in court. If a parent ever suspects their former spouse is trying to alienate and destroy their relationship with their child, they need to contact their attorney immediately. A strong bond between the non-custodial parent and child is crucial to ensuring that the child copes with divorce effectively.
For more information on parental alienation, along with other contested divorce and custody matters, contact the New York City based family law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. to schedule a free consultation. Offices are conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights.