Divorce and figuring out child custody is almost always challenging. In many cases, couples can come to an amicable agreement and work to put aside their differences for the sake of their children. However, this isn’t always the case. Especially in high-conflict divorces and custody cases, parental alienation can occur.
Here is what you need to know about parental alienation, what you can do if you think your child is being alienated against you, and whether or not this is something that can be proved in court.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is the concept of when a child identifies strongly with one parent and hates and rejects the other parent without just cause.
If a child rejects a parent due to abuse, substance abuse in their presence, or other types of harm or neglect, they would have an understandable reason for wanting to stay away from the parent and disliking them.
If a parent tries to keep the child from the other parent because the other parent is harming them or is otherwise unfit, this is another understandable reason where the child’s welfare is placed first.
However, especially in high-conflict divorces or custody cases, one parent can alienate the child from the other without just cause. They simply don’t want their child to have anything to do with the other parent because they do not like the other parent. As such, they try to interfere with the parent-child bond and make the child hate the other parent as they do.
They can do this by pressuring the child to agree with them, interfering with the child’s relationship with the other parent, and programming them to believe things of the other parent that are not true. The alienating parent places their feelings before the welfare of the child. This can cause both the parent who is being alienated and the child to be harmed.
How Does Parental Alienation Occur?
Both fathers and mothers can alienate their children from each other. The alienating parent is whichever one does not have their child’s best interests at heart.
Some of the ways in which this can happen include:
- Limiting the child’s contact with the other parent.
- Talking badly about the other parent in front of or to the child.
- Making the child take sides.
- Not informing the other parent about important information.
- Making a child fear their other parent.
- Convincing the child of things that are not true.
- Making the child feel guilty for wanting to spend time with the other parent.
- Not allowing the child to speak positively about the other parent.
- Manipulating or bribing the child into not spending time with the other parent.
- Cutting the other parent out from their child’s life.
- Brainwashing the child.
Especially in high-conflict divorces, parents may sometimes engage in some of these behaviors without realizing how they affect the child. They may speak badly about the other parent in front of the child without thinking about how that can affect the child.
Parental alienation is the intentional destruction of a parent-child relationship without just cause.
What Are The Effects Of Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation can affect both the alienated parent and the child being alienated. The child can end up unfairly criticizing the other parent, without evidence or with false reasoning. They may not feel guilty and have only negative feelings towards that parent. They may talk in ways that seem borrowed from adult language or reference things before their memory.
The child may previously have had a strong relationship with the alienated parent, but now, only has one with the alienating parent. The child may like spending time with the alienated parent but be afraid to tell this to the alienating parent. Given the opportunity to bond, the child and the alienated parent may get along well, but when forced apart, the child may hate the other parent.
This can cause both the alienated parent and the child pain and impact their life.
What Can You Do If Your Child Is Being Alienated From You?
If you feel like your child is being alienated from you, this is very difficult to prove. Family therapy can help to rebuild bonds, as can court orders and custody agreements that the child spend time with you.
Can Parental Alienation Be Proved In Court?
As previously mentioned, parental alienation is very difficult to prove. Courts have the child’s best interest in mind and will hear all the evidence and the cases presented to them in order to determine what to do.
Are You Going Through A Divorce Or Child Custody Case?
In most cases, both parents try to put their children first. Many couples that should divorce stay together for the sake of their children without realizing how this can harm the children. Determining custody and trying to keep their personal feelings about each other private can benefit the children. The more amicable, the easier it is for the child.
Of course, there are cases where one parent should not have custody over or access to the child. If there is just cause for the child to dislike and want to stay away from the other parent, the parent trying to keep the child from the other is typically just trying to protect them.
However, this is not the case with parental alienation.