During a divorce, a child’s home is often time turned upside down without their understanding of why. It is during this time that they may gravitate towards one parent over the other. In healthy situations, this preference will fade, but in cases where parental alienation is involved, that child may reject a close relationship with the other parent.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is when the actions of one parent influence a child to reject the other parent. This is most often seen in contested divorces whereby one parent is trying to influence the outcome of a custody arrangement so that it is favorable towards them. The influence of one parent’s negative attitude and statements toward their ex-spouse also has the ability to cause the child to display those same behaviors and repeat those statements in ways they may not understand. This can be extremely confusing for a child and may cause long term damage to their psychological well being. In some jurisdictions, parental alienation is considered a form of child abuse because of its harmful effects.
Forms of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is considered any form of bad mouthing, blame, or be-litting of an ex-spouse. This includes anything from blaming the divorce on the other parent, to telling the child that the other parent doesn’t love them. This may also involve one parent asking for reports about the other parent in an effort to undermine them.
There are variations of parental alienation that can range from mild to severe. Mild parental alienation often involves actions that the parent may not even realize are doing damage. These actions are generally corrected when educated about the problem, and involve quick behavioral adjustments to ensure the well being of the child.
Moderate parental alienation occurs when a parent acts without thinking in ways that damage a child’s relationship with the other parent. This type of alienation often occurs in moments of emotional overload or when triggered by a specific event. Unfortunately, parents in this situation are not likely to be willing to admit the potential damage of their behavior and make corrections.
Severe parental alienation occurs when one parent is deliberately seeking to cause damage to the relationship between the child and the ex-spouse. This form of alienation is considered the most threatening to the child’s well being.
Common Types of Alienation
Below are several examples of child alienation that can overwhelm a child and cause them conflict about which parent they should be loyal to. These situations can also cause a child to have guilt about enjoying their time with one parent over the other.
- When one parent has never ending questions for the child about their relationship with the other parent, or asks the child to “spy” on the other parent for information.
When a child mentions that they had a good time with one parent and the other reacts negatively.
When a parents listens to phone conversations or monitors all communication with the other parent.
When a parent demands that things be done according to their wishes rather than those ordered by the courts.
When a parent provides details about the divorce with the child.
When one parent consistently blames any issues that they are having on the other parent, such as financial issues, lifestyle complications, or emotional struggles.
When one parents asks the child to choose which parent they love more. This is very confusing for a child, who loves both of their parents. They want to feel loved by both parents and do not want to feel rejected.
When one parent accuses the other of false allegations of abuse, or violence.
Parental Alienation Difficulties
If parental alienation is not addressed, it can lead to a child being estranged from one parent. This may be based on false accusations, or manipulation, and the child may never actually understand what has happened. The parent may bring up every negative thing that the other parent has done, possibly even embellishing to make their actions seem worse than they were. This emotional burden is often too much to bear for a child, and requires work from the parents to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Without a threat from the court or judge to stop the behavior, it is often difficult to stop.
How to Overcome Alienation
If you have been alienated to your child by your former spouse, staying calm, remaining logical, and resisting retaliation are the keys to ensure that you can come out from this situation. An alienated parent must never forget that their child’s well being is at stake, and that anything they do can and will be used against them by the alienator.
An alienated parent must work to put together a parenting plan that shows that they are a better parent than the alienator. Keeping a journal about key events that include important details and descriptions are crucial in situations like this. They must also keep in mind that these situations are not to be discussed with the child. There may be an urge to defend one’s actions to the child, but rather than telling them what they plan to do, they need to remember to act through what they plan to do. This may include anything from showing up on time for after school pickup, or just listening when the child has a concern. Ensuring that the child is not involved is the best way to protect your child from these negative behaviors.
If you have experienced parental alienation from your ex-spouse, Seff & Capizzi Law Group has the ability to assist with your situation and help you to determine the best course of action for your family. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.
If you need assistance with your separation or divorce, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.