What Is Parental Alienation and How Does It Pertain to Family Law?

Divorce and separation have never been easy for couples, but, when children are involved, emotions are heightened tenfold. Custody arrangements can be very difficult and are usually of the utmost concern for both parents. Because of this, any divorce agreement that involves custody and visitation arrangements can become easily warped into a prosecutors struggle between involved parties.

Parental alienation is one of the most extreme outcomes to emerge from divorce and custody battles. The definition of Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS is when one parent brainwashes their child or children against the other parent. This can have long-lasting effects on the parent-child relationship. Never use your children as a tool against the other parent. All will pay in the long run for this abuse.

Some signs the alienating parent may display include:

  • Allowing the child a choice to visit with the other parent when a court order for visitation is in place
  • Denying the other parent access to the child’s personal records (school, medical, etc.)
  • Inflexible in visitation schedule or overlapping activities with visitation times for the other parent
  • Encouraging the child to feel angry or resentful toward the other parent
  • Suggesting changing the child’s last name
  • Using the child to spy on or report information about the other parent
  • Convincing the child that he/she will not be safe or happy with the other parent
  • Making the child feel guilty about spending time or communicating with the other parent
  • Informing the child about details regarding the divorce, finances, or other aspects of their relationship with the other parent

The child’s demeanor will reflect what they have been told. Most commonly the following behavior from the child will be observed:

  • The child shows hate and anger toward the alienated parent
  • The child protects and defends the actions of the alienating parent
  • The child shows no guilt about their behavior
  • The child uses foul language or lashes out physically
  • The child asserts that they came up with the ideas and feelings about the other parent on their own
  • The child displays animosity toward other members of the alienated parent’s friends and family
  • The child fabricates or borrows situations and claims these “memories” occurred in the presence of the alienated parent

Possible Causes

A parent alienating another parent may or may not be done consciously, but it nevertheless results in strained bonds and heightened emotions for both parents, children, and extended family and friends. A parent may alienate for a number of reasons, including:

  • A way to hurt or get back at the other parent for perceived slights done during their marriage, divorce, or at present
  • Insecurity in the relationship with their child
  • Anxiety over separating from their child even for visits
  • Unresolved issues from their own childhood
  • An emotional or psychological disorder

A child will often go along with the alienation in an attempt to keep peace with the alienating parent. For a child, placating this parent will reduce stress or keep the parent from becoming angry with them. This may also be a way for the child to protect that parent.

What Can Be Done?

Enlist the help of an experienced Family Law attorney to assist with navigating the courts to address the situation before the effects are irreversible. Alienated parents risk never regaining the trust and affection of their children if the situation continues unchecked. Seek professional legal help before it is too late.