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What Is Parental Alienation?

Wed 31st May, 2023 Family Law

Divorce is not easy for anyone, but it can be particularly emotionally damaging for children, even under the best of circumstances. However, that emotional damage can be significantly amplified in bitter divorces in which one or both parents attempt to use their children as pawns in their fight with each other. While all parents want to shield their children from the uglier aspects of child custody proceedings, many engage in parental alienation without even realizing it. If you believe that your spouse or former spouse is engaging in parental alienation, please contact a lawyer at a Stockton child custody law firm.  

Behaviors That Constitute Parental Alienation 

Generally, parental alienation occurs when one or both parents try to get a child on “their” side in a dispute by creating hostility between the child and the other parent. It is a form of psychological child abuse and is highly frowned upon by both legal and psychological professionals. Examples of behaviors that could constitute parental alienation include: 

  • Badmouthing, insulting, or denigrating the other parent in front of the child
  • Undermining the authority of the other parent 
  • Parentification (i.e., a reversal of the parent-child relationship wherein the child is given the authority to make decisions they have neither the age nor maturity to make) 
  • Making false claims about the other parent
  • Revealing damaging or inappropriate private information about the other parent to the child
  • Parental substitution (i.e., giving a child the impression that someone other than their other parent is the child’s parent, such as the alienating spouse’s significant other) 
  • Encouraging the child to disobey the other parent 
  • Telling a child that the other parent doesn’t love them or want to see them 

Parental Alienation Syndrome 

Parental alienation can result in significant friction in the parent-child relationship between the child and the targeted parent. In severe cases, it can even lead to Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), an unofficial psychological condition in which the child believes the alienating parent’s statements, adopts them as their own and acts on them. PAS can lead to extreme ill-will by the child toward the targeted parent and result in the child no longer wanting to spend time with the targeted parent. 

Legal Consequences of Parental Alienation 

Parental alienation is not illegal, but it can have an effect on child custody proceedings. Family law courts are guided by the principle that child custody should be in the best interests of the child; as such, parental alienation would count against the alienating parent in a child custody determination. In some extreme cases, a child may even be removed from the household of the alienating parent. 

Get Help From a Lawyer at a Stockton Child Custody Law Firm 

The good news about parental alienation is that it often can be stopped and its effects reversed by timely intervention. If you believe that your child is being alienated from you by your spouse or ex-spouse, you should act quickly to prevent further emotional damage. For more information, please contact a lawyer at the Stockton child custody law firm of McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

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