A common issue between divorcing or divorced couples is getting the children to take one parent’s side against the other. It could be for custody purposes or simply out of revenge or spite when the divorce is a high-conflict issue. If you are in such a situation, and you feel your ex- or soon-to-be ex-spouse is intentionally sabotaging your relationship with your child, you may be a victim of parental alienation.
The term describes one parent’s pattern of behavior that is deliberately meant to turn your child against you. The result is, your child may hate you or fear you and no longer wishes your presence in his or her life. In the United States, there is no federal or state law that regulates parental alienation. In courts, it is often regarded as a form of child abuse, with the abuser being the parent who is influencing the child to see the other parent in a negative light. Other persons may also be considered as alienators: the grandparents, other family members or friends of the parent, and even teachers and guidance counselors who have been fed false information and believed them.
Parental alienation, however, should be differentiated from estrangement, where in a parent’s behavior causes the child to lose feelings of affection and love for that parent and ultimately cut off communication between them. An example is when you don’t honor your joint custody or visitation rights with your child because you are too busy for them; even young children are astute enough to understand when they are not wanted. The parent who is estranged from their child will often blame the ex-spouse for keeping the child away. Hence, a careful and thorough investigation and evaluation is important to determine if it is parental alienation or estrangement. In court, a skilled and experienced family lawyer can spell the difference between winning or losing a child custody case wherein one parent alleges parental alienation.
How Can You Tell if your Ex-spouse is Causing Parental Alienation?
These are some of the behaviors observed in your spouse or child that will determine parental alienation:
- Your spouse will badmouth you in front of the child and narrate all the unfavorable incidents he/she experienced with you. This will include blaming you for the divorce and the resultant drop in standards of living, finances, etc that affects your child. Even the tone of voice your spouse uses to utter simple statements take on a belittling or derogatory meaning against you. Your child begins to harbor feelings of hostility and resentment towards you.
- Your spouse will try to end all forms of communication between you and your child. Your phone calls will be denied, presents will not be given to your child and your spouse may transfer residence without informing you.
- Your child sees your spouse as good and wise, deserving of loyalty and the victim in the divorce; on the other side, the child will think you’re the wicked, despicable parent who deserves to be rejected.
- If your child shows any love for you, or is eager to see you, your spouse will make him/her feel guilty and traitorous.
- Your child will lose all respect for you, insult you and call you names, disobey all you say and generally doesn’t see you as a parent.
- Your child will not remember the happy times with you pre-divorce and can’t differentiate truth from lies because of your manipulative spouse.
These are only some of the consequences of parental alienation. If you feel that it is a future possibility in your case, it’s best to heed the warning signs and take action before child custody is taken away from you. If PA is proven, some states allow a reunification program between the child and the alienated parent.
Parental alienation is emotionally taxing on both the alienated parent and the child. It’s psychological abuse and children who have been through this drama often become troubled adults. Make sure your child is spared from this experience.
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