A divorce can have tremendous implications not only for your finances, but also for your relationship with your child. That’s why a lot of Buffalo-area residents devote a lot of time and effort negotiating or litigating for a child custody and visitation arrangement that is best for them and their child.
Yet, even once you reach resolution on your child custody dispute, you could still face issues that jeopardize your child’s wellbeing and threaten your relationship with him or her. Parental alienation is one of those issues.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation occurs when one parent, usually the custodial one, tries to manipulate a child so as to mold the way that child views his or her other parent. This strategy, which is oftentimes referred to as brainwashing, seeks to devastate the relationship between the child and his or her other parent. The manipulating parent then tends to use this destroyed relationship as evidence to support a request for further restriction of the alienated parent’s contact with the child.
How does parental alienation occur?
The strategies used to manipulate a child can be wide-ranging. In some scenarios, the alienating parent simply tells the child that the alienated parent doesn’t want to have contact with the child, or that the alienated parent doesn’t love the child. This tactic can cause the child to feel unwanted and therefore shut the alienated parent out of his or her life.
In other instances, the alienating parent will position the alienated parent in a way where he or she is left with no decision that fosters his or her relationship with the child. For example, an alienating parent may schedule a fun outing or a party at the same time that the child is supposed to be spending time with the other parent. The alienating parent will then tell the child that they can only attend the fun event if it’s okay with the other parent. This puts the alienated parent in the position of either taking the child away from a fun activity or losing out on parenting time.
As sad as that strategy can be, it’s not the worst way that a parent may try to alienate another parent. In the most severe instances of parental alienation, young children are fed information that leads them to believe that they have been abused or neglected. Sometimes these manipulative parents even abuse the child welfare system to try to restrict the other parent’s access to the child.
What can you do about parental alienation?
The first thing you should do is be cognizant of the signs of parental alienation. This can include any of the following:
- Unwavering support for the manipulative parent
- Incessant criticism of you and your family
- The child’s use of language that is beyond his or her development and feels borrowed from an adult
- Sudden changes in behavior towards you
- A lack of justification when the child makes hurtful statements to you or behaves inappropriately towards you
If you see any of these signs, then you’ll want to investigate the matter further. You can ask your child’s other parent about it to see what he or she will say, but you might also have to turn to a mental health professional to help you evaluate your child and the situation at hand. This might require the power of the court, especially if the custodial parent refuses to allow the child to be subjected to a mental health professional’s assessment. You can also work to build a case for parental alienation by speaking to individuals who can attest to your relationship with your child and your parenting abilities.
If you’re being subjected to parental alienation, then we know that you’re worried sick about your relationship with your child as well as your child’s wellbeing. After all, some experts consider parental alienation to be a form of child abuse. However, by diligently addressing this issue and competently applying the law to your advantage, you might be able to bring parental alienation to a halt and protect that which is most important to you.