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Is Your Child a Victim of Parental Alienation?


Published on January 16th, 2021

Any divorce is an emotional endeavor, and very often divorces that involve minor children can go to the extreme on the emotional scale. Whether it’s during a pending divorce case or after the case is finalized, co-parenting may be difficult under the circumstances. However, successfully working with the other parent is essential for a child’s happiness and sense of belonging.

Often, a divorcing couple or divorced couple will have a lot of residual anger toward each other and will unconsciously, or even consciously, talk unfavorably about their co-parent to the child or children. This can cause children to see their other parent differently, and in some cases, even reject them. In family law, this process is often referred to as “parental alienation.”

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation refers to the psychological or emotional manipulation of a child by one parent against the other. Although it has been controversially called a “syndrome” in the mental health field, it is a significant problem in many divorce situations and can be detrimental to the child and his or her relationship with both parents.

What Are Some Signs of Parental Alienation?

When a couple divorces, successful parenting time arrangements will go a long way towards preserving a child’s relationship with both parents. Unfortunately, when the divorce was especially contentious or when the parents are not/have not communicated well, bitterness can seep into a parent’s words or actions with their children and negatively impact how the child sees the other parent.

There are signs that your child is being affected by your co-parent speaking negatively or critically to the child about you. This can include:

  • Your child has revealed that the co-parent has shared relationship details, such as an affair during the marriage, with the child;
  • Your co-parent prevents the child from talking to you or monitors your communication;
  • Your co-parent does not want the child’s personal items to be kept at your home;
  • Your co-parent entices the child with activities or promises during the time the child is scheduled to be at your home, in an effort to convince the child to not want to go with you for your scheduled parenting time;
  • Your co-parent keeps asking to bend parenting time arrangements or refuses to compromise for special occasions;
  • Your co-parent does not share essential information concerning the child;
  • To the child, your co-parent repeatedly compares you (in a negative or critical way) to his/her partner;
  • Your child or co-parent tries to prevent you from attending school or extra-curricular functions, or doctor’s appointments for the child, etc.;
  • Without warning your child seems angry, defiant, or is disinterested in seeing you;
  • Your co-parent has asked your child to report on matters concerning your personal life;
  • Your child uses terminology and phrases that seem too adult-like or advanced when describing your actions; Your child complains about you or belittles you
  • Your child exhibits unwavering support of your co-parent.

What Causes One Parent to Turn the Children Against the Other Parent?

During and after a divorce, many emotions are swirling around the family, from anger to guilt to feelings of hopelessness. Many parents struggle to manage these strong emotions and feelings, and as a result they have let go of appropriate filters that keep their children from being negatively affected by them.

In addition, many divorcing parents feel competitive toward their co-parent and want to be the favorite. Others are angry and even wish to exact revenge upon the other. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce, one partner may be jealous of a new spouse or even be looking for more financial support, while others may simply want the child to themselves. The motivations behind parental alienation are many but the consequences are always destructive.

How Does Parental Alienation Affect the Children?

Talking negatively about a co-parent is not healthy for the child or for co-parenting in general, as children are inexorably harmed when parents put children in the middle of their conflicts.

Children who have been subjected to parental alienation can go on to internalize feelings of distrust, self-effacement, and often depression. Moreover, some studies suggest that children who have been alienated from a parent can go on to have their own conflicted relationships and are at greater risk of becoming alienated from their own children.

When you have suspected that your co-parent is engaging in parental alienation and all efforts at dealing with the co-parent directly have not been successful, it is in your and the child’s best interests to speak with a skilled and compassionate family law attorney. Contact the experienced attorneys at Davis Friedman for a consultation to learn how we may be able to help.

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