What is parental alienation? Simply put, it is when one parent tries to alienate or isolate a child from the other parent. Parental alienation comes in many forms. There is of course blatant alienation in attempts to prevent visitation and time-sharing between the child and the other parent. This may be done with constant battling over time-sharing or in other cases outright custodial interference.
Interference with time-sharing is the most recognized a form of parental alienation but there are many other more subtle and equally damaging behaviors. There are also more subtle, even seemingly innocent forms of alienation. There are also more outrageous forms of parental alienation that are far too common. These include parental kidnapping. Almost, or arguably just as bad, one parent will falsely accuse the other parent of the most atrocious forms of child abuse. And there are all varieties in between the subtle to the extreme.
One common example of subtle alienation involves disparaging remarks about the absent parent. In its more “innocent” forms, this may be construed as mere venting and possibly even cathartic for the self-absorbed parent. Make no mistake, this behavior can be extremely harmful to the child, and the child’s relationship with the other parent.
These disparaging comments are often neither subtle nor innocent. Instead, they are part of a deliberate campaign to sever the relationship of the child with the other parent. This type of behavior is often in concert with similar behavior from “concerned” family members. On other occasions, the behavior is driven by these other family members.
These behaviors can often be headed off by the court or the child custody/mental health professionals enlisted by the courts. For instance, it is not uncommon for the court to prohibit contact with family members who engage in alienation activity. Far too frequently, when these behaviors are identified and halted by the courts, the alienating parent will resort to more extreme measures such as custodial interference, parental kidnapping and the growing and seemingly popular approach of making false allegations of abuse. In fact, there are no boundaries that some parents will not cross to both punish their ex through the children.
No matter the source, variety or severity of the conduct, alienating behavior is harmful to the child and should not be tolerated by the court. Whatever the case may be, parental alienation is a serious situation that can destroy a parent-child relationship. In turn, it is severely damaging to the child. Unfortunately, the damage to the child is often permanent and far outlasts the conflict between the parents.
If alienation is a serious concern, the parties in a child custody action should bring it to the court’s attention right away. Doing so allows the court to put safeguards in place to protect the child, the innocent parent, and permanent harm to the parent child relationship. The courts are obligated by law to promote the best interests of the child and very very rarely would this involve severing the child’s relationship with one of the parents.
Parental alienation even in seemingly innocent behavior is intolerable. Intentional alienation is the most malicious and harmful path a parent can take. It is also generally very challenging and expensive to address. To protect the parent, and most importantly from the court’s perspective the child, addressing parental alienation will typically require the services of an experienced family law attorney over a long, stressful and expensive legal journey. Unfortunately, it may also require a number of experts who in the end may be far more costly than the attorney.