It is common for parents to feel negative emotions during a divorce. It is a different story to pass those negative emotions onto their children to cause harm to the other parent and the relationship between the child, or children, and the other parent.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is when one parent takes actions to create division or hostility between the other parent and their child or children. This topic was acknowledged in Family Law as recently as the 1980s. Unfortunately, we are seeing much more of it in courtrooms today.
Research is ongoing to understand better how and why this happens. Further, researchers specialized in family law and social psychology are looking into how to prevent it or provide treatment after it happens. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) states that parental alienation can be emotional child abuse because the harm caused to the child is enduring, severe and often irreparable.
How does parental alienation happen?
Usually, parental alienation begins when one parent creates hostility between the other parent and the child or children. It can be overt, meaning it is explicit and evident in words and actions, or covert, which is much more subtle and, thus, harder to prove. Whichever the case, parental alienation is harmful for the children.
Some examples of parental alienation are:
- Speaking poorly about the other parent
- Insulting them in front of the child
- Convincing the child to speak on behalf of the offending parent
- Lying to attorneys and judges about the other parent.
These are all ways that a parent might try to turn their children against the other parent.
What can I do if my spouse does this to our child/children?
You can use tools to fight parental alienation during your custody action. The first course of action is to keep track of as much tangible evidence of the other parent’s attempts to alienate you from your child as possible. Other tools include forensic custody evaluations, psychological interventions and legal assistance from experienced professionals. These strategies can be critical in helping you navigate custody matters in which this is an issue.
Parental alienation is a significant, pervasive problem, and it is right to address it. If you believe this is happening to your child, act (while ensuring your safety) to ensure their well-being.