What is parental alienation and how can I avoid it?
In any divorce where children are involved, protecting their interests and sheltering them from the turmoil are arguably the two most important goals. Even if parents were never married but are nonetheless involved in a custody dispute, children should never be put in the middle.
To a certain extent, some collateral damage may be unavoidable. Even when mom and dad are doing the best they can, kids can often sense tension and anger. But on the other end of the spectrum, some parents use their children as pawns in a power struggle with their ex. No one wins in these situations, and children always suffer the most.
Parental alienation occurs when one parent manages to turn their children against the other parent. If the alienating parent has primary custody, this may be easy to do, because the alienated parent’s contact with the children is limited.
Alienation is often multi-faceted. Tactics could include:
- Constantly disparaging the other parent in front of the children and encouraging them to do so as well
- Telling children lies about the other parent to make them seem like a bad person
- Punishing one’s ex-spouse by withholding or threatening to withhold phone calls, visitations and other contact with the kids
- Bringing up personal information about what may have led to the divorce in an attempt to blame it solely on the other parent
- Restricting and monitoring access to the children and refusing to pass on messages, letters and gifts
- Any other behavior intended to force the children into choosing sides
To be clear, there times when one parent will try to keep their children away from the other parent due to real and serious concerns about abuse or other potential harm. This is not parental alienation, and these concerns need to be addressed in court or with law enforcement.
In the absence of the aforementioned concerns, one parent’s attempts to alienate the other should not be allowed to occur. It often damages the children emotionally and psychologically, and it may end up ruining children’s relationships with both parents.
If you are concerned that your co-parent is attempting to alienate you from your children, please share your concerns with an experienced family law attorney.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Parental Alienation Following Divorce: Too Easily Rationalized or Overlooked,” Rosalind Sedacca, May 7, 2015