It is no surprise that when two people divorce, emotions often run high. If questions of child custody are involved, this makes an already challenging situation all the more difficult. Unfortunately, some parents have such animosity toward their spouse that they turn their child against them. This behavior is known as parental alienation. If you are dealing with parental alienation, it is essential to contact one of the child custody attorneys at The Drake Law Firm, PC, before any issues escalate.
Is My Child Experiencing Parental Alienation?
If you’re wondering if your child is experiencing parental alienation, here are three signs that the answer might be yes:
- Unjust Criticism – Even in healthy relationships, a parent can lose their temper or their patience. In turn, a child could become angry with their parent. In parental alienation situations, the child will be critical of the alienated parent without just cause and have nothing good to say about them.
- Unwavering Support for the Alienating Parent – The child will have black or white thinking as they side with the alienating parent against the alienated parent. They will not admit that the alienating parent influences their feelings.
- No Feelings of Guilt – The child will justify any criticisms or bad feelings toward the alienated parent. They will never apologize for their behavior or admit anything is wrong with it.
What are Alienating Behaviors?
Some alienating behaviors might involve one parent criticizing the other parent in front of the child to gain their loyalty. Or the parent might misrepresent or even lie about past events putting the alienated parent in a bad light.
When the child spends time with the alienated parent, the alienating parent could infringe on that time by unnecessarily contacting the child and doing whatever they can to limit the alienating parent’s time with the child.
It is not unheard of to have one parent make false accusations of abuse against the other, forcing the child to take sides. Though these behaviors can occur before the marriage ends, they usually surface in earnest when the parents separate and divorce. Even if one parent remarries, the other parent could try to erase them from the child’s life. Oftentimes, these issues can bubble-up during family holidays.
What is the Effect on the Children?
In her book Parents Acting Badly: How institutions and societies promote the alienation of children from their loving families, Dr. Jennifer J. Harman learned after interviewing alienated parents how some children were relatively resistant to the alienating parent’s behavior –– even to the point of being critical of them. Since the child is often dependent upon the alienating parent, it puts them in a difficult position. The child acts one way with one parent and a completely different way with the other –– much like having a split personality.
The limited research that has been done on the subject of parental alienation shows that both the children and parents suffer many negative consequences. According to Dr. Harman, some of “these can include psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even the contemplation of or attempted suicide. Declines in academic performance among children and decreases in work productivity of parents can also occur.”
How Common is Parental Alienation?
To better understand how extensive parental alienation is, Dr. Harman and her colleagues polled a randomly selected sample of 610 adults in North Carolina about their experiences of parental alienation. They found that 13.4 percent of parents in their sample reported being alienated from one or more of their children. Of these parents, 48 percent reported this experience as being severe. Dr. Harman created the Colorado Parent Alienation Project, which is devoted to understanding parental alienation.
Can Parental Alienation Be Treated?
If you suspect your child is suffering from parental alienation, the successful treatment will depend upon its severity. If the case is mild, the judge could tell the alienating parent to stop making disparaging comments about the other parent and abide by the parenting plan. At this point, it might be wise to bring in a parenting coordinator to help you and your spouse communicate better for the sake of your child.
If the case is moderate, the parenting coordinator can also help, but the alienating parent must be committed to correcting the problem. When it comes to severe cases where the alienating parent is uncooperative in addressing the issues, it may be necessary to remove the child from the alienating parent’s custody. Parental alienation is recognized as child abuse and sometimes must be treated as other cases of abuse are treated by removing the child from the situation.
If this is done, the child may be placed with you, and the other parent will be given supervised visitation, at least temporarily. Sometimes, grandparents can get involved. It is crucial to recognize parental alienation in its early stages because the treatment for the more severe stages may do more harm than good.
Fighting Parental Alienation
Unfortunately, parental alienation happens far too often. Colorado courts recognize that willful interference with parental rights constitutes parental alienation. If you can prove this, the court will likely find that the current custodial parent is unfit and that custody should be changed. It could also lead to the child choosing what parent to live with, depending on their age. If you suspect your child is suffering from parental alienation, it is time to reach out to an experienced child custody lawyer at The Drake Law Firm, PC.
Contact a Child Custody Lawyer at The Drake Law Firm, PC
Do you believe that parental alienation may be a factor in your child custody case? If so, the trusted family attorneys at The Drake Law Firm, PC, are ready to help you.
To learn more about your rights and find out how we can help you with parental alienation issues, contact us by calling (303) 261-8111 or by filling in our contact form to schedule your initial consultation. From our offices in Golden, we serve clients throughout Colorado.
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