In the aftermath of a custody battle where one parent was awarded sole or primary custody of the child, the noncustodial parent often feels devastated. Moreover, the custodial parent may use the custody award to reinforce their superiority over their former spouse. These misguided aspirations can be taken to the extreme by taking actions to establish complete control of their child's heart and mind to the exclusion of the other parent. A situation where one parent tries to influence their child's affection towards and desire to be with the other parent is recognized as Parental Alienation (PA).
How Parental Alienation Happens
Beliefs that can lead to behavior causing PA are often well intentioned; the custodial parent may truly believe that the children are better off without the other parent in their lives. However, in the absence of a history of abuse or neglect, it is usually in the best interest of the child to have both parents involved in their lives. The courts make all custody determinations with this in mind.
PA does not happen overnight; it is the product of a systematic reinforcement by one parent that the children are better off without the other. It's important to recognize the early signs of PA and try to communicate your love and affection for the children to them and your spouse. You should also document any specific instances of your former spouse's attempts to alienate you from your children.
Children who are the victims of PA often act out in school, and things can lead to anti-social tendencies and other issues. The effects can be equally devastating on the non-custodial parent, who feels rejected by their children.
What Can You Do About Parental Alienation?
A determination of PA can have serious legal implications on the other parent. If a court finds that the custodial parent has continuously tried to alienate the other from his or her children, the court may change the custody arrangement. Additionally, the court may order other remedies that can be punished by contempt if not followed.
If you believe that your former spouse is trying to alienate you from your child, or that you are the victim of PA, you should seek out the advice of an experienced family law attorney to advise you on how best to deal with that situation.