In the previous post, I distinguished PA from “parental alienation syndrome,” and also outlined some of the observable behaviors in children that have been the subject of parental alienation efforts.
In this post, we will identify potentially alienating behaviors that parents may innocently engage in which could exacerbate the problem, and then pinpoint some strategies divorce lawyers and their clients can use to counteract PA.
It must be stressed at the outset that it is in the best interests of both the child (or children) and both parents that the children at the heart of a custody struggle be encouraged to build wholly positive relationships with the other parent.
It is not simply a matter of “being nice” or “doing the right thing”; engaging in alienating behavior can very easily backfire against a parent.
Parents must take care to avoid the following behaviors. Even when not triggered by a conscious, overt desire to alienate the child from the other parent, such behaviors can have just that effect:
When your client reports a number of these types of behaviors on more than a sporadic or individual basis, it’s time to retain an appropriate expert and prepare to address the issue in court.
The most important thing your client can do to help you address parental alienation is to keep a current, up-to-date “custody notebook.”
The custody notebook should become a habit, with regular, prompt entries detailing the child’s behavior and troubling communications from the other parent.
Stress to your client the need to retain copies of all emails and to update the notebook on a regular basis, as contemporaneously as possible with the events described therein.
Secondly, retain the best available expert as soon as possible. Look for a psychologist or psychiatrist with extensive academic and practical experience dealing with alienating behaviors in custody litigation, especially one with a history of having been certified as an expert in the local courts.
Third, emphasize to your client the absolute necessity to scrupulously avoid engaging in any retaliatory behavior or returning “blow for blow” by doing the same things she complains about in the other parent. Dealing with parental alienation is not like fighting fires: you cannot win an alienation contest by being more alienating.
Finally, encourage your client to make consistent, continuous efforts to connect with the child, even when the children resist her efforts. “Giving up” only reinforces the child’s false sense that the alienated parent is “no good.”
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