An all too common consequence of divorces that involve children is one of the parents tries to sabotage the other parent’s relationship with the child by using mental manipulation to damage the relationship with the other parent, causing the child to dislike the other parent which creates a distance and strain in the relationship. Parental alienation not only hurts the parent, but it also hurts the child. It is a serious matter than can cause long-term psychological harm to a child. Many times a parent doesn’t realize he or she is being alienated until it is too late. Here are a few things to watch for if you feel things aren’t quite right:
Talking poorly about the other parent. This is the most common parental alienation strategy parents use. The alienating parent will make harmful statements in front of the child-directed towards the other parent. An even more disturbing way the alienating parent speaks poorly of the other parent is by telling the child that mommy/daddy doesn’t love him or her anymore. This is something that is heartbreaking for a child and causes unnecessary long-term emotional pain. Even if the other parent left the marriage because of an affair, it is not necessary to expose the child to the details. It doesn’t do anything but upset the child and often makes him or her feel as if it is somehow their fault the marriage ended.
Limiting visitations and contact with the other parent. Scheduled visitations are court-ordered and must be followed or the parent could be held in contempt. It is important that children see both parents when possible. If you are not being allowed to see your child during your scheduled visitations, keep a journal and document the date and time and exactly what occurred.
Making the child choose between parents. This is particularly disturbing because it puts a child in a position where they must choose between two parents that he or she loves. If the child has done something fun with the other parent, the alienating parent often makes the child feel guilty for having a good time with the other parent.
Asking the child to keep secrets from a parent. Do not ever have children “spy” on the other parent for you. This not only puts the child in a terrible situation, but it can also cause psychological damage to your child. It also instills lying to his or her parents.
Encouraging a child to call the other parent by his or her first name. In the eyes of a child, this immediately devalues the parent-child relationship. No matter what feelings are between the parents, they will always be that child’s mother or father.
Parental alienation is not something the courts look too kindly upon, as it is not in a child’s best interest. They certainly frown on any type of manipulation of a child. If you find that you are a victim of parental alienation, it is important for you to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Kevin Hickey Law Partners will be by your side throughout the entire process to help keep your relationship happy and healthy with your child. It is unfortunate that many parents think it is “easier” on the child to not cause problems even if the parent finds himself or herself being the one alienated. In the end, allowing parental alienation will harm both the parent and the child. Other parents are so wrapped-up in alienating the other parent, that when the other parent takes steps to stop the alienation, they will become more aggressive in their alienation tactics. In this case, the courts may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, a lawyer for the child, to help assure his or her best interests will be met. To read more about the role of a Guardian Ad Litem, check out my previous blog. Our firm’s extensive experience and expertise in family law cases will help you receive the right legal counsel for all your family law needs.