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What Is Parental Alienation?

When marriages and other relationships fail, one parent might try to drive a wedge between any children and the other parent. Such abuse can alienate a parent and turn a child against a mother or father.

Parental alienation is unhealthy for the targeted parent as well as the child or children. It creates mental and emotional conflict with children, and treats them like a pawn in a highly manipulative game of emotional chess. Parental alienation can also trigger depression in a child, as well as in the targeted parent.

Such manipulations can have tragic results. Cutting off the meaningful and beneficial relationship between a parent and child is a damaging action. It also might trigger a tragic event.

Common Ways in Which Parental Alienation Happens

Parental alienation often is not so much an overt act as it is a manipulative one. One parent manipulates one or more children to damage the relationship with the other parent.

Divorce courts generally recognize the importance of keeping both parents involved in the lives of their children. Parental alienation makes it virtually impossible for that to happen and often happens in similar ways.

Parental alienation could occur by:

  • Constantly talking badly about the other parent or family members.
  • Undermining a parent’s authority and disciplinary decisions.
  • Falsely accusing the other parent of being abusive during the relationship.

Such efforts to undermine the relationship between a child and its parent could occur over an extended period. It might even go on for years and could cause a child to behave badly around one or both parents.

Giving a Child Too Much Authority

Another way in which parental alienation could occur is when the offending parent encourages the child to make decisions the child does not have the maturity or experience to make. The child might determine whether or not it is important to do homework, when to go to bed at night, and make other decisions that are beyond the child’s age level and general mental capacity, resulting in poor health, anxiety, and pressure.

The child might appear to be spoiled by one parent, and might have the authority to decide whether or not to spend time with the other parent. An overly permissive parent could make the child less eager to see another parent who does not allow such leeway.

Potential Parental Replacement

Requiring a child to refer to another person as “dad” or “mom” to replace the biological parent is also a damaging act. Some parents might try to convince a child that a new mom or dad now exists in an attempt to fully displace your authority and relationship as a parent.

The other person might be a new spouse, boyfriend, or a girlfriend. While a child could obtain a stepmother or stepfather through a new marriage, the biological parent still has parental rights and a relationship with the child.

Parental replacement lessens the authority and weakens the relationship between a child and the biological parent. It also can lead to psychological trauma for the child and lead to bad behavior.

Parental Alienation Qualifies as Child Abuse

A child could suffer a significant amount of psychological damage when a parent manipulates the child in order to alienate the other parent. The child could perform poorly in school, lose interest in social events, and possibly become depressed.

If you are the target of parental alienation, it is important to do your best to overcome it. Instead of responding in kind to provocation planted by the other parent, you should do your best to demonstrate how much you care for your child. When you can demonstrate how much you care for your child and are willing to protect the child against mental abuse and other behaviors, you stand a better chance of preventing the alienation from taking hold.

Signs That Parental Alienation Is Occurring

The effect on a child and how the child relates to the targeted parent could indicate parental alienation at work. Some telltale signs might reveal themselves if a child:

  • Excludes the targeted parent from meaningful events, such as the child’s sports games, performances, recitals, or parties.
  • Argues or becomes combative with the targeted parent.
  • Criticizes the alienated parent and repeats comments that the other parent has made.
  • Does not remember a bonding experience with the targeted parent.

An effective parental alienation campaign by an offending spouse might make it seem that the hostility comes from within the child. Instead, the offending parent sows the seeds of discontent and slowly reaps the harvest.

What To Do If You Suspect Parental Alienation Is Happening?

If you went through a divorce, a divorce court likely determined a child custody schedule. You could revisit the child custody and argue for increased time with your child when possible.

Unless there is a compelling reason that prevents you from having more time with your child, you could petition the court to rethink its prior ruling. You could document the signs of parental alienation and provide evidence that shows it is occurring.

An experienced divorce lawyer should be familiar with parental alienation and how to demonstrate it is happening in a custody hearing. The attorney could show how it is harmful to the child as well as the targeted parent.

The judge could agree and modify the agreement and give you more quality time with your child. An adjustment in child custody also might lead to an adjustment in child support since you would have more time with the child.

Marlton Divorce Lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna Help to Fight Parental Alienation

The experienced Marlton divorce lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A., could help you to petition the court to adjust an existing child custody agreement or make other changes that could be beneficial for you and your child or children and prevent parental alienation. You can call 856-890-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation at our law office in Marlton, New Jersey. Our clients are located in South Jersey- Marlton, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County- statewide (ART).

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