What is Parental Alienation?
In family law, we are oftentimes faced with the difficult task of helping our clients through a custody battle. People love their children, so it is not uncommon for parents to go toe-to-toe with each other over getting custody of the kids. Sometimes the parents are motivated because they honestly believe that it would be what is best for the child. However, oftentimes parents are motivated by fear or anger. One parent could be afraid that if the child forms a bond with the other parent, this will hurt them in some way. Sometimes parents find themselves angry at their ex for whatever the reason may be, and so they act out of that anger. Parental alienation (“P.A.”) is when one parent psychologically manipulates a child to have unwarranted fear, disrespect, or hostility towards the other parent or family members. Believe it or not, this is quite common and does have a negative impact on the child.
What are the Symptoms of P.A.?
- Telling your child that they do not have to go with the other parent for their court-ordered visitation. You tell your child that it is optional for him or her to go.
- Giving the child inside information as to why you are getting divorced or separating. This is typically traumatic for a child over time, as they can begin to stress about the litigation. We understand that some people just would like to tell their children everything and be “open” about it. However, it is best to keep the child as uninvolved in the litigation as possible.
- You won’t allow the other parent to gain access to the child’s extracurricular activity schedules.
- You blame the other parent for the end of your relationship and you tell this to the child or discuss it in earshot of the child.
- You refuse to be flexible with the visitation schedule, even when it will benefit the child. You are never understanding if the other parent is a bit late when coming to pick up (or drop off) the child.
- Asking the child to choose between you and the other parent. Don’t bug your kid about which parent he/she wants to live with.
- The Child has become angrier with one or both parents over time but can’t really vocalize the reasons why. He/she may even be having behavioral issues at school.
- You use the child as a child-spy, making them bring you back intel on the other parent.
- You try to bribe or unfairly tempt the child to stay with you and not allow the other parent to exercise visitation.
- Listening to and/or speaking on the same phone conversation that the child is having with the other parent.
- The child is withdrawn emotionally or is moody.
- The child’s grades suddenly decline around the time of the lawsuit.
There are many symptoms of Parental Alienation; this list is certainly not exhaustive. If you suspect that you have been a victim of Parental Alienation, you should contact an experienced family attorney.
Does it Matter to a Court if You Alienate the Other Parent?
Absolutely. You have to remember, Texas family courts have one goal in a custody case: to do what is in the ‘best interests’ of the child. Is it really in the children’s best interest to be alienated from their mom or dad? If so, you have to let the court decide that. If the court determines that another parent should be kept away from the child, it will make the appropriate and necessary orders. By alienating the other parent though, you are taking matters into your own hands and out of the courts. That usually doesn’t work out too well for most people. After a court (judge or jury) determines that one parent wrongfully manipulated the child, it may make the inference that this particular parent is incapable of acting in the best interests of the child. Not only will a court punish the parent that was alienating the other parent, it could lose you custody altogether.