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Divorce, Child Custody, and Parental Alienation

Parental alienation represents a relatively widespread occurrence during divorce and after a divorce case ends. Parental alienation can be very destructive and can have a significantly negative impact on a child. There are four topics associated with divorce, child custody, and parental alienation that demand consideration:

  • Understanding parental alienation
  • Appreciating the consequences of parental alienation
  • Parental alienation and child abuse
  • Parental alienation and judicial intervention
What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is defined as a situation in which one parent deliberately works to "turn" a child against the other parent. This is typically accomplished by one parent continually badmouthing, criticizing, degrading, and attacking the other parent.

Parental alienation runs counter to protecting and enhancing the best interests of a child. The best interests of a child are deemed best fulfilled if both parents maintain a close relationship with that child. Parental alienation by definition is designed to impair or even destroy a parental relationship, an effort that runs directly counter to the best interests of a child.

What are the Consequences of Parental Alienation?

The consequences of parental alienation can be profound and long-lasting. Some of the more serious consequences of parental alienation include:

  • Higher rates of behavior issues and problems
  • Lower self esteem
  • Poor self identity
  • Poor family identity
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Lower academic performance and achievement
  • Increase propensity for criminality
  • Psychological issues
  • Emotional issues
  • Increased use of mind-altering substances
Parental Alienation and Child Abuse

There is a movement of fairly recent original among family law and divorce professionals to classify parental alienation as a form of child abuse in some instances. Considering the significant negative consequences that can flow from parental alienation, classifying the conduct of a parent who engages in this type of intentional estrangement is not a stretch.

With this classification of parental alienation, sanctions taken against a parent who engages in this type of conduct can be more severe. Sanctions might extend from other areas in the judicial center beyond a pending divorce or custody case.

Parental Alienation and Judicial Intervention

If you believe that you have been targeted by your spouse or former spouse for parental alienation, prompt action to protect your legal rights and the welfare of your child is advisable. The process of protecting your rights and your child's wellbeing commences with an initial consultation with a skilled child custody attorney to evaluate the situation. A child custody attorney can develop a course of action that includes judicial intervention as a means of halting parental alienation.

Judicial intervention when parental alienation is an issue can come in a number of different forms. A primary judicial response is for a judge to limit the contact the offending parent has with the child or children. For example, if a noncustodial parent engages in parental alienation, visitation or parenting time might be curtailed by the court in some manner. This can include a suspension of visitation or parenting time until further order of the court.

A judge may also determine that the parent engaging in parental alienation might benefit from counseling of some sort. As a result, a judge could order the parent involved in activity that amounts to parental alienation to undergo therapy or counseling.

Judicial intervention oftentimes needs to be obtained quickly when parental alienation is discovered. Harm to a child subjected to parental alienation oftentimes can be minimized when judicial intervention is initiated sooner rather than later.

In aside to judicial intervention focused on the perpetrating parent, a court may also elect to take additional action in regard to addressing the welfare of a child. For example, a judge may order a child subjected to parental alienation to visit a counselor or therapist for evaluation or treatment.

If you are a divorced parent (or a parent in the midst of a divorce) and you face the perpetration of parental alienation by the other parent, legal representation is advisable. Curtailing parental intervention is something that needs to be undertaking in a prompt manner. Prompt remediation of a situation involving parental alienation not only protects the rights of the nonoffending parent, but it also protects the best interests of the child or children. If you have a case involving parental alienation, contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for an initial free consultation.

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*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances