I have been divorced for five years and have had no contact with my kids since then because of parental alienation. Prior to the divorce I had a great relationship with them. They are both now over 21 so I don’t know if there is much I can do.
I was wondering though if I could sue my ex-wife for causing this damage to our relationship using the alienation of affection laws that I have heard about. Is this feasible?
I do not practice in New York, so I cannot advise you as to that state’s specific laws. I can only speak in generalities based on my experience.
Since both of your children are adults, there is very little, if anything, that you can do in the court system at this point. Additionally, if you had legal grounds to sue their mother, I do not think that the type of relief you could get in court would actually remedy your situation.
Some states continue to have a cause of action of alienation of affection, although many other have removed the cause of action. Instead, the issue is often litigated in the context of custody and placement disputes.
There are criminal penalties in most states for interfering with a parent’s rights, but those cases usually have to do with someone removing the child from the court’s jurisdiction or interfering with the parent’s time or decision-making authority.
As you can tell from many states eliminating the cause of action, it is not highly looked upon and used in rare cases. If you were to sue their mother, this would likely be a tort action in civil court, separate from any family case. Assuming you could carry your burden of proof, the only remedies that you would be entitled to would be financial compensation, which is very difficult to quantify.
If the family court had found alienation during or following the divorce while the children were still minors, the court may have ordered counseling to rehabilitate the children’s relationship with you. One difficult part about therapy is that it is very difficult to make someone participate if they are not ready. I would encourage you to continue to approach your children and possibly offer therapy now.
Your options are dependent on the specific facts in your case and the rules in your jurisdiction. I do not practice in New York, so I cannot inform you as to their specific laws. You should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in New York to explore your options.
Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.