What is Parental Alienation?

child custody

Parental alienation is often a concern during high-conflict divorces and child custody matters. It is not present in every case, and it can be very difficult to recognize with certainty even when it is actually occurring. One reason alienation can be so difficult to recognize is that the offending behavior typically occurs when the other parent is not around.

There may be attempts by one parent to remove the other parent from the child’s life. This can occur through loyalty games with the child, or making the child choose between parents in various ways. In other circumstances, a parent may discourage or insist that the child not speak of the other parent. This can lead to attempts to limit contact with the other parent by legal means or otherwise. In worst-case scenarios, parents have encouraged children to lie or misrepresent matters regarding the other parent. Depending on the facts and circumstances, this can have tremendous and lasting negative consequences not only on the other parent, but also the child.

The motivating factors for the alienating parent’s actions are numerous. The parent may want revenge against the other parent due to unresolved feelings of rejection or wrongdoing. Acts of alienation may stem from fear of losing the child. Some mothers may feel they have a greater right to the child as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.

Alienation may also occur even after long periods of successful co-parenting. This may stem from jealousy when a new partner comes into the other parent’s life. A genuine belief of being the better parent, or a self-righteous attitude may also lead to acts of alienation. Identifying and recognizing the motivation behind the alienation may be important to correcting the problem for the benefit of the child and both parents.

Although concerns of parental alienation are present in many divorces and child custody matters, it is not present in every case. Divorces can be extremely stressful and emotional on both parties. Sometimes parents are unaware of how their own activities impact children. One parent may believe that alienation is occurring when in reality, one or both parents’ activities are negatively impacting their children unintentionally. Children may blame another parent for the divorce occurring even when the other parent has not prompted them to do so. It is important to look critically at all the facts and circumstances, including one’s own actions, to determine how to best improve difficult family circumstances.

Parental alienation and related issues may be present before, during or after a divorce or child custody matter. If you believe alienation is at issue with your child, it is important to discuss this with a family law attorney.

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