ivorce is never easy. In fact, a marriage dissolution can be brutal and traumatizing for both ex spouses who must face legal proceedings and the enormous expenses that can go with them. But when there’s a child or children involved, divorce can be even worse, especially if you are encountering custodial issues. When this is the case, you need your lawyer to get involved in the proceedings as soon as possible.
The Law Office of Laura Gillis, a divorce attorney Phoenix, AZ, says when a married mother and father decide to legally separate they need to think about a child custody arrangement. Parents can agree to a joint or shared custody arrangement. Or one parent can be given primary physical custody of the child or children while the other enjoys visitation or what’s also known as parenting time.
If child custody options sound simple, they are far from it. They can be complicated and emotionally trying for both parents and child. In many cases, the primary parent can alienate the child from the other parent, causing a deep chasm between the two. This is called parental alienation, and it can be very damaging for all parties involved. That said, what are the signs that parental alienation is taking place?
According to a recent report by Psychology Today, some divorced parents will utilize parental alienation tactics to gain the upper hand during litigation proceedings and to curry favor with the child or children to attain full custody and the financial support that goes with it. The alienating parent might choose to do this out of revenge over an extramarital affair or to avoid having to pay child support.
But parents must keep foremost in their mind that their child came from them both. It’s imperative they realize children need both parents. But for those divorcing parents who are trying to garner control of the kids for the sole purpose of avoiding paying child support, they need to think about the cost of therapy the child might require because of parental alienation, or even the cost of a therapeutic boarding school.
5 Signs that Indicate Parental Alienation is Taking Place
- A stern reaction to both parents: This means that one parent is being perceived as the “good” guy and the other as the “bad” guy. The child’s poor interpretation is an indication the other parent is making the alienated parent look terrible in the child’s eyes. If a child has nothing good to say about a parent who, up until the legal separation, was a positive force in the child’s life, it is reason for concern and should be brought to a divorce lawyer’s attention.
- Mimicking the other parent’s talking points and descriptions of the alienated parent utilizing adult language: This has to do with the child or children using the alienating parent’s language and talking points exactly as they were spoken to describe the “bad” parent’s personality, behavior, supposed neglect, etc.
- A lack of reasoning: If the child is asked why he or she is uncomfortable being around the other alienated parent and they cannot come up with any specific reasons, incidents, or behaviors that can provide evidence for their negative attitude toward a parent, it could very well indicate parental alienation is taking place.
- Abrupt relationship shift: At times a parent can speak badly about the other parent in a context that is either real or entirely made up. This behavior can cause a child to think twice about the alienated parent and result in an abrupt relationship shift. At base, the child is being coached by the alienating parent and therefore encouraged to pick a side between both divorcing parents.
- Unwilling to reason or make peace with the alienated parent: In this case, the child always takes the side of the alienating parent. Despite the lack of logic involved, the child will, under all circumstances, see the alienating parent as always right.
What To Do About Parental Alienation
Again, divorce is never easy under the best of circumstances. But it’s important you determine if your child or children’s bad attitude and behavior toward you is the result of alienation on behalf of the other parent. This holds especially true if you are working through some difficult custody challenges.
You should speak with your divorce lawyer about the problem of parental alienation. It’s possible they will work with a psychologist who specializes in reunification so that the child/parent relationship can be repaired. Also, if you are presently working through support and custody issues and you find that you are being purposely alienated from your child, you need to have the issue addressed in family court.
In the end, parental alienation is not only bad for a child, it can be interpreted as child abuse.