Attorney At Law

Parental Alienation: How it Works

By James Parker
/
August 6, 2021

Custody battles can oftentimes be the most heartwrenching and difficult part of a divorce. During this time, underhanded tactics such as parental alienation may be employed to influence the children to prefer one parent over the other.

Parental alienation is described as an effort by one parent to undermine the other in front of their child. This can take a variety of forms, from subtly disrespecting a parent’s decisions to intentionally misrepresenting a situation to a child. 

Some examples of ways that parental alienation may occur include:

  • Exaggerating perceived failures or mistakes of the parent to mean that the parent doesn’t love or care about the child.
  • Claiming that the parent is being mean, abusive, or unfair to the other parent.
  • Trying to convince the child that the other parent wants to control or influence them.

In all of these cases, the child may internalize what is being said to them and begin to believe that the undermined parent is actually a bad person or unfit to parent them. If the child begins to incorporate these undermining tactics into their view of their parent, that child may have Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). 

PAS is the theoretical end goal of one parent’s efforts to use parental alienation to undermine the other. A child affected by PAS will not want to spend time with the undermined parent as the direct result of the alienating parent. PAS is a controversial diagnosis since it does not have the proper documentation to declare it as a mental health condition. It can, however, be used to label the sudden disinterest of a child in spending time with one parent as the result of the other’s manipulation. 

While PAS lacks the official backing of a formula psychological diagnosis, the court has been willing to accept that parental alienation has a real basis and can be divided into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Each of these assessments must be raised as the result of a child custody examination. 

If the child is found to have a mild or moderate case of parental alienation, the court may order the child to be sent to therapy and increase the amount of time the child spends with the alienated parent. If the alienation is found to be severe, the child may be removed from the manipulative parent’s care and be placed into the alienated parent’s care instead. 

This change of custody is only approved after up to a year of psychological evaluations. These evaluations will typically recommend changing the custodial parent only if the current custodial parent is found to be lacking in empathy or remorse and instead is solely focused on damaging the relationship between the child and the alienated parent. 

If the psychological evaluation does not find that the severe alienation requires custody changes, they may recommend reunification therapy. This therapeutic progress may be stunted by the manipulation of the alienating parent.

If you feel that your former spouse is alienating your children from you, you will need an experienced Divorce & Family Law attorney to help protect your parental rights. A Divorce & Family Law attorney can push the court to act more urgently regarding the need for custodial changes and can hire experts to educate the court on the long-term harms of parental alienation for the child. The best place to find experienced Divorce and Family Law attorneys is with Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms can match you with the best Divorce & Family Law attorney in your area. Our partners have the resources, legal expertise, and experience to get you the best possible results. Additionally, all our partners are exceptional in their client care. They know the strain caused by custody battles and divorce hearings and can make the experience as streamlined as possible. 

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no obligation consultation and begin your journey to protect your parental rights.

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