How to Deal with Parental Alienation
After a divorce or separation, it is a terrible feeling to be aware that the other parent is turning your child against you. You may dismiss it as the growing pains of child custody, but it can quickly damage your relationship with your child. If you believe you have been a victim of parental alienation, the court may choose to reverse custody, but there are also steps you can take to repair the relationship without getting the court involved.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation can come in a variety of forms, but its primary goal is to weaken the relationship between a parent and a child. This can be through disparaging or degrading remarks to the child about the alienated parent or a passive denial of visitation or custody rights. If left to fester, it can reach the point where the child no longer wants to be around or communicate with the alienated parent.
This situation is common after divorce, but in some cases, it begins earlier, when the parents are still together. Parental alienation can have harmful effects on children, including anger issues, eating disorders, depression, and problems with education. The courts have begun to recognize how destructive parental alienation can be.
Fixing the Matter Out-of-Court
Parental alienation does not always require a change in custody rights. Sometimes, an alienated parent can confront the issue directly and hold the other parent accountable for their actions. They may be resistant to fixing the problem, but they can also become aware of any passive, damaging behavior. A divorce can spark a number of negative emotions that manifest in the form of parental alienation and, if they are identified early, you may be to limit the damage.
When you begin to worry that you are the victim of parental alienation, you can take a few steps towards improving the situation, including:
- Ask in writing to see your child: Ask the other parent to let you see the child by email or text message. It’s a formal way to lodge a complaint with the other parent and is useful physical evidence to demonstrate to your attorney and the court. Save these messages in an archive or separate file to ensure you can easily access them later.
- Document the issue: A journal or calendar can help you keep track of your visitation days and identify when you denied the right to see your child. You will want to keep track of any suspicious details, such as what reasons the other parent gave to deny visitation, how they communicated this, and any other details. If you are forced to take the matter to court, this can act as evidence in your favor.
- Get counseling: Your child may not be able to identify or properly communicate what is occurring, but they may also sense something is wrong if they are not getting one-on-one time with you. Reaching out through a therapist and protecting your rights to visitation will not only help you, but it will also ensure your child is not developing poor coping mechanisms from the situation. Counseling could help you resolve the problem, but more importantly, if you go to court, it can strengthen your case by showing you took steps to deal with the situation.
- Do not give up: In order for you to change the terms of a custody arrangement, you will have to demonstrate that you actively want to be a part of your child’s life. Remind the other parent of your legal agreement and their obligations to honor your visitation rights. Even if they block your calls and messages, you should never give up on your child.
If all efforts fail, you will want to speak to your attorney.
How Can a Lawyer Help You Resolve the Problem?
At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., our Montgomery County child custody attorney can take steps to help you fight back against parental alienation. We can ask the court to:
- File legal action against the alienating parent and place restrictions on them
- Modify physical or legal custody orders, if the alienation is causing harm to the child
- Mandate reunification therapy, in which the parent and child receive counseling intended to reunify the child with the alienated parent.
Contact us at (610) 645-0100 for dedicated legal assistance in a parental alienation matter.