What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is the intentional or unintentional deterioration of a child’s relationship with one of their parents.
The symptoms of parental alienation can manifest themselves in many forms. A parent could deny the other parent access to the child. Or one parent could fill the child’s ear with hurtful lies about the other.
Parental alienation is common after divorce, but its roots often trace to when the parents are still together. It’s unclear how common it is, but one study estimates parental alienation occurs in 11-15% of divorces involving children.
That’s quite concerning considering the harmful effects parental alienation can have on kids. It’s been linked to anger problems, educational issues, eating disorders, and depression. Some have even gone as far to call parental alienation a threat to public health.
On the other side, shared parenting has been identified as the healthiest post-divorce arrangement for children.
Legal consequences of parental alienation
Although tragic that parental alienation is seemingly on the rise, it is at least somewhat encouraging that courts are beginning to acknowledge the harmful effect it can have.
As it pertains to a divorce case, parental alienation can be very difficult to prove in court.
However, according to Cordell & Cordell divorce attorney Camille Pedrick, the court does have a few options on how to fight parental alienation in court if it is proven that parental alienation is present:
- Contempt – A court can find the alienating parent in contempt of court and impose sanctions against them.
- Custody modification – The court can change the physical or legal custody of the child if they believe the alienation is causing harm.
- Reunification therapy – Most commonly, the court will mandate reunification therapy. In that circumstance, counselors are involved with the family in an attempt to counsel both the parent and the child to reunify the child with the alienating parent.
How to fight parental alienation: 4 Helpful Tips
If you feel you are a victim of parental alienation, here are a few tips to help you fight back and demonstrate parental alienation to the court.
1. Keep a journal
Write down the dates that the custodial parent blocked your access to the child, write down the situation, and write down the excuse used.
If you end up back in court, you can point to the specific dates and reasons in your journal to show the court where you tried to see your child. This allows the court to see habitual and continual excuses by the custodial parent.
2. Ask to see child in writing
When you are trying to prove parental alienation, ask to see your child via text message or email. This provides concrete evidence you can show the court proving your desire to see your child.
By sending your request in writing, you can avoid a he-said/she-said situation. Emails and text messages can help you catch your ex in a lie or help you show that they use the same repeated excuses for denying custody.
3. Seek counseling
Going to a therapist can help identify and end alienation, but it can also provide additional support to your case if you go to court.
Showing that you took steps to improve the situation will strengthen your case, and inviting your ex to attend will give an example that you are working to co-parent effectively. Even if she declines, that is a point in your favor.
4. Remain persistent
It is so discouraging when your ex refuses to let you see your child. When your calls are getting blocked and she is stonewalling any and all of your communication efforts, it can all seem pointless.
You can’t, however, give up. Your child needs you in his or her life, and the second you quit trying to be a father is the second your ex can say, “See? Dad doesn’t care.”
Keep fighting and keep doing what you know is right. Have faith that your efforts will eventually be rewarded.
Parental alienation is a terrible thing for any parent or child to experience. You can always contact a divorce attorney who can set out a clear and concise roadmap on what you need to do in order to preserve your parental rights.