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What Is Parental Alienation And How Can It Hurt Your Child?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2017 | Child Custody, Divorce


It is important that children of divorced parents be kept safe, physically as well as emotionally. While some abusive behaviors are strictly defined, others, such as parental alienation, can be vague and are not always as recognizable. Parental alienation is a type of hostile, aggressive parenting behavior where one parent tries to turn the child against their other parent. This kind of behavior can create division and estrangement within a family and can be very confusing and emotionally distressing for children and their parents. If you think your co-parent might be attempting to alienate you, make sure you know the signs and what to do to protect your child and yourself.

Parental alienation usually occurs in high-conflict divorces or separations where the parents are extremely contentious, or one parent feels particularly angry or hurt. This type of relationship between parents can sometimes cause jealousy and anger, which might lead one parent to take drastic action by attempting to alienate their ex from their child’s life. Sometimes alienating parents direct their anger and frustration at their child’s other parent even if they were not the cause of their pain, using them only as an outlet. Regardless of the cause, the repercussions of parental alienation can be very serious.

A parent may undermine the child’s relationship with their other parent by a variety of tactics, some seemingly minor or harmless. By speaking badly about the child’s other parent or blaming them for particular hardships, the alienating parent can alter the child’s perception and brainwash them. The alienating parent might also try to tell the child that their other parent does not love them, or did something to cause them harm. Not only can this be harmful to child’s relationship with his or her parent, it can also be very traumatizing and painful for the child.

If you suspect a child might be suffering from parental alienation, he or she may exhibit the following behavior:

  • Knows specific details about the parents’ divorce or separation
  • Is seemingly uneasy or angry towards the alienated parent
  • Shows a sudden, uncharacteristic change in attitude
  • Becomes less talkative, especially around the alienated parent

Additionally, the alienating parent may show the following behavior if they are alienating their child’s other parent:

  • Makes false accusations against the other parent
  • Allows the child to decide whether or not to visit the other parent, even if it is a custody or visitation order
  • Asks the child to choose one parent over another
  • Ignores visitation or custody orders purely to hurt the other parent
  • Sets up temptations, such as vacations or outings, to interfere with the child’s time with their other parent

The symptoms of parental alienation may vary, and depend on each individual child and what their alienating parent is telling them. If you have reason to believe your ex is attempting to alienate you, and you notice a change in the behavior or feelings of your child, you may have the power to take action.

In many situations, courts have recognized extreme cases of parental alienation as emotionally abusive behavior and have taken action to protect the interests of the child. Many studies have shown that it is best for children to have a relationship with both parents and courts will try to see that such a thing is at least made possible in most situations. However, in situations where one parent becomes abusive and it is not healthy for the child to be around him or her, the court may award full custody to the other parent.

To learn more about parental alienation and your options, contact GEM Family Law to request a free consultation.