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Parental Alienation: Divorce and Custody Series

Divorce can have a variety of effects for both parents and children. Children often feel misplaced and at fault so it’s the parents’ responsibility to assure the child that the causes of the divorce were not related to the children at all. Unfortunately, some parents seize the opportunity to use the divorce as a battle ground and begin the process of parental alienation towards the other parent.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is defined as: “the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.”

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How Would I Recognize Parental Alienation?

It often takes place slowly and methodically so that the child does not realize what is happening. It begins with small comments such as attacks on the other parent that are dropped into a conversation. For instance, the child states “I sure do miss Dad.” Mom says “Yes, I hate that he did this to us and split up our family.” Mom should have said, “I know you do, honey. But you will be seeing him on Friday. Would you like to call him?” The child might say “I wish Mom still lived with us” and the Dad might say “well, she could but she chose to live in a different place.” As you can, see there is a huge difference between the two approaches. One makes it about “us” versus. “him” and the other is taking the child’s feelings into account, showing understanding and finding a solution all while keeping the tone positive with respect to the other parent.

Parental alienation can often involve other family members. An example of this: Daughter is visiting her aunt. “Aunt Susie, I hate that my mom and dad are divorced now. I don’t know how the holidays are going to work. I miss seeing Mom all the time. I love Dad but I miss Mom. I cry all the time”. Dad’s sister, Aunt Suzie, replies “Oh honey, I know it has to be hard to forgive your mom for all the hurt she has put your poor father through. He works so hard for you and your brother and you just have to try to be strong and forgive her for all the lies and cheating she has done. This will pass honey.” Aunt Suzie should have said, “I know it hard right now. Have you talked openly to your mom and dad about these feelings?” Aunt Suzie should have kept her nose out of their business because now this child who obviously trusted her aunt will have a slanted view of things. This is a methodical step towards alienation.

Can I stop it in my divorce order?

Most divorce orders hold the parents accountable to be civil towards one another to the extent that they are not to “disparage” one another to or in front of the child. This is not only directed at “name calling,” but also at a simple answer to a question that has negative talk or hard feelings about the other parent. And though this can be difficult language to enforce, it is important language to have in your agreement. That said, it is even more important information by which to live – for the sake of harmony with the other parent and for the sake of your children.

Protect Your Child Now

Feel like your baby’s other parent is causing parental alienation of your child? Think that your former spouse is saying things to make your child see you in a different, negative light? Contact me to discuss the issues in your case and to see if there are remedies that can protect you and your children.

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