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Understanding Parental Alienation

| Sep 23, 2016 | Family Law

It’s no secret that a divorce can quickly turn into an incredibly contentious affair. When two people who have spent years trying to build a life together decide to end their marriage, things can get messy—especially when there are children involved.

For most parents, there is nothing more important in their lives than their children. Unfortunately, when you combine this fact with the emotional turmoil and animosity that is so often present in a divorce, it can lead parents to make very poor decisions regarding their kids, such as trying to use their children as a tool or weapon against their spouse.

Some parents may attempt to leverage the children or use them as a bargaining chip in order to get what they want regarding property, support payments, or other concessions. Even worse, some may attempt to manipulate the children themselves in order to turn them against the opposing parent, especially in cases where there is severe disagreement over custody.

The latter form of behavior is actually a recognized form of emotional child abuse known as Parental Alienation, and the consequences of these actions are extraordinarily damaging.

Generally speaking, any actions or behavior undertaken by one parent in order to manipulate their children and alienate them from the other parent can be consider Parental Alienation. Thus, alienation tactics include a nearly endless list of potential behaviors including things like grilling the child about everything that happened when they were staying with the other parent, levying false abuse accusations, making the child feel guilty about their relationship with their other parent, and aggressively disparaging or “trash talking” the other parent in front of the child.

Certainly, if a parent is found to be guilty of Parental Alienation, it can severely hurt their custody case or allow their ex spouse to achieve a post-judgment modification whereby he or she gains full custody of the child. A Florida judge who is making a ruling on custody will always seek to rule in the best interests of the child, and they will most certainly account for alienation is a black mark against the parent who committed the abuse.

However, far more important than practical custody matters is the psychological implications Parental Alienation can have in the child who has been victimized by this behavior. There are some experts who even believe that Parental Alienation can lead to a mental disorder commonly referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)—though PAS has not been officially recognized in the DSM, which is the American Psychiatric Association’s primary tool used for diagnosing mental disorders.

Whether PAS itself is recognized or not, there can be no denying the severe negative psychological and emotional impact Parental Alienation has on a child. Children will essentially become brainwashed against the alienated parent, harboring severe hatred and anger towards them at a time where the healthiest form of coping with the divorce should involve maintaining strong relationships with both parents. It can also lead to serious self-esteem issues in the child, fear, an inability to trust, depression, and worse.

As an alienated parent, it can be incredibly difficult to watch your child be turned against you. The best thing you can do is speak with a skilled Family Law attorney like those at Rotella & Hernandez who can advise you on the best course of action to counter the damaging impact of Parental Alienation. If you believe your spouse or ex spouse is attempting to alienate your child from you, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm right away. We will do everything in our power to help you protect your children from this malicious form of emotional abuse against your kids.