Parental Alienation and Divorce

Even when divorce is amicable, it can be a very stressful time for the children who are involved.  Children have to adjust to parents living separately, moving between homes, and their family unit breaking up.  In the best case scenario, the kids are able to live happy, well-adjusted lives.  Sadly, the transition isn’t always easy.  Kids are vulnerable and can develop parental alienation towards one parent.   Frequently this behavior is even influenced by the other parent or family members, using their child as a pawn to harm the ex.

Parental alienation is present when a child expresses strong, unjustified hatred for one parent.  Usually, parental alienation occurs in the context of divorce where adults in the child’s life might be making negative comments about the alienated parent.  Children reject the alienated parent, trying to avoid visitation with that parent and demonstrating a lack of empathy for them.  Parents sometimes stoke the fire of alienation in order to gain full custody of their children or reduce the other parent’s visitation time. In the midst of this, kids are hurt the most, being manipulated by their parent who they are supposed to trust.

How you can prevent parental alienation

How can you prevent parental alienation as you go through your divorce?  Always put your child’s needs first.  Alienating your child from your ex may help your personal short term goal of getting more visitations or making you the “favorite” parent, but it does great harm to your child in the long run.  If the other parent is cooperative, it is important to come up with a plan regarding how you will co-parent your kids moving forward.

Concerned about your ex not following the plan?  In California you can request certain protections through a Physical Custody Attachment Form.  In this form you can request that parents refrain from making negative comments, not use the children as messengers, keep a log book of the children’s activities, and not interfere with the other parent’s time with the kids.  The judge can include these requests in your custody agreement to encourage healthy, cooperative parenting.

What if my child is already displaying symptoms of parental alienation?

If your child is already displaying symptoms of parental alienation, it is important to seek professional help from a licensed therapist.  The therapist can help your child work through their alienated feelings and cope with divorce.  Additionally, you can request that the judge appoint a guardian ad litum to monitor parental compliance and advocate on behalf of the child at court.  If one parent continues to alienate the child, the judge to impose sanctions against them which can include more visitation time with the alienated parent.  Finally, do not unduly prolong the divorce with time-wasting tactics, excessive attempts to change the child custody agreement, or by ignoring the custody agreement and withholding visitation. Kids crave stability, and a long court battle will likely only do more harm.

For more information on child custody, parental alienation, and divorce, contact the expert Los Angeles family lawyers at Walzer Melcher LLP today.