Based on my experiences in life and as a lawyer, I find most people, including family court judges, do not take kindly to attempts by a parent to alienate his or her child from the other parent. Truly, I agree with these sentiments, as parental alienation places the most innocent person involved in a child custody matter – the child – in the most difficult situation.
Parental alienation runs the gamut from a parent reacting with disappointment to a child’s expression of love for the other parent to a parent actively refusing to comply with court-ordered visitation in an attempt to keep the child from spending time with the other parent. From passive-aggressive moves to blatant violations of a court order, parental alienation indicators should be on any parents’ watch list, especially those involved with current or prior child custody matters.
Indicators of parental alienation include:
- Refusing to allow the child to take special toys or cherished items with them during visitation times with the other parent;
- Scheduling activities or obligations for the child during the other parent’s scheduled visitation;
- Engaging the child in “pitting” conversations, such as asking the child to choose sides;
- Telling the child details about the other parent in an effort to thwart the child’s perception of and relationship with the other parent;
- Giving the child the perceived authority to choose when he or she wants to visit with the other parent, in spite of a court-ordered visitation schedule;
- Egging on the child’s negative reactions to the other parent;
- Discouraging the child to love the other parent’s family;
- Asking the child to reveal information or “spy” on the other parent during visitation time;
- Not allowing the child to communicate with the other parent during the off-time.
Efforts to prevent parental alienation include:
- Assuring both parents are aware of parental alienation indicators early on in a child custody matter;
- Reaching child custody terms in a child custody order that speak very specifically to restraining the parents from engaging in certain conduct;
- Keeping open lines of communication between both parents and the child.
Ways to deal with parental alienation from the other parent include:
- NOT reacting in a negative way to the acts of parental alienation from the other parent;
- Spending as much quality, positive time with the child;
- Seeking professional counseling for the child;
- Reviewing the current child custody order to determine whether the other parent is in contempt of court as a result of violating the terms of conduct.