Parental Alienation Abuse – The Attack on the Parent-Child Relationship
Parental Alienation Abuse
Parental alienation is abuse intended to damage the parent-child relationship. The consequences can be devastating if you do not see the warning signs (and oftentimes the alienation has occurred well before you have any outward signs of the abuse). It becomes worse over time if it goes unchecked. At its very core it attempts to pit the child(ren) against one parent by engraining a sense of hatred, fear, uncertainty, or awkwardness targeting only one parent. Most children do not know that it is happening, as the alienation is silent (it can be actions without the use of words by one parent), usually long term or consistent or steady by the parent promoting it and as stated previously, it can be innocuous.
Signs of the Abuse:
How the alienation may start:
- Informing the child(ren) of matters that do not involve them such as the status of the pending divorce or family law matter, orders that the Court may have issued, sharing with them the declarations or allegations raised by the other parent, or otherwise discussing the business of the case with the child(ren).
- Using disparaging statements or remarks about the other parent. This can be overt or covert (by making statements such as “we can’t live here because your mother or father isn’t paying support”). This also includes allowing family members or friends to disparage the other parent in the presence of the minor child(ren) or in such a way that it will get back to the minor child(ren).
- Giving the child(ren) a choice in court ordered visitations, when they have no choice. Instead of promoting or encouraging the visitation the parent promoting the alienation may make the child(ren) feel he or she does not need to go or may make the child(ren) feel that they are abandoning the parent to go with the other parent (instilling a sense of guilt for leaving the parent behind).
- Refusing to permit the child(ren) to take their belongings between the respective residences thereby making transitions difficult and breeding a sense of resentment in going with the other parent (who may not have similar belongings or personal items in his or her home). For example not permitting the child(ren) to take their laptops or portable devices, clothes, special items or pets.
- Making the child(ren) choose between the visitation and something special, such as camping, amusement parks, recitals, parties, extracurricular activities or other events or outings. The alienating parent may say, “well you need to talk to your mom or dad because it is his or her visitation and you can only go on this trip if he or she agrees.” This continues to breed resentment in the minor child(ren) for the parent not authorizing the event.
- Asking the child(ren) to choose between one home or the other or one parent or the other (this may include bringing the minor chld(ren) to court to testify against the other parent).
- Using the child(ren) to gather documentation or information while in the care of the other parent. Instead of permitting the child(ren) to just enjoy the visits with the other parent, the child(ren) are forced to act as “spies” and gather information to bring back to the parent asking them to gather information or documentation.
- Listening or monitoring communications between the other parent and the child(ren) especially if court orders do not permit that sort of intrusion during telephone calls or other modes of communication.
- Buying the child(ren)’s affections by showering them with gifts, vacations, trips or other activities or promises to entice them to stay with the alienating parent or to defy the other parent’s requests or rules.
- Instilling in the child(ren) that it is okay to keep secrets or private conversations or signals between the alienating parent and the child(ren) that only the alienating parent and minor child(ren) would understand.
- Resisting or refusing to cooperate in permitting the other parent to have access to the minor child(ren)’s school work, medical information or to speak with professionals involved with the minor child(ren): doctors, therapists, school officials.
- Not keeping appointments for therapy sessions, reunification therapy sessions or court ordered therapeutic orders.
- Permitting family members or step-parents or significant others to assume the role of the other parent (by calling him or her “mom” or “dad”) thereby reducing the value of the alienated parent’s role in the child(ren)’s lives.
How to Stop the Parental Alienation:
The Counter-Balancing Effect:
The single most value tool that a parent who is facing parental alienation can do is spend as much quality time with the minor child(ren) in order to counter-balance or effectively undo the effects of the alienation. After being exposed to the other parent’s alienation, the minor child(ren) need to feel loved, appreciated, and spend as much quality time with the parent to slowly undo the effects of the alienation. This doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything about the alienation. It certainly does not mean that you speak negatively of the alienating parent because that will only strengthen things that they may have heard from the alienating parent (“your mother or father blames me for everything”).
What Can Be Done?
Confront the Alienating Parent:
Separate and apart from the counter-balancing effect, a parent who may suspect alienation by the other parent should have all communication with the alienating parent documented. If there is an order for communication to take place through on-line portals such as ourfamilywizard.com or talkingparents.com, utilize those methods only. If there are no such communication portals ordered, seek to get an order to have those types of portals utilized for communication. The alienating parent can be confronted with the issue and he or she will ignore the accusation, admit to the accusation (but rationalize it) or deny the accusation. More often than not, with enough back and forth, the alienating parent will slip and make various admissions, which can be potentially utilized in Court. Confronting the alienating parent can also warn the alienating parent that he or she is now on “watch” and the alienation may become more covert and worse.
Get Court Orders:
If non-disparagement orders are not in place, get them. If orders that prohibit either parent from discussing the business of the case or in alienating the affections of the child(ren) from the other parent are not in place, get those orders.
730 Child Custody Evaluation:
The Court can also order what is known as a 730 child custody evaluation to delve into the allegations made between the respective parents. The 730 child custody evaluator is a court-approved psychologist or other credentialed mental health professional who will get to the bottom of the allegations and make various recommendations to the Court based on their observations, testing, and interviews.
The Court can also appoint a case manager if it believes that parental alienation is involved. The case manager is also a mental health professional who deals with both parents and the child(ren) on parenting issues, visitations and other issues that may arise. The case manager may provide reports to the Court and actively monitor the progress of the parties and the minor child(ren).
If parental alienation has been confirmed, the Court will likely order reunification therapy to get the minor child(ren) reunified with the parent who has been alienated. This includes delving into the issues that the minor child(ren) raise and providing a safe and therapeutic environment to not only address concerns but call out issues/allegations that are not true or fictional.
Change of Custody/Visitation:
If all else fails, the Court can order a change of custody to take the minor chil(ren) away from the alienating parent and either order no visitations or monitored visitations with the alienating parent to ensure that the alienation does not continue during any court ordered visitations.