Do you feel like your child has suddenly turned against you? Are they unfairly criticizing you without justification while showing unwavering support for their other parent? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you and your child may be the victims of parental alienation. Some studies estimate that up to 15% of divorces involve parental alienation, and there are likely more cases involving unmarried couples. So, if you think that there’s even the slightest likelihood that you fall into that category, then we encourage you to read on to learn more about this devastating manipulation tactic.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is the process of manipulating a child and his or her perception of his or her other parent in hopes of damaging the relationship between the child and that parent. Manipulative parents oftentimes use this tactic as a way to seek further restriction of the other parent’s access to the child, as the child’s warped perception of the other parent can give the custodial parent evidence to justify a motion to modify custody.
How does parental alienation occur?
Sadly, there are a lot of ways that a child can be manipulated. A parent may start by reinforcing a false belief that the non-custodial parent doesn’t want to contact the child or doesn’t love the child, and the alienating parent may feed the child lies to build up this belief. Here are some other ways that alienation can occur:
- Using the custodial parent’s gatekeeping function to keep the other parent in the dark about the child’s life, including schooling and medical treatment
- Placing the non-custodial parent in a position where he or she is pulling the child away from “fun” activities at the custodial parent’s house in order to exercise parenting time
- Telling the child intimate details of the marriage that paint the other parent in a negative light
- Fabricating stories to lead the child to believe that he or she was abused or neglected by the other parent
Parental alienation can take many forms, so keep your eyes and ears open for indications that your child be subjected to manipulation.
But what are the signs of parental alienation?
There are some hallmark signs of parental alienation. Each of the following are common in these cases:
- Unrelenting criticism of the alienated parent that is unsupported by the facts
- A lack of guilt or ambivalence for attacking the alienated parent
- Sudden changes in the child’s behavior toward the alienated parent
- Unwavering support of the alienating parent
- A disdain for the alienated parent’s family
- The use of language that doesn’t fit the child’s age and development
- Knowledge that the child is being told false information by the other parent
Again, these are just some of the signs of parental alienation. If you see other indications that lead you to believe that your child is being manipulated, then you may want to discuss them with your attorney.
How do you stop parental alienation?
To stop parental alienation, you’re probably going to have to go to court to seek some sort of custody modification. But you’ll need evidence to successfully do so. Therefore, you may want to ask your child and his or her other parent pointed questions about the circumstances, and you may want to request some sort of mental health evaluation of your child or a custody evaluation. Hopefully these steps will help you identify the source of your child’s behavior and develop a child custody arrangement that is truly in his or her best interests. We know that this can be a challenging task, which is why it may be wise for you to discuss this issue with an experienced family law attorney of your choosing.