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Parental Alienation: What It is and What to Do About It

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A fair amount of contested divorces become quite nasty, which is obviously not ideal but often unavoidable for the couples involved. High-conflict divorces become quite serious when children are involved; in fact, a common cause of contested divorces is disagreements over custody arrangements. 

Occasionally, parents will go to extreme (and immoral) lengths during their divorce to tilt things in their favor when it comes to their children, including disparaging the other parent in front of the child. This is referred to as parental alienation. The goal of parental alienation for the alienating parent is to turn the child against the other parent so they might get more favorable terms when it comes to child custody. It can be used prior to the parenting plan getting finalized or after the parenting plan is finalized so as to get a modification. Whenever it is used, swift and aggressive action is needed to prevent further, long-lasting damage.

Parental Alienation Syndrome

After the alienating parent behaves a certain way for a while, the child may develop what is referred to as “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” or PAS. To be clear, PAS has not yet been recognized in the DSM of Mental Disorders. It is, however, recognized by family courts and many individual psychologists. PAS can be mild, moderate, or severe. 

How Do You Prove Parental Alienation?

The first step to show that your child’s other parent is attempting to alienate them from you is gathering evidence. Are there any witnesses to their behavior? If your child has experienced alienation for a long period of time, he or she might not freely admit to the other parent’s behavior without an interview from a child professional. Other ways you can show evidence is by gathering text messages, emails, and other communications that show the other parent’s alienation attempts. 

What Can the Courts Do?

Courts are often hesitant to change custody orders based on mere circumstantial evidence of parental alienation. More often, courts will order a psychological evaluation of children to determine the extent of the damage, the reason for the alienating parent’s behavior, and whether or not a modification in child custody is needed. 

The problem with psychological evaluations is that the process can take months—sometimes more than a year. In the meantime, the alienating parent continues to inflict damage on the child. If your ex is attempting to alienate your child from you, you need to push hard for action from the court. Sometimes, an emergency child custody order may be necessary to prevent long-lasting, irreparable damage to your relationship with your child. 

What you need in this situation is a qualified, empathetic, experienced, and knowledgeable family lawyer who understands what you are going through. Anthoor Law Group is well-equipped to respond to a wide variety of sensitive family law matters, including parental alienation, and we would be happy to help you reach a solution. Call our firm today at (510) 794-2887 to get started on a better tomorrow.

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