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  • Writer's pictureRobert Tsai

The Court's Role in Parental Alienation Cases

If parental alienation is present in a divorce or custody suit, a judge has many tools to tackle the issue. A judge will always consider the best interest of the child when making decisions. He or she may also order counseling, or even change the custody arrangement based on the severity of the alienation and compliance with orders.

Several factors are considered when a judge is determining what course of action is in the best interest of a child. The following “Holley Factors” are a non-exhaustive list of the factors a court will consider:

  • The desires of the child;

  • The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;

  • The emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;

  • The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;

  • The programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;

  • The plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;

  • The stability of the home or proposed placement;

  • The acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one and any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.

There are many misconceptions involving these best interest factors. For example, when children turn 12, a court must consider the desires of the child. However, the court is not required to grant the child’s wishes if the judge does not believe the child’s wishes are in his or her best interest. This acts as a safeguard for the court to prevent parental alienation. Additionally, a court will look through these other factors while considering the history of the parent-child relationship to determine whether parental alienation is present. Finally, a court will evaluate a parent’s intent when looking at factors such as parental abilities, parenting plans, and acts and omissions of a parent. Looking at a parent’s intent may uncover underlying motives to separate a child from their other parent, to be more of a friend to a child than a parent to gain favor, or even purposefully making the other parent look bad to their child.

The court also has other ways to combat parental alienation. Under the Texas Family Code, the court can order counseling for the parents, the children, or both. Additionally, the court has discretion in adjusting previous orders to change who has custody of the child. The court may continue custody with the favored parent and couple the arrangement with parent education classes, counseling, and/or therapy. The court may award custody to the rejected parent and couple this arrangement with professional help to assist the family with the adjustment. Studies show that this arrangement is the most effective in parental alienation cases. Another option is for a judge to award temporary custody to someone other than the child’s parents. This method removes the child from family tensions and dynamics and allows the child to focus on his/her own development. Finally, some courts may allow the child to decide who should have custody. This method presents the most drawbacks, and is generally only considered when a court has given up on the parents and children. All of these remedies will be considered by a court in conjunction with compliance with orders, and the child’s best interest to determine which method will be the most effective in preventing parental alienation.

If you need help navigating the waters of a suit involving your children, contact the Law Office of Robert Tsai, PLLC at 832-278-1995 so we can help you get the best outcome possible.

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