Parental alienation is a condition in which children exhibit an unreasonable aversion to a parent with whom they would normally develop affectionate relations, usually due to the other parent’s negative attitude towards the rejected parent.
If a child is exposed to one parent vilifying or demeaning the other parent, that child can go on to develop similar negative feelings against the targeted parent. Sometimes, the alienating parent does this unintentionally, not realizing the impact their behavior is having on the child. Other times, the parent may intentionally expose the child to alienating behaviors as a strategic maneuver during a divorce case or a child custody case.
What Parental Alienation is Not
A child favoring one parent over the other, by itself, is not parental alienation. Throughout their development, children may become closer to or have an affinity for one parent due to similar temperaments, shared interests, parenting styles, or attachment issues. Even outright hostility toward a parent, alone, does not rise to the level of parental alienation.
To qualify as parental alienation, the child’s aversion to spending time with a parent must be due to the influences of the other parent. Additionally, the child’s aversion to the disfavored parent must be irrational, or without reason. There may be valid reasons why a child doesn’t want to spend time with a parent, such as a history of abuse or conflict. When there is a valid, rational reason for the child’s behavior, and it’s not a result of the negative programming by the other parent, it is not a parental alienation situation.
How to Recognize Parental Alienation
According to experts, children who have been successfully alienated from one parent by another usually experience behavioral, emotional, and cognitive impairments. Children may be hostile and disobedient toward the alienated parent and their extended family, show no affection or appreciation for the disfavored parent, attempt to punish that parent with their behavior, show no apparent guilt for their behavior, and parrot the negative descriptions used by the favored parent.
What to Do if You Suspect Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is mentally and emotionally damaging to not just the disfavored parent. Perhaps even more importantly, it is damaging to the child’s well-being. One of their parents has emotionally manipulated that child into disfavoring the other parent. This is a very unhealthy situation, and it's up to you, the parent, to put a stop to it.
Fortunately, there are legal ways for you to take action, both in and outside of the courtroom. Reach out to Robert Tsai, our experienced family law attorney, today to discuss your options for ensuring the welfare of your child is protected. Schedule a consultation online or give us a call at 832-278-1995.