What happens if one parent attempts to turn their child(ren) against a co-parent? How can you spot the signs of parental alienation and take action to protect the relationship between you and your child(ren)?
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was first identified in 1985 by child psychologist Richard Gardner. Basically, parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to substantially interfere with, damage or cut off their child’s relationship with the other parent.
Examples of genuine parental alienation include attempts to prevent a child from seeing or communicating with the other parent. Behaviors in a parental alienation situation may include constant disparagement of the other parent, including details of adult issues such as an affair or drug addiction. In these cases, one parent consistently works to “poison” the relationship between a child and the other parent.
A recent study reports a troubling statistic: 12% to 15% of divorces and legal separations involve parental alienation. How can you spot the signs of parental alienation in your case?
In some cases, the signs of parental alienation are more subtle. The alienator may begin insisting specific personal items of the child (and eventually all personal items) are to be kept at “their” house. The alienator may start keeping medical issues, report cards or other important information about the child from the other parent. Another example is the “need” to monitor phone calls, texts, emails and other interactions between the child and the other parent.
If the relationship between you and your former spouse or a child are contentious or become contentious you need to be able to spot the signs of parental alienation and take action to protect your rights as a parent and the precious relationship with your child(ren).
One of the tell-tale signs of parental alienation is a sudden change in attitude or behavior. If your child starts to put up resistance to scheduled visitation, or becomes distant and withdrawn a red flag should go off in your own mind. These symptoms definitely reflect an underlying issue, and it is important to lovingly engage the child and work with appropriate professionals to get to the root of the issue and work through it.
Another substantial warning sign of parental alienation is the interruption of scheduled parenting time. There’s often some “reason” or vague excuse for something which “just came up” or “will only happen this once.” Common sense prevails here, but take notice of any pattern of interruption in your scheduled parenting time. This is especially true if it is not made up for by trading time which would otherwise be spent with the other co-parent.
Why is it important to spot the signs of parental alienation during or after your divorce? The bedrock principle of California Family Law is “the best interest of the child.” Children who are the victims of parental alienation experience substantial anger issues which often manifest in destructive behavior. Victims of parental alienation tend to learn to see things as “black and white” or “us versus them” instead of with a healthy perspective. Parental alienation can interrupt the natural development of empathy and the variety of relationships which will sustain them as they grow up and transition to adult life.
Are you concerned about parental alienation? Have you seen some of the signs in your relationship with a child? The Certified Family Law Specialists at Burke & Domercq can and will help.