Parents who divorce or separate can generally expect to share custody. Family law judges must abide by state statutes when putting together a custody order, which means that their decisions should be in the best interests of the children affected.
Most families end up having a shared custody or co-parenting arrangement wherein both parents have liberal amounts of time with the children and some say in the major decisions about their lives. Unfortunately, sometimes one parent resents the other so much that they intentionally try to damage their co-parent’s relationship with the children.
What can one parent do when the other tries to turn the children against them?
Learn about parental alienation
Children often end up caught in the middle when parents have a change in their relationship. Children naturally want to please and remain close to their parents, although they will often prioritize the wishes of their primary caregiver over the wishes of the other parent when under pressure. One adult could therefore begin to influence how the children perceive and interact with the other parent. Parental alienation may include talking negatively about a co-parent in front of the children and denying someone communication or time with the children.
How does one respond to parental alienation?
In theory, a parent engaged in parental alienation has put their own selfish wishes ahead of the best interest of the children. A judge could potentially rule against them if there is evidence of their misconduct.
A parent denied time with their children or dealing with a co-parent slandering them to the children will need to keep records of what they experience. The damage that these actions have to the parent-child relationship can be extreme and can lead to emotional and social challenges for the children in the future. Detailed accounts of what the children say they heard from the other parents and also records of all of the denied visits and unconnected phone calls can help establish a pattern of behavior that interferes with the relationship one parent has with the children.
How can the courts resolve parental alienation?
Someone who has experienced and documented attempted parental alienation can notify the courts and ask for custody enforcement actions or even a modification of the original order. A judge can give someone more time with the children or penalize the parent attempting to alienate the children from the other adult in the family. Sometimes, a judge might order someone to attend counseling or parenting classes when they have consistently put their selfish wishes ahead of what would be best for the children.
Recognizing that parental alienation is a real concern for those who share custody of their children with someone else could help a parent better advocate for their relationship with their children and protect them from the misconduct of their co-parent.