Any phase of the divorce process should be about your children. It’s always about the kids and nothing else is more important. Unfortunately, not all divorcing parents are amicable. Too frequently, the non-custodial parent attempts to hamper and frustrate the relationship between the other parent and their child. This willful act to undermine the other parent may rise to the level of what psychologists call ‘parental alienation’. In part two of this 2-part series, we discuss the potential legal action that may be taken if initial tactical steps do not work.
When Tactical Steps Are Not Working
Parental alienation is one of the hardest claims to prove in court. In our first blog, we provided three tactical steps to take to mitigate parental alienation:
- Detachment from the alienating parent.
- Validating your child’s feelings and reassuring them.
- Working with a therapist and circle of support.
If you have exhausted every effort to mitigate parental alienation without success, it may be time to hire a qualified attorney experienced in divorce litigation and parental alienation.
The Burden of Proof on YOU
You must understand that parental alienation is not always easy to prove and it’s not always clear-cut. If you have determined your next course of action is going to court, these critical steps must be taken.
- Hire a Litigation Attorney – note the recommendation is a litigation attorney versus a matrimonial attorney. A litigation attorney is experienced in bringing cases to trial if necessary. At The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC., we are highly experienced in court litigation. Contact us to schedule a consultation.
- Hire a Forensic Psychologist – a forensic psychologist specializes in civil, family, or criminal casework. They interact with attorneys, judges, victims of crime, and criminal offenders. A forensic psychologist will evaluate all parties, including your children, to determine if the claim of parental alienation has been substantiated.
- Show Factual Proof – If you are intent on moving forward, you will need a sophisticated marshaling of evidence to prove to the courts your claim of parental alienation. It is a move that requires strategic steps. A qualified litigation attorney can guide you with the documentation and evidence a court will require.
Should the case move forward in court, there are several possible legal decisions that may be taken by the courts. In any case, the courts will always decide in the best interest of the child(ren).
Legal Actions by The Court
Once parental alienation has been substantially proven and determined by the courts, the ruling judge may choose any of the following actions against the alienating parent.
Custody modification: A petition may be filed to modify the custody or parenting time arrangement if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the best interest of the child is no longer being served.
Supervised visitations: If the court determines that it is not safe for the child to be alone with the alienating parent, it may order supervised visitations.
Counseling: The court may order counseling for the child, the alienating parent, or both, to help repair the damaged relationship. The alienating parent may be required to take parenting classes.
Suspension of Child Support Payments: A motion may be filed requesting that child support payments be suspended due to the unreasonable frustration of visitation with the child.
Contempt of court: If the alienating parent continues to engage in alienating behavior despite court orders, they may be held in contempt of court and even face criminal charges if their actions are determined to be criminal in nature.
Ultimately, the court will always consider the best interests of the child as the main priority before making any decision. If we haven’t emphasized the importance of proof, let this be another reminder. You better be ready.
If you suspect you and your child are experiencing the harsh and unreasonable effects of parental alienation, I encourage you to act now. Contact us to schedule an appointment with me or one of the other qualified attorneys at The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates.
Let Me Be Your Brave!
Mia Poppe, Esq.