Is your child’s other parent using negative manipulation to turn your child’s relationship with you against you? This type of behavior common during the pendency of a divorce action or in post-divorce situations is what is known as parental alienation. One of the most difficult theories to prove in a child custody proceeding, this two-part series shares the tactical and legal steps you can take if you are the target of parental alienation.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is an event in which one parent actively weakens the relationship between the other parent and their child or children. At one end of the spectrum, is the parent who is the custodial or the primary parental figure in the child’s life. On the other end, is the parent who is not the primary figure, but is rather the seemingly powerful figure, who possibly holds all the money but definitely has the ability to invoke fear in the child.
One of the problems with parental alienation is you can only say it happened when the outcome is already there, such as your child rejecting your phone calls or refusing to visit. Typical manipulation of the alienating parent includes:
- Bad-mouthing the other parent to the child.
- Bad-mouthing the other parent to the community or other third parties.
- Constantly telling the child how the divorce is hurting them, causing the child to feel judgmental or parental toward the alienated parent.
These purposeful and calculated attempts to estrange the child from the other parent are a form of emotional abuse of the child and may constitute parental alienation.
But know this, parental alienation is very hard to prove. It requires significant documentation, third-party evaluations, and showing the course of action that created the alienation. It is not in the best interest of any child to uproot them from the home they are settled in, so what can you do?
How to Counteract Parental Alienation
If you believe you are the subject of parental alienation, there are tactical steps you can take to mitigate the alienation. It is worth repeating that parental alienation is difficult to prove in our overburdened family and divorce courts. Prior to considering legal action, you must take every effort to counteract the alienation outside the courtroom.
Detachment: as counterintuitive as it sounds, parental alienation is mitigated when you detach from the emotional attack that’s being launched against you and your child. Some therapists call the withholding “narcissistic supply”. Narcissistic supply generally refers to the energy that certain manipulative people need to continue on with their course of the manipulation. They must achieve a payoff to succeed at their manipulation.
Validate and accept your child’s feelings: validate that the fear and confusion they feel are both real. After you validate their feelings, disarm their fear by reassuring your child absolutely everything will be okay. Give your child words of encouragement and voice your acceptance of your child’s feelings. Ignoring their feelings will only push them closer to the alienating parent.
Team up: work with a therapist and surround yourself with friends and family who strongly support you. And if a divorce is necessary, find a divorce attorney who is qualified to handle child custody and parental alienation.
Other Steps to Mitigate Parental Alienation
If, and only if, you have exhausted every effort, taken every avenue, and tried every tactic to mitigate parental alienation without success, it may be time to consider legal assistance. You must understand that the court will require concrete evidence of parental alienation before making any order.
In part two of the parental alienation series, we discuss the various legal steps that may be taken by the court depending on the situation. Ultimately, the court will always consider the best interests of the child as the main priority before making any decision.
Let Me Be Your BraveIf you or someone you know is going through parental alienation, I encourage you to act now. As an experienced attorney in divorce litigation and child custody, contact The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates to schedule an appointment today.
Let Me Be Your Brave!
Mia Poppe, Esq.
Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC.