by Lisa Skrdlant | Feb 6, 2023 | Custody & Parental Access, Divorce |
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.
by Mia Poppe | Jan 28, 2023 | Custody & Parental Access, Family Law |
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.