After a divorce, a once close and loving relationship between a parent and a child can turn into a relationship where the same child wants nothing to do with that same parent. This situation can be caused by parental alienation. Parental alienation is a set of behaviors by parents that lead to the child becoming hostile to one parent. While it's not uncommon right after a divorce for there to be animosity between a child and one or both of the child's parents, parental alienation comes into play when this animosity doesn't go away and continues to grow.
When parental alienation is involved, there are usually three actors: the alienating parent, the alienated parent and the child. The alienating parent acts in ways that hurt the relationship between the child and the alienated parent.
Some common behaviors of an alienating parent include:
- -being certain that the alienated parent doesn't matter to or is a bad influence on the child.
- -restricting the alienated parent's visits with the child.
- -treating the alienated parent's attempts to visit the child as harassment.
- -limiting communication between the alienated parent and the child.
- -allowing the child to decide whether or not to visit the alienated parent.
- -mocking the alienated parent in the child's presence.
- -being certain that the alienated parent is a danger to the child.
- -confirming the child's feelings that the alienated parent isn't worth the child's attention.
- -having a deep distrust and fear of the alienated parent.
- -convincing the child that the alienated parent doesn't and/or never loved the child.
As the relationship between the child and the alienated parent deteriorates, the alienated parent can also start contributing to parental alienation. Some common behaviors of an alienated parent that contribute to parental alienation include:
- -being passive when dealing with the alienating parent.
- -rejecting the child after being rejected by the child.
- -becoming strict and harsh with the child.
- -becoming self-centered and immature.
- -becoming critical and demanding of the child.
It's important to remember that when one parent is the victim of domestic violence, that parent's conduct can seem like parental alienation but may just be a reasonable reaction to the other dangerous and violent parent. In cases of domestic violence, it can be difficult for even a seasoned mental health professional to determine if parental alienation is involved.
In cases of parental alienation, both the child and the alienated parent become victims. The alienated parents losses their relationship with the child, and the child, in addition to losing their relationship with a parent, also is likely to be emotionally harmed. Children who have been subjected to parental alienation tend to have black-and-white thinking about relationships. Also, because the bond between the alienating parent and the child becomes so strong, the child often doesn't develop a sense of self.
Dealing with parental alienation in Texas courts can be difficult. The American Psychiatric Association has no opinion on parental alienation beyond stating that there is no data to support its existence. APA also stresses caution of the use of parental alienation in situations of domestic violence in divorce. Therefore, there's no set way in Texas family law courts to prove parental alienation. However, the best means of dealing with parental alienation is usually to get an amicus attorney appointed to protect the best interests of the child. A dedicated amicus can observe the child with both parents and best help the court get to the truth. The use of a forensic psychologist to study the child and the parents could also be helpful.
Before concluding this article, we would like to thank and cite Dr. Jonathan Gould, whose paper entitled "Current Ideas in Alienation Dynamics and Its Forensic Psychological Assessment" formed the basis of much of the information in this article.
If you believe that you and your child are victims of parental alienation, contact Sugar Land child custody attorney Chikeersha Puvvada at 832-317-6705 or online today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.