Who Does Parental Alienation Really Hurt?
Would it surprise you to learn that parental alienation is actually considered a form of child abuse? When one parent portrays the other as the “bad guy,” nothing good can come of it. In the end, it’s almost always the children who get hurt.
It can happen to anyone. You may have imagined an easy divorce. You and your ex lived together like brother and sister for years. During your marriage, you both built up each other to your child. And then, it happens. You separate and figure it will be just a matter of some paperwork. Only, you are suddenly facing a mindboggling battle over everything. You never expected to fight over custody, parenting time or visitation. What happens now?
Signs of Parental Alienation
Unfortunately, going through a divorce is a very difficult experience. Children of all ages often suffer the brunt of it. It’s hard to envision that it’s ever a parent’s intent to emotionally destroy their child. Yet, it happens very often. Here are common signs of parental alienation:
- Using the child as a confidant about divorce issues
- Sharing details about suspicions of infidelity
- Placing blame on the failure of the marriage on the child
- Engaging offspring to spy on their other parent
- Insisting that the child take sides
- Making disparaging remarks about the other parent, even if they seem true
- Acting like a victim to gain the child’s support
- Blaming the other parent for money problems
- Refusing visitation if someone new will be introduced to the child
- Misleading or lying to the child about their other parent
- Encouraging the child to lie about the other parent’s behavior
These are just some examples of how parents can emotionally harm their children. It can come out when the child parrots what Mom or Dad has said about the other. Parents need to keep in mind that when they badmouth one another, children may take it personally. After all, they are the product of both parents.
The fact that parents no longer wish to be married should not mean that their children need to suffer. Their lives are changed as they shuffle back and forth between houses. If one parent has moved on to a relationship, there may be loyalty issues. It is up to mothers and fathers to always act in the best interests of their children. Parental alienation is never smart. It may mean cause for judicial intervention.
The Courts and Parental Alienation
The New Jersey courts take the issue of parental alienation very seriously. It may be necessary to secure expert opinion concerning the emotional harm is done to the children. In one case, MA v. AI, NJ: Appellate Div. 2014, the couple was married in 1989 and began to have marital problems in 2007. The children sided with their father and began to treat their mother poorly.
As the case progressed through the divorce process, the family agreed to participate in therapy sessions. The judge ordered a rotational parenting plan. This meant that the children would remain in the marital home and the parents would change places. The judge interviewed the children, who stated their preference for living with their father.
The situation continued to deteriorate and the court tried different methods to encourage a better relationship between the children and their mother. The judge listened to testimony from the children’s therapists and ultimately came to a conclusion that:
…the father has been instrumental in the children’s rejection of their mother. He has repeatedly taken the position with the children, with plaintiff, with this court and various experts that the children’s negative feelings towards their mother are justified and he has empowered them to speak and behave inappropriately to their mother, to question experts and authorities involved in this case and even to question the authority of this court.
The court used the best interests of the child standard in determining that the children should have the benefit of both parents. The judge ordered further counseling and gave the mother legal and sole custody for reunification purposes. The father was even temporarily barred from seeing the children to allow them an adjustment period.
This whole process took several years, many counseling sessions and time in court. Undoubtedly, it placed the whole family in emotional turmoil. Anyone who thinks that parental alienation can make them a winner truly doesn’t understand what losing can do to a family.
Are you involved in a custody dispute or seeking a divorce? Whether or not there are claims of parental alienation, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone can assist you. Contact our office to set up an appointment regarding your situation.