Child Custody Issues: What Is Parental Alienation?

Child holding his mother's hand

Parental alienation is basically the behavior of a child’s parent toward the other parent that leads to the development of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in the child. Parental alienation syndrome happens when one parent shows hostility toward the other parent, which in turn leads to the child developing hostile feelings toward the alienated parent.

However, although the child might appear to hate the other parent, they might secretly be longing for the affection and the attention of the alienated parent. Essentially, courts consider PAS emotional abuse, and it is unfortunately fairly common in divorce cases.

Understanding Parental Alienation

A parent could alienate another parent through various means. For instance, a parent might ban the child to have any contact with the other parent; make excuses in order to prevent the child from going with the other parent for scheduled visitation, or interfere with the visitation schedule by dropping off the child late or picking the child up too early, explains a renowned family law attorney in Santa Fe, NM.

Some parents might even go as far as to falsely accuse the other parent of child abuse. In general, courts don’t consider parental alienation as a crime, unless it clearly violates a custody or visitation order. But if false child abuse accusations are made, a parent might be liable, because abuse cases usually involve law enforcement officials.

Parental alienation could likewise significantly affect child custody hearing outcomes. In addition, if the child develops PAS, they would have to go therapy because of the possibility of them developing psychological issues that could result in various problems later on.

Depending on your state’s evidence laws, courts might consider parental alienation admissible in custody cases, but won’t necessarily base their decision on it. However, other courts won’t deem parental alienation admissible since it’s not technically scientific evidence, but expert opinion.

If Your Spouse is Alienating You

If your spouse is alienating you, you have some options. First, if you have a child custody order granting your visitation or custody of your child, your spouse can’t really do anything about that. Just continue being the best parent to your child and show them that you’re not going anywhere.

Second, you need to seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer most especially if you fear or believe that your child is already affected by the situation. Depending on the specific circumstances of the alienation, the court might hold your spouse responsible and enforce penalties accordingly.