Having children can be enormously rewarding. A child custody dispute, though, can threaten your relationship with your child. You might be faced with limited visitation or losing sole physical custody, or maybe your simply not kept up to date on everything that is going on with your child. Although a contentious divorce or child custody battle can risk driving your child away, the truth of the matter is that your child’s other parent may have been stacking the deck against you well beforehand through a process called parental alienation.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is the process through which one parent manipulates a child with the intent of distancing that child from his or her other parent. Some people refer to this process as programming, while others consider it a form of brainwashing. Some even consider it a form of child abuse.
How alienation occurs
The process of parental alienation can take many forms. In a simple case, an alienating parent simply tells the child false information about you so as to sow doubt in the child’s mind about your goodness. Your child might be consistently told that you’re a liar or that you’re responsible for infidelity in the marriage. There’s really no limit to the lies that can be told to your child.
But alienation doesn’t stop there. An alienating parent might schedule a party or a vacation during your parenting time, which then forces the child to miss out on a fun activity and blame you as a result. These tactics build resentment in the child and further distance him or her from you. In the most severe cases of parental alienation, young children are even made to believe that they have been abused or neglected by you. These allegations can have serious ramifications in a custody dispute, threatening to limit or even eliminate your contact with your children.
Another alienation tactic that is often utilized is parental gatekeeping. Here, a custodial parent strictly controls your access to the child and the information you receive about the child. For example, you might not be informed about important medical events and even school and extracurricular activities, which then create distance between you and your child. You also might be prevented from accessing your child even though you have a court order in place for visitation. Again, this can impact your relationship with your child.
Parental gatekeeping isn’t always intentionally used to alienate a parent. Sometimes the custodial parent truly thinks that he or she knows what’s best for the child and is simply trying to protect the child. This doesn’t make it right. You are your child’s parent, too, and you deserve the opportunity to play that role in a way that furthers your child’s best interests, regardless of what your child’s other parent thinks.
Fight to protect your child and your child’s best interest
Parental alienation, in its varying degrees, is far more common that people realize. That’s why you shouldn’t overlook it as a possibility in your divorce or custody case if your relationship with your child has become strained over the last several months or years.
To successfully combat parental alienation, though, you’ll need strong evidence and compelling legal arguments. That’s why you’ll want to be diligent about documenting everything that feels off to you, whether that be statements made by your child that show unfair criticism without justification or the use of words or phrases that are not age appropriate or instances when the other parent has cut you out of an important part of your child’s life. Witnesses might be able to help you build your case if they’ve observed alienating behavior, and social media posts and emails might help you build your claim.
In the end, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. There’s simply too much at stake. That’s why if you think that you’re being subjected to parental alienation, then it might be time to have an aggressive legal advocate on your side who can help you fight for a just outcome.