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Getting a divorce is a challenging and painful time, and often the experience can leave one or both parties feeling bitter toward the other. Particularly if they feel they "lost" regarding the divorce settlement, paying child support, or child custody arrangements.
When a divorcing couple has children together, it's not uncommon for one parent to manipulate the children's feelings about the other parent. This can not only damage the relationship with either or both parents, it often upsets the children's sense of security, well-being, and self-worth. If you suspect parental alienation is occurring, our child custody attorneys in Raleigh are sharing what your options are and what steps you can take.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is the legal term used to describe the action of one parent attempting to turn the child against the other parent, causing their relationship to break down or deteriorate. The term, specifically parental alienation syndrome, was coined in the mid-1980s by Richard Gardner, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who described it as a "campaign of denigration" in which the child was brainwashed or successfully convinced by one parent that the other was dangerous, cruel, or other negative qualities.
Parental alienation is most often seen in high-conflict divorce cases. Often, the parents struggle to co-parent and communicate and will take out their frustration or bitterness by talking to their child in a negative way about the other parent. Alienation is more than venting or the occasional comment (though that should also be addressed immediately), it specifically refers to a targeted attempt to hurt the other parent's relationship with the child though.
Examples of Parental Alienation in NC
Parental alienation includes the following actions from one parent:
- Telling the child(ren) they don't have to visit the other parent or that it would hurt their feelings if they spent time with the other parent even though the custody agreement is legally binding
- Not allowing the child to take their belongings to the other parent's house
- Telling the child it's the other parent's fault for the divorce, financial problems, adultery, etc.
- Asking leading questions about the other parent's behavior
- Encouraging the child to be angry at the other parent about the divorce or parenting decisions
- Asking the child to "spy" on the other parent while they are visiting or living with them
- Acting hurt or sad that the child spends time with the other parent (regardless of the custody arrangement) or attempts to make the child feel guilty about wanting to be with the other parent
- Talking about how child support is taking all their money or that the other parent isn't paying enough child support
These actions and behaviors can turn the child against the other parent as well as cause emotional harm to the child.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Ex is Manipulating Your Child
If you are concerned that your ex-spouse or the parent of your child is alienating you from your child, you need to take steps to protect yourself and your child. While you can speak with your co-parent about being mindful about what they say or even suggesting family therapy to create a healthier co-parenting relationship, often, these issues are solved or corrected in family court.
It's important to speak with a family law attorney or child custody attorney to determine the best course of action and if you have a valid concern for parental alienation. Also, parental alienation often accompanies not following a custody arrangement, so it's important to discuss this matter with your attorney, too. In the most extreme cases, you can discuss filing for emergency custody if you suspect the other parent is causing significant damage to your child's well-being.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Custody Attorney in Raleigh Today
If you suspect or have proof that your ex-spouse or the parent of your child is attempting to turn your child against you or portray you as the "bad guy," you need to take legal action immediately. Reach out to our team for a consultation about your case and learn what your best options are to protect your child's well-being.
Get started today by calling us at (919) 301-8843 or by filling out the form below.