Divorce is not easy on anyone, especially not children. Most parents want to do their best to protect their children from any involvement in any conflict between parents. However, in some high-conflict divorces, parents display consistent and persistent patterns of animosity and hostility towards one another. Unfortunately, sometimes the children of the marriage are the tragic victims of the animosity and hostility. Some parents are unable to separate their own conflict from the needs and well-being of their own children.
Some parents experience such extreme and overwhelming feelings of anger, hatred, blame, and lack of control that they attempt to strongly persuade the children to have adverse feelings for the other parent. This is called Parental Alienation.
Parental Alienation involves destructive actions by the alienating parent to damage the relationship with the non-alienating parent and the child by persuading the child that the non-alienating parent is mean, worthless, selfish, and not needed in the child’s life. Parental Alienation often occurs in high-conflict divorce and child custody proceedings. Some divorce and child custody cases involve court battles and evaluations of the parents, including custody evaluations. This can give rise to a feeling for the parents that they are competing to determine who is the better parent, a feeling as though they are literally at war. Unfortunately, children are the causality of that war. Parents need to understand that Parental Alienation can have immediate and long-lasting effects on children.
The following are some examples of alienating behavior:
- Allowing your children to choose or believe that they have the right to choose whether they can visit the other parent;
- Telling your children all the details about why the marriage failed and/or details about the divorce settlement;
- Making false or groundless allegations against the other parent;
- Interrogating your children after a visit with the other parent;
- Giving your children the impression that your feelings will be hurt if they have a good time with the other parent or if they want to spend time with the other parent.
The negative effects of children who have experienced parental alienation can be very severe. Some experts have stated the following long-term impacts on children who have experienced parental alienation:
- Difficulty in forming relationships;
- Difficulty in managing emotions, including anger and hostility;
- Conflicts with others around them;
Throughout the course of divorce and after, it is critical that children be encouraged by their parents to love both parents.
Texas courts will act when there is suspected Parental Alienation by appointing professionals such as guardians ad litem; parenting facilitators and/or forensic psychologists to study the child’s current living situations and the mental health of both parents and the child. Reports provided to the Court from these types of professionals can be used in assisting the Court in making rulings in the best interest of the children that involve custody, visitation, and other parenting plan provisions.
If you believe that you or your children are victims of Parental Alienation, it is important to contact a family law attorney who is experienced in these types of cases to assist you and your children.
There are many resources that provide information on Parental Alienation. Those that I have found useful and informative are as follows:
- The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After A Divorce, Elizabeth S. Thayer, Ph.D. & Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D.
- Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, Dr. Richard A. Warshak.
- Understanding Parental Alienation: Divorce Casualties, 2nd Edition, Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.
For More Information, contact Patricia Dixon (Trisha).