Parental Alienation: A Serious Family Law Matter

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One issue increasingly recognized by judges, family law attorneys and therapists is the destructive consequence of Parental Alienation.  When one parent attempts to alienate the child from the other parent through bad-mouthing and other demeaning tactics, he/she is actually asking the child to lower their opinion of the other parent in an attempt to destroy the parental relationship.  This negative form of parenting is a tool that vindictive parents use to gain control of the child's life and break the parent-child relationship with the other parent.

Missouri courts are charged with promoting the "best interests of the child" and anything that interferes with this goal, including interference with the parent-child relationship, is dealt with seriously. An experienced family law attorney is paramount in getting these issues addressed by the court so that necessary therapy and other remedies are established before it is too late to save the parent-child relationship.

Emotions can run high after a couple's divorce, so how can you tell if your ex is actually trying to alienate your child and is, in fact, violating the custody agreement:

What are some of the signs in the children?

  • They show disregard for you and your feelings and those of your family;
  • They use adult language like the other parent and/or his/her extended family;
  • They may mimic, demean, and disrespect you as does the other parent;
  • They dislike spending time with you;
  • They are overly protective of the other parent;
  • They view the other parent as perfect.

What are some of the signs in the parent?

  • They berate or demean the other parent;
  • They force a child to choose between parents;
  • They make the child take sides;
  • They bribe their child with gifts;
  • They discourage any affection toward you;
  • They try to make the child feel guilty;
  • They interfere and disregard your time with the child;
  • They use the child as a messenger;
  • They make plans with the child on your parenting time and enlist friends and family to do the same;
  • They try to destroy your loving relationship with the child.

So, what can you do?

  • First, do not remain silent thinking it's best to take the high road.  In remaining silent, you are accepting the abusive treatment of yourself and your child.
  • Talk with your child regarding the issues without placing blame.
  • Do not resort to bad-mouthing your ex in retaliation.
  • Remind your child of the good times you've had with them and share family stories.
  • Show your love and assure your child that it will always be there.
  • Document the events as evidence of alienation.  It might be needed in court.

Know What Constitutes a Violation of the Custody Agreement. Usually, a court will only change a custody agreement if one of the parents has made a serious violation of the custody agreement.  As in the original agreement, the court will consider the “best interests of the child”.

Some common violations include:

  • Refusing to respect visitation rights;
  • Taking the child without the other parent's knowledge;
  • Badmouthing the other parent.

Both parents deserve time with their children.  What begins as bad-mouthing can lead to Parental Alienation, a behavior that needs to be stopped.  If you think your ex's behavior threatens the best interests of your child, contact your family law attorney and get help.

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