What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Parental alienation syndrome is a psychological condition that a child suffers when one parent takes steps toward destroying the other parent’s relationship with their child. The alienating parent manipulates the child’s point of view about the other parent through deceptive tactics.
What Are Examples of Parental Alienation?
Examples of parental alienation can include:
- Telling the child that the other parent is responsible for the divorce
- Telling the child too much or unnecessary information about the reasons for the divorce
- Telling the child blatant lies to damage the other parent's reputation
- Persuading the child to refuse visitation
- Using the child as to "spy" on the other parent, therefore making the other parent appear untrustworthy
- Trying to buy the child’s favor—such as letting them staying up later or eat more candy—thus undermining the parenting style of the other parent
- Making the child choose between one parent or the other
- Any action intended to eventually estrange the other parent from the child
In extreme cases, a child will develop intense feelings of hatred and fear toward the other parent, permanently harming their relationship.
What Are Signs of Parental Alienation?
- Your child shows reluctance to spend time with you, or feels guilty about spending time with you
- Your child is angry with you for unknown reasons
- Your child believes false things about you, such as allegations of domestic violence or substance abuse
- our child tells you that the other parent says bad things about you
- Your child knows details about your divorce that you never told them (because the other parent did)
- Your ex speaks badly about you with your child present
- Your ex makes false allegations about your character or actions with your child present
- Your ex uses negative body language when communicating with you in front of your child to influence the child's opinion of you
- Your ex tells your child to choose them over you
- Your ex wrongfully keeps your child away from you
What to Do About Parental Alienation – How Do You Fight It?
Currently, there is no standard regulatory scheme for fighting against parental alienation. Some states have recognized the adverse consequences of parental alienation and will make custody rulings disfavoring the parent who took steps toward alienating the other parent. Other courts have considered parental alienation in reunifying children with the alienated parent.
In New Jersey, courts generally consider maintaining the bonds between children and both of their parents to be in their best interests. While New Jersey courts have not established a judicial framework to specifically combat parental alienation, the current custody determination process may provide some protection.
A New Jersey court must consider the following factors when determining child custody issues:
- The parents’ capacity for communication and coordinating about their child
- The willingness of the parents to accept custody and any history of opposition to the other parent’s visitation
- The child’s relationship with their parents and siblings
- Any history of domestic violence
- The child’s safety from physical abuse by a parent
- A child’s reasonable preference
- The child’s needs
- The environmental stability of a proposed residence
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education
- The parents’ fitness
- How close the parents live to each other
- Pre-separation quality time spent with the child
- The work duties and responsibilities of the parents
- The number of children between the parents
- The children’s age
At the top of the list of factors that New Jersey courts must consider in child custody determinations is the parents’ ability to communicate and coordinate regarding the child. In parental alienation cases, the alienating parent often denies contact between children and the other parent.
For example, the alienating parent may tell their children that the other parent hasn’t tried to contact them, fabricating a narrative that the child is unimportant to the other parent. This sort of manipulation not only harms the relationship between the child and other parent, but it can also damage the child’s sense of self-worth.
The goal of the alienating parent is to win their child’s favor at the other parent’s expense. Although a child’s preference is one of the factors that courts will consider when determining custody issues, the child must reach a level of maturity demonstrating their ability to use sound judgment to make rational decisions.
However, it often takes years for a child to develop parental alienation syndrome. By the time the child has reached the age where the court might take their preferences seriously, the consequences of parental alienation may have already permanently disrupted their relationship with the other parent.
Additionally, evidence of parental alienation may be challenging to come across. In child custody proceedings, the parents are inherently positioned adversely to each other. Courts might already take allegations that the other parent is a liar with a grain of salt, as a result. Therefore, a parent must find clear proof of parental alienation before a court can take legal measures in response.
Contact DeTommaso Law Group for Legal Advice
Child custody issues are one of the most emotionally intense matters in the practice of family law. It takes an experienced and grounded legal professional to cut through the emotional turmoil to find a reasonable solution to child custody issues. At DeTommaso Law Group, our legal team has the experience and extensive knowledge of New Jersey family law to protect and preserve you and your child’s best interests in child custody proceedings.