What is Parental Alienation? Discussed by Divorce Attorneys
In recent years, New Jersey family law courts have been faced with an increasing number of custody cases where some form of parental alienation is an issue.
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for parents is learning to move past prior marital conflict to achieve a healthy relationship between the children and an ex-spouse. In high conflict divorces, parents can forget how powerful their actions and words can be and lose sight of how their behavior towards each other affects their children. One of the most common forms of negative behavior is known as parental alienation. This is when one parent consciously or unconsciously undermines and interferes with the children’s relationships with the other parent.
Some of the most common examples of parental alienation are one parent attempting to hinder the other parent’s visitation by refusing to follow a custody schedule, intentionally scheduling activities for the children during the other parent’s time, discussing the divorce case with the children, and disparaging the other parent in front of the children. However, parental alienation is often more complicated than simple obstruction of visitation and can manifest in many forms.
The most common effects of these types of actions are that children may refuse to spend time with one parent while mimicking the alienating parent’s adult language. Often the child may feel, consciously or unconsciously, that they will anger or lose the parent’s affection that is engaging in the alienating behavior. This conflict is often the cause of intense suffering in the child as they feel they must sacrifice the love of a parent or extended close family to maintain the alienating parent’s affection.
Recognizing the Signs of Parental Alienation
A study by (Baker & Darnall, 2007) found that targeted parents rated their children as experiencing several notable behavioral manifestations due to being alienated from a parent by a divorcing spouse. Parents reported that their children exhibited one or more of the following behaviors with a high degree of frequency.
A hostile or apathetic attitude toward the alienated parent
Alienated children may come to be consumed with hatred of the targeted parent. This hatred can cause them to deny or forget any positive past experiences leading to rejection of all contact and communication.
Unreasonable and reflexive unwavering support for the alienating parent
Often in any family conflict, the alienated child will side with the alienating parent, regardless of how absurd or baseless that parent’s position may be. Often there isn’t any willingness to be impartial when faced with inter-parental conflicts.
Open or subconscious rejection of extended family
The hatred of the targeted parent may spill over to his or her extended family. As a result, not only is the targeted parent denigrated, despised, and avoided but so too are their extended family. Very often, beloved grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins may suddenly be completely avoided and rejected.
Absurd and frivolous rationalizations
When children who have been alienated are questioned about the reasons for their hostility toward the targeted parent, often the explanations offered are not of the magnitude that typically would lead a child to reject a parent. Moreover, they may mirror the alienating parent’s views without the child having any real personal basis for these feelings.
The “Independent Thinker” Phenomenon
Though the alienating parent will unduly negatively influence alienated children, they will usually insist that the decision to reject the targeted parent is completely theirs alone. However, this is usually not the case and becomes clear when asked about the reason for their negative feeling toward the alienated parent.
It is essential for divorcing spouses to remember that no matter how contentious the divorce can become, parents must keep children as far away from marital conflict as possible to avoid possible lasting and damaging emotional consequences for the children and legal consequences for the parent.
If you feel your children are suffering from parental alienation, the law may be on your side. An experienced and skilled family law attorney may be just what you need to help regain the love of your child.
Contact an Experienced Morristown Divorce Attorney
To schedule a confidential case assessment regarding possible parental alienation or any other family law issue. To speak with our firm today regarding your divorce, contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.