During divorce proceedings, children are often placed in confusing situations, causing them to feel some type of preference for one parent over the other. Many times the mere observation of parental conflict is enough to cause a child to have feelings of resentment towards one parent on his or her own, but many times one parent is the cause of these feelings, contributing to what is known by child psychologists as Parental Alienation Syndrome.
Parental Alienation begins with the anger or hatred by one parent for the other parent, which translates into the alienating parent either purposefully or inadvertently causing the child to resent, hate, and ultimately alienate the other parent. Parental alienation can be caused by many things, and parents should be aware of how their words and actions affect their child’s relationship with the other parent. Behavior that should be avoided by parents in order to encourage healthy parent-child relationships and ensure smooth custody or visitation proceedings include:
- Blurring the lines between the alienating parent’s feelings and the child’s feelings. For example, making statements such as “We don’t like going to Daddy’s house on Saturday afternoons to visit.” Such comments deprive children of the opportunity to think for themselves and ultimately decide what he or she truly wants.
- Encouraging the child to spy on the other parent during visitation. This behavior may cause the child to believe the alienated parent is not to be trusted. Further, this behavior may cause the child to feel the need to be protective over the alienating parent, thus severing ties with the alienated parent.
- Making negative and finger-pointing remarks to the child about the other parent. While the alienating parent may very well be justified in his or her feelings towards the other parent, parents must keep in mind that the parent-child relationship is entirely separate from the relationship that the parents may have with each other. Despite a spouse’s inability to be a respectable spouse, he or she may still be very capable of being a respectable and loving parent, and no child should be deprived of the opportunity to have a healthy relationship with both parents.
Parental alienation syndrome is often difficult to manage, as most contributing behavior takes place behind closed doors and away from the eye of the court. Over time, parental alienation can interfere with a parent’s visitation and custody rights in the event that the alienation results in a child refusing to see the alienated parent. However, there is some legal recourse available to the alienated parent who seeks to undo parental alienation. An alienated parent can request a court order that will require a child and the parents to undergo mandated therapy to promote healthy parent-child relationships and instruct alienating parents regarding what types of statements to avoid when speaking with the child. Many times a case manager or a guardian ad litem will be assigned to the family, and he or she will actively work to resolve any issues giving rise to parental alienation. These professionals work together in order to ensure that both parents enjoy their rights to custody and visitation.
For more information on parental alienation and how to prevent it during divorce proceedings, feel free to contact The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.