Some amount of parental tension will probably emerge during and after divorce. Children need time and space to adjust to the new living arrangements and relationships within their families.

But parental alienation represents more than mere tension. Parental alienation happens when a parent or caretaker actively manipulates the children to reject a parent out of revenge or spite.

How Parental Alienation Happens

Parental alienation can happen in any family dynamic but most often happens between divorced parents. It can also happen when a relative gains child custody.

Efforts at parental alienation can alter a child’s behavior toward the alienated parent. The child’s altered behavior may include showing:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Hostility and defiance
  • Disrespect

Parental alienation tactics can happen when a caretaker:

  • Keeps the child from seeing the parent
  • Talks negatively about the parent
  • Lies about the parent or the causes of the separation between the child and parent
  • Blames the parent unfairly for the child’s traumas
  • Makes the child feel guilty about spending time with the parent
  • Criticizes the child’s feelings about the parent

In many cases, the caretaker causing the parental alienation is a custodial parent with disproportionate time and access to the child to engage in these behaviors. As a result, they have a significant influence over the child.

If they use that influence improperly by driving a wedge between the child and the other parent, both the child and the alienated parent can suffer.

Tips for Preventing Parental Alienation

If you suspect parental alienation, you must understand that the child is not simply acting out. Psychologists consider parental alienation a mental condition. The child has come to view and treat their parent differently through behavior learned from the caretaker. Some ways to address this condition include:

Tip 1: Make Sure Your Child Is Experiencing Parental Alienation

Children sometimes alienate themselves from a parent for their own reasons. They may blame the parent for the divorce. Or they may feel that the parent abandoned them. They could even feel they are protecting the caretaker from physical or emotional abuse by the parent.

If the child is driving the alienating behaviors, you will need to look at different solutions to the problem.

Tip 2: Involve a Parenting Coordinator

A caretaker can alienate a child from a parent inadvertently with put-downs and disparaging remarks heard by the child but not necessarily directed at manipulating the child.

Parenting coordinators work with separated or divorced parents to help them better communicate with each other. They can sometimes help a caretaker parent recognize how they talk about the other parent and fix it.

Tip 3: Have the Child Talk to a Therapist

For more serious cases, the child may need professional help. Since the child’s behavior was conditioned by the caretaker, you may need a therapist to help the child learn new behaviors.

To do this, the therapist will need to coach the child to recognize manipulation by the caretaker. The therapist may also need to speak to the caretaker to help them correct the problems they created.

Tip 4: File a Motion in Court

Courts in California are wary about recognizing parental alienation since children can develop their own resentments without manipulation. But even if a court refuses to act against the alienation, the court may issue an order limiting the alienating behaviors.

For example, the court can issue an order requiring the caretaker to stick to the visitation schedule. You may even get an order requiring the caretaker to refrain from lying about you.

How the Law Can Help With Parental Alienation

Some states consider parental alienation a form of child abuse. California does not. But California is protective of parental rights. If you believe a caretaker is interfering with your parenting, a family lawyer may be able to help.

Contact Child Custody Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego child custody lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108