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Parental Alienation During Divorce Cases

parental alienation in divorce cases

Parental alienation during a separation and divorce generally refers to one spouse turning a child against the other parent or other family members.

One party in a divorce might use parental alienation to gain an edge in a child custody fight. One parent might turn a young child against the idea of living with their other parent. Conversely, a parent might charge that the other has engaged in parental alienation to prevent the alleged alienating parent from gaining custody.

The family law attorneys of Florida Law Advisers, P.A., strongly advise adults going through divorce and child custody disputes to avoid engaging in any type of behavior to turn their children against their other parent. Parental manipulation can cause psychological harm to a child.

Parental manipulation during divorce can also backfire. Family law judges in Florida base child custody and support decisions on what is in the best interest of the child. A judge could easily determine that parental manipulation tactics amount to mistreatment of the targeted child.

If you are going through a child custody dispute and suspect your estranged spouse of parental alienation, or you are facing false allegations of causing parental alienation syndrome, you should discuss the matter with an experienced child custody attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer at Florida Law Advisers will work to determine what is happening and advise you on the proper legal steps to take. When appropriate, we can also make referrals to a licensed therapist for counseling for your child.

What Is Parental Alienation?

signs of parental alienation

“Parental alienation is a strategy whereby one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent,” according to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). “The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent and to turn the child’s emotions against that other parent.”

Acts of parental alienation may include any behavior that negatively manipulates the child’s perception of the targeted parent, such as:

  • Denigrating or badmouthing the targeted parent
  • Making false accusations against the targeted parent, such as telling the child that the targeted parent does not love him or her
  • Claiming falsely that the alienated parent has engaged in domestic violence or child abuse
  • Forcing the child to choose between parents
  • Withdrawing affection in retaliation for positive acts or words regarding the targeted parent
  • Undermining the targeted parent’s authority by referring to the targeted parent by first name instead of “mom” or “dad”
  • Blocking the child’s contact with the targeted parent
  • Interfering with child visitation, such as by picking the child up too early or contacting the child excessively during other parent’s parenting time or visitation period.

The signs of parental alienation include:

  • Relentless hatred for the targeted parent
  • Parroting the alienating parent’s language and opinions
  • Vehemently rejecting visits with the targeted parent
  • No ambivalence or guilt about their feelings or behavior toward the targeted parent
  • Believing their rejection of the targeted parent is their own decision
  • An idealized perspective of the alienating parent

What Are the Effects of Parental Alienation on Children?

According to the NCSC, some frequent effects of parental alienation include:

  • Lowering of the child’s self-image
  • Loss of self-respect
  • Impaired ability to establish and maintain new relationships
  • Guilt, anxiety, and depression over damaging their relationship with a previously loved parent
  • Educational problems, disruptions in school
  • Lack of impulse control resulting in aggressive or delinquent behavior.

Can a Parent Lose Custody for Parental Alienation?

 When divorcing parents cannot present an appropriate agreed-upon parenting plan to the family court, the family court will devise one based on evidence from each party. Such is the case in many contested divorces.

Florida Statutes outline the factors a judge is to take into consideration when trying to determine what is in the best interest of a child and to approve a parenting plan. The factors include:

  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to consider and act upon the needs of the children as opposed to their own needs or desires
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The mental (and physical) health of the parents
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant — such as either parent’s ability to refrain from making disparaging comments about the other parent to the child, etc.

In short, a judge has a lot of leeway when determining whether one parent or the other should have primary custody of their child. If a judge is presented with evidence that parental alienation has been taking place and has had a detrimental effect on the parent-child relationship — or on the child’s emotional well-being — the judge can award custody accordingly.

Keep in mind that family court judges may ask an older child what their preferences are for parental custody or visitation. If your child has been manipulated against you, you’ll need to make the court aware of this fact.

Contact Our Child Custody Attorneys in Tampa for Help

A family law judge hearing divorce pleadings in Florida will award child custody according to what he or she believes is in the best interests of the child. If you believe your spouse has tried to turn your child against you, our law firm can help you present evidence of this manipulation to the court. We also can defend you against false charges of parental alienation in a child custody case.

Contact the Tampa child custody attorneys at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., if you are going through a divorce or you need help with a child custody order. We understand the sensitivity of issues affecting children in a divorce. Seek the guidance of a family law attorney who has substantial experience fighting in court for appropriate child custody decisions under circumstances involving emotional manipulation and alienation.

Call us at (800) 990-7763 today or visit our contact page for a free, no-obligation discussion of how we can best represent you and help you protect your child.

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