How to Survive Parental Alienation After a Divorce

It is widely understood that a child\’s bond with both parents is very important for healthy mental development. Although it starts at an early age, the attachment process continues with the child\’s age. Any actions taken by an emotional parent can potentially result in the child having mental health problems throughout their life. At Davis, Ermis & Roberts P.C. in Arlington, TX our team of experienced attorneys has spent years helping clients throughout the DFW Metroplex with a wide variety of legal concerns including family-related concerns.

When parents decide to separate or pursue a divorce, decisions about who gets custody, how many visits, and the like must always be made based on what is best for the child. Apart from the standard custody agreement, both parents are usually expected to play a role in childcare and while not using the child as a means to strike back at each other.

Unfortunately, there are cases when one parent tries to hurt the other by damaging or even destroying their former partner\’s relationship with their child or children. In family law, this is known as parental alienation.

Understanding Parental Alienation

Parental alienation occurs when a child is irrationally attached to one parent and has negative reactions strong enough to prevent normal interactions between the child and the other parent. This happens when children mentally \”rewrite\” their memories and perceptions of their previous experiences. For example, in a therapy session, the child can say, \”I have never had a positive experience with my mother. I don\’t have fond memories of it\” even after parents produce gigabytes of videos and photos that show a very pleasant shared experience. This is a classic case of parental exile because of irrational associations.

Examples of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation refers to the fact that one parent isolates a child from the other parent through words or behavior. Alienation not only harms a parent but also damages many children for life. This is child abuse.

Here are some of the different ways this type of behavior can lead to:

Disparagement – Disparaging means making hurtful or negative comments about the other parent. Examples include telling the child that the other parent is guilty of causing the divorce or separation, telling the child the details of the custody battle, or simply \”I\’m a good parent, and they are bad.\” One parent can even say that the other does not love their child.

 Undermining Authority – Parental alienation can also occur if one parent destroys the authority of another. At best, parents share decisions about education, safety, and overall child welfare. They demand that children respect joint decisions; they present a united front in raising children. Authority is damaged when parents contradict or laugh at one of these decisions. For example, say that parents approve the lesson at 8 PM to a child. When away from the mother, the father covertly changed the time to midnight when his son or daughter was with him. Such contradictions encourage children to play one parent against another. Like all forms of alienation, this mixed message can influence children\’s interactions with the outside world.

 Parental Substitution – As the name suggests, parental substitution occurs when one parent lets the child believe in guidance from someone other than the other parent, or that this person has the same authority as their mother or father. The classic case is when divorced parents are involved with a new partner. If nothing else is explained to the child, they may develop a level of trust that the new partner has the same authority as their \”real\” parents. Parental replacement can be encouraged by actions where the child is asked to name this new person as \”mother\” or \”father\”. It is important to develop a clear understanding of situations where parents leave the child. In this case, it might be appropriate for a third party (often grandparents) to act as a parent. That is not alienation.

Protect Your Rights with Davis, Ermis & Roberts P.C. in Arlington, TX

If you and your partner are planning to be divorced, or if you’re worried about the condition of your family in the aftermath of a divorce, it is always best to retain the services of an experienced attorney that understands the complexities of family law. At Davis, Ermis & Roberts P.C. in Arlington, TX our team of talented legal professionals is always ready to help you protect your rights as a parent, and work through difficult cases including custody disputes or situations where parental alienation may be occurring. To find out more about our services, or to schedule a consultation, don’t hesitate to contact our offices as quickly as possible to learn more!