• Cheryl Van Ackeren

Parental Alienation. What Is It and Can a Divorce Attorney Help?

Divorce is always a tumultuous time for children. Children of divorce are unfortunately sometimes used as pawns between bitter parents. In this case, parental alienation can become a problem, and even a matter for the courts and need the involvement of a divorce attorney.


So, what is parental alienation, the signs, and impact? And what can you do to protect your child from it?


What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a process of one parent trying to program a child against the other parent. The aim is to interfere with the parent-child relationship. This is often a case where there are bitter divorce proceedings, and parents are unable to separate their need to be apart from what’s best for their children.


A parent is seeking to punish the other parent, and, in this case, a vindictive parent seeks to punish the other party through the child. If one or both parents are attempting to exert control of the other through the child, parental alienation is an inevitable outcome.

Parental alienation can be accomplished by badmouthing one parent or telling negative stories to kids by one parent about the other. It can also be accomplished by withholding access to the child from the other parent.


Other ways of parental alienation include:

· Forcing the child to choose sides

· Removing all mention and trace of the other parent from the child’s surroundings

· Limiting contact with the child’s extended family


Refusing to adhere to visitations, taking kids without the other parent’s knowledge and speaking ill of the other parent (badmouthing) are all common violations of custody agreements and in some cases attempts at parental alienation. Also telling kids that the other parent is the reason for financial problems. You can find several more signs of parental alienation here at the Psychiatric Times.


Signs of parental alienation

Parental alienation is extremely powerful and can lead to ties being permanently cut between the child and the alienated parent. This can have devastating effects on the parent at the loss of their emotional connection to their child.


The lasting effects on children can lead to what is termed parental alienation syndrome. This is where one child displays antagonistic behaviors to the alienated parent. They are angry or rude to the parent for no apparent reason. Or, where there was previously a positive relationship with the child, that relationship is no more.


Now, you should also remember that your child may be anxious and stressed by the divorce itself. Therefore, sometimes the children’s symptoms may be due to the turmoil of the divorce rather than parental alienation.


Impact of parental alienation

Children who have undergone parental alienation have an increased risk of future trust issues, substance abuse, and depression. Parents are also affected.


The impact is so widely known that there is an international support group. The Parental Alienation Study Group, Inc. (PASG) is open to anyone, but members are mostly in the mental health and legal professions – persons who generally come in direct contact with parents and kids affected by parental alienation.


Now, while parental alienation isn’t recognized as a mental health condition, it is noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The manual carries a code for “child affected by parental relationship distress,” under which issues related to parental alienation would fall. This highlights that though it isn’t classified a mental disorder, it can impact the mental health of kids subjected to parental alienation behaviors.


To prevent parental alienation, both parents have to consciously make a decision not to make the child the subject of the divorce. Tempers and tensions will be high. But the child’s health and welfare are at stake.


So, simple things like not saying negative things about the other parent around the child or blaming them for unrelated problems are a start. Adhering to visitation arrangements so the parent and child can still maintain their bond.


What’s the role of a divorce attorney?


For many, a divorce attorney is about winning at all costs. But for those who love their children, divorce attorneys can help parents avoid doing irreparable harm to their children. It is inevitable that emotions may run high at a divorce. So, having the calming and focused services of a divorce attorney can help to alleviate a lot of tensions and possibly prevent or address parental alienation tactics.


In custody disputes that so often arise from divorce cases, the court will attempt to place the child with the parent that it thinks will provide a better and continuous relationship with the other parent. When children of divorce have both parents in their lives who love them and work together for their upbringing, they have a better chance at growing up emotionally stable.


If you’re going through a divorce or the parental victim of potential parental alienation acts, let’s talk about re-establishing your connection with your kids. Van Ackeren P.S. is a military law firm that provides effective legal representation in a divorce. Over the course of our practice, we’ve seen and handled a variety of cases that had parental alienation issues.

Our role would be to help achieve a peaceful separation that supports you and your children so that they don’t face irreparable harm. There will be problems in co-parenting, especially if both parents cannot stand being near each other anymore. This level of animosity does not mean that a peaceful and amicable arrangement cannot be made that supports parents, and especially their children.


So, remember that it’s natural to be emotional. And even as consummate professionals in the military, your emotions can get the better of you in a divorce. If you want to make a solid case for yourself, one where you need to consider the welfare of your child, an experienced divorce attorney can help you put the facts together to present during the proceedings.


If you are the alienated parent, then we can work together to document all past events, including before and after signs of parental alienation to support the case. As the parent accused of alienating practices or where the child has rejected the other parent for no apparent reason, your attorney can help you determine if there are practices leading to this and guide you in how to desist for the welfare of the child.


If you are in the military and considering filing a dissolution of your union, Contact Van Ackeren Law at (253) 442-6700 or send us a message online to schedule a consultation.

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