Many non-custodial parents struggle with the same battle, that of parental alienation. Parental Alienation can be damaging to a child’s emotional and mental well being, and is generally associated with high conflict divorces. Parental Alienation Syndrome has been defined as a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. Essentially, this syndrome is the culmination in a child of one parent’s words and actions regarding the other parent.
Behavior which can affect a child in this way includes badmouthing and withholding visitation with the non-custodial parent.
The first step in coping with parental alienation is being aware of the types of alienation. Naïve alienators are parents who are passive about their child’s relationship with the other parent, who occasionally say or do things which can be alienating. These parents generally understand that what they are doing is wrong, and they will attempt to correct their behavior.
Active alienators are parents who, due to their pain and anger impulsively lose control over their behavior, even though they are aware it is wrong. These parents may need professional assistance in correcting their alienating behavior.
Obsessed alienators are parents who fanatically try to destroy the other parent. These parents are completely focused on destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent. They are not afraid of the court’s authority, and no one can rationalize with these parents regarding their actions. Unfortunately, with obsessed alienators sometimes the court and mental health professionals intervention ultimately will not help.
In order to prevent alienation, you must be able to recognize the symptoms. The following are examples of common symptoms: allowing a child to skip visitation with the non-custodial parent; asking a child to choose between parents; disclosing too much information about the parent’s relationship to the child; eavesdropping on a child’s conversation with the other parent, and the child being used to gather information.
An alienated child will display similar feelings to the alienating parent’s feelings towards the non custodial parent. This child will not want to visit with the other parent, will not be frightened by the court’s authority, or the child might display anger, hatred or disdain for the other parent and his/her family members with no true cause.
The best thing the non-custodial parent can do for their relationship with their child is take every opportunity to reverse the effects of the alienating parent. Spend time with your child, focus on the positives of your relationship rather than the negativity the alienating parent is facilitating. For those occasions where access to visitation is being halted, the non custodial parent should seek the court’s assistance and possibly the assistance of a mental health professional.
The legislature in California has declared it a public policy to ensure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents except when that contact is not in the best interest of the child. In light of this policy, the Courts have repeatedly found it important that the custodial parent encourage the child to maintain this relationship with the non-custodial parent. If a custodial parent refuses to facilitate visitation with the non-custodial parent, some courts have used this as grounds to modify a custody order.
Bremer Whyte provides individualized counseling and representation in all areas of family law. For more information, contact Nicole Whyte at (949) 221-1000.