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Knowing the risks, signs of parental alienation

Jan 13, 2022 | Child Custody

During especially hostile divorces between parents, there can be a real fear of parental alienation.

This abusive strategy occurs when one parent unfairly turns a child against the other parent so that the child rejects them. If you are going through a divorce with a hostile, manipulative ex, it can be wise to know when parental alienation can occur and what it might look like.

Why parental alienation occurs

Parental alienation can occur during a divorce for one of many reasons.

The alienating parent may be angry about the divorce and want to punish their ex by using the child as a weapon. A child subject to this abuse might blame the alienated parent, distrust them or refuse to see them.

Another reason could stem from a parent who has a mental illness. If this person feels betrayed or alone, or if they are reliving painful childhood trauma of their own, they may engage in manipulative behaviors.

Signs to watch for

Some signs that parents should watch for include a child who:

  • Rejects the other parent without justification
  • Repeats (and believes) lies and accusations your ex has verbalized
  • Shows no sign of remorse or willingness to see the alienated parent’s side
  • Gives severe and unjust criticism toward the alienated parent
  • Believes the alienating parent has done nothing wrong

When these behaviors are unjustified and extreme, they could be indications of parental alienation.

Precautions to take if you are worried about alienation

Efforts to minimize the risk of parental alienation should begin before the divorce is final. It is typically in a child’s best interest to spend meaningful, significant time with both parents. If the other parent attempts to block this type of custody arrangement, you can work with your attorney to seek the outcome you want.

If you suspect your ex is turning your child against you, act quickly. Talk to the other parent and share your concerns. If that is not effective, talk to a professional, like a therapist, and reach out to your attorney to examine legal interventions. In some cases, criminal charges can be an option if the other person interferes with your parental rights.

Parental alienation is often devastating. Knowing what it is and what it looks like can help parents stop it before it causes irreparable harm.

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