Parental Alienation: Could You Be Guilty of It?

-

There’s no denying that you don’t exactly like your child’s other parent. In most cases, there’s an additional keyword – anymore. Despite your feelings for your ex, you adore your children. For that reason alone, you need to know the dangers of parental alienation.

According to a recent medical journal article, parental alienation on its own is not classified in DSM V, which provides psychiatric diagnoses.  It involves “children subject to highly conflictual parental separations.”  Children may be used as pawns in a divorce as parents use them to play against one another.

Here’s the part that should alarm each and every parent. The experts find that parental alienation is closely linked to child psychological abuse. Let that sink in. More than likely, you would never consider hurting your children physically – or subjecting them to emotional abuse.  Could you be unintentionally guilty of child psychological abuse?

Two critical things to remember. First, your child is entitled to the love of two parents. In rare cases, there may be cause to protect your offspring from harm. Meanwhile, there’s another consideration. Your child’s mother or father is a part of their genetic makeup. When you malign the other parent, you are criticizing a part of your son or daughter.

Truth be told, parental alienation can occur at any age. It could start with the father who tells his third-grade daughter he won’t see her again unless she agrees to abandon her mother’s home. Meanwhile, an adult son may struggle with directives from his mom to stay away from his father and what she calls – his concubine or some other unflattering reference.

Some Insight into Parental Alienation

First, what happens if you suspect your child’s other parent is purposefully doing things to interfere with your parental relationship? You’ll want to speak about your concerns with an experienced family law attorney. From there, you may want to request that the court appoint an expert to conduct a parental alienation evaluation.

Keep in mind you may inadvertently do some things that can be viewed as acting against your children’s best interests. Badmouthing your ex can absolutely have some impact on the court’s decision regarding custody and parenting time.

Two Parental Alienation Cases

 Here are a couple of parental alienation examples taken from cases considered by the New Jersey courts:

  • Finch v. Finch, 2006 N.J. Super. :  In this New Jersey Appellate Court unpublished opinion, the couple’s son decided he wanted nothing to do with his father. Mr. Finch claimed that his former wife was responsible for alienating his son from him. Notably, the son “suffers from Asperger syndrome, a combination of ADD, a social compulsive disorder, and an anxiety disorder.”

To determine the validity of the father’s claims, the trial court judge met in camera with the Finch’s son. The young man stated this father called him names and also described some physical beatings. In the end, the judge determined that the mother “"did not do anything . . . to try to destroy the relationship with his father."

In fact, the judge found that the mother encouraged the visits with both his father and the child’s parental grandparents.

  • S.S. v. D.S.-G, 2010 N.J. Super:  In this unpublished New Jersey Appellate Court opinion, the child, in this case, is a thirteen-year-old daughter, who recently began to date. The father was dismayed that he was expected to compete with his young daughter’s boyfriend. Furthermore, he was upset that her “relationship” was unsupervised.

In response to her father’s disapproval of her dating arrangements, the daughter refused to visit with him. She also wrote him a letter and claimed that her mother agreed with the dating setup as it stood.

In reviewing the case, the judge noted that the child engages manipulation tactics with both parents. It was also the court’s impression that at times, the mother probably "stokes the fires" of ill feeling of the children towards their FATHER both overtly and subliminally.

Meanwhile, the father might also contribute to the deterioration of the father/daughter relationship. The judge found that the dad has a “strong personality, is busy and stressed, at times and may behave in a gruff and apparently coarse and uncompromising manner.”

A review of this legal decision shows how the court employs the use of expert opinion and may even avoid a guardian ad litem to act in the best interests of the children.

Contact Us

Have concerns about parental alienation?  The Law Offices of Sam Stoia would like to assist you. We are committed to seeking the best for our clients and their children. Contact us to schedule an appointment.