When parents divorce, it is often very difficult on the involved children. However, when one parent engages in parental alienation, the related issues are much more pronounced.
Judges take a very harsh view of parental alienation in Texas, but identifying your divorcing spouse’s actions as parental alienation can be challenging. Turn to an experienced Round Rock child custody attorney for the help you need.
Parental Alienation Harms Children
Parental alienation is not a criminal offense in the State of Texas, and there is no specific legal definition of the term, but you will almost certainly know parental alienation if you experience it. When a parent engages in parental alienation, his or her efforts are focused on manipulating a child into doubting the authenticity of his or her relationship with the other parent.
Parental alienation can take any number of forms, but it generally happens behind the scenes, which makes it difficult to identify – until you experience the damaging effects. Parental alienation often comes down to bad-mouthing the other parent or otherwise maligning him or her – sometimes in subtle ways. (Learn about non-disparagement clauses in custody orders.)
Even when a child does not buy into one parent’s attempts at parental alienation, it can lead to psychological scarring, and when children are manipulated into pushing their other parent away, the emotional consequences can be devastating.
Common Forms of Parental Alienation
Some cases of parental alienation involve full-on tactics, while others are far more nuanced. However, those cases that involve less obvious practices can be more difficult to root out and effectively resolve. While every case of parental alienation is unique to the parent doing the alienating and the circumstances involved, some of the most common forms include the following behaviors:
Sowing seeds of discontent regarding the other parent by sharing inappropriate information with the children – whether true or fabricated
Blaming the other parent for the divorce and sharing specific reasons, such as addiction, infidelity, or financial irresponsibility – whether true or fabricated
Sharing court documents with the children and discussing primary legal matters, such as child support or the division of marital property
Encouraging the children to refuse visitation with the other parent
Currying favor with the children by spoiling them with gifts and vacations, loosening the rules, and allowing them greater freedom, which can include extending their bedtimes and curfews or lifting restrictions on snacks and treats
Interfering with the other parent’s visitation by scheduling conflicting activities that are very appealing to the children – attempting to make the other parent look like a spoilsport
Interfering with the other parent’s ability to access the children’s school records, their school schedule, or information about their participation in extracurricular activities
Expressing hurt feelings when the children have a good time with their other parent
Stopping the children from bringing gifts from their other parent into the home or from displaying pictures of their other parent in the home
Not allowing the children to take personal possessions from one parent’s home to the other’s
Interfering with the relationships between the children and members of the other parent’s extended family
Encouraging the children to falsely believe that the other parent does not attempt to contact them or is not interested in contacting them
Making primary decisions regarding the children without the other parent’s input
Giving the children the impression that their other parent does not love or care about them
Diminishing the other parent or denying his or her relevance in front of the children
Making the children believe that the other parent is mentally unstable or outright dangerous
Playing the role of a victim and making a show of suffering in silence
While Texas courts take a dim view of parental alienation, it can be difficult to prove that your children’s other parent is engaging in any of the above practices. Parental alienation is generally considered a pattern of inappropriate behaviors, and proving that it is happening is often a matter of highlighting the damaging results.
If you fear that your ex is engaging in parental alienation, you need compassionate legal support. Contact a seasoned Round Rock child custody lawyer for the help you need.
The Court’s Position
When Texas courts make parenting time determinations, they begin with the presumption that it is in the children’s best interests to deepen their relationship with each parent by maximizing the amount of time they spend with each. The kinds of best interest factors employed that tend to intertwine with parental alienation concerns include all the following:
Each parent’s ability to effectively address the children’s emotional and physical needs
Each parent’s commitment to effective co-parenting
Each parent’s commitment to supporting a healthy, ongoing relationship between the children and their other parent
Parental alienation, in its many forms, flies in the face of these best interest factors, and Texas courts take notice when handing down child custody terms.
Signs that Parental Alienation Is a Concern
The bottom line is that your children are not going to come to you and tell you that their other parent is engaging in parental alienation. Even children who are mature enough to identify this harmful practice generally want to spare the other parent from the hurtful information, and most children are too young or too overwhelmed to catch on in the first place.
Being on the lookout for early signs of parental alienation and taking early action is always well advised. Some of the most common indicators include the following patterns:
One or more of your children expresses newly acquired negative feelings toward you that are more pronounced in front of their other parent.
One or more of your children ignores, refuses, or destroys gifts or anything else that you offer them.
One or more of your children displays a newly acquired hostility, indifference, or dislike toward members of your extended family.
One or more of your children lets you know that they are always in agreement with their other parent – who is always right.
One or more of your children exhibits a sudden change in behavior, such as becoming sullen, rebellious, or withdrawn.
One or more of your children turns away from activities, groups, or friends that they used to enjoy.
One or more of your children begins having problems at school, which can include underperforming, acting out, or failing to attend.
One or more of your children changes their appearance drastically, which can mean neglecting their personal hygiene or adopting a look that is alien to them.
Any one of these can be a natural result of a significant stressor like divorce, but if you have a feeling that there is more to it than that, you should not hesitate to explore the matter further.
If your children are having a difficult time with your divorce – regardless of whether parental alienation plays a role or not – the best policy is always obtaining the skilled guidance of a professional counselor whose practice focuses on related concerns.
Effective Co-Parenting Is What’s Best for Your Children
You and your children’s other parent are going through a divorce or recently obtained a divorce, and, as a result, you are not likely to be best buddies anytime soon. However, most parents share a mutual desire to do what’s best for their children – regardless of their feelings for one another.
The linchpin of healthy co-parenting is open communication. Even if you and your ex aren’t at the point where you can have civil face-to-face discussions, there are other options:
Trying your hand at phone conversations
Moving on to electronic communications if phone calls aren’t the answer
Sharing information through one of the many co-parenting apps
Communication is key to every relationship, and the co-parenting relationship is no different. Parental alienation makes effective co-parenting that supports your children’s best interests impossible, and if that’s what you’re facing, discussing the matter with a trusted Round Rock child custody attorney with a wealth of experience in this arena is key.
When parental alienation is identified by the court, it can directly affect the child custody determinations they make or can support a child custody modification. Therapeutic intervention for the offending parent can also be ordered as a means of achieving the following goals:
Eliminating alliances between the children and the offending parent
Restoring healthy parent-child relationships all around
Improving the offending parent’s coping skills
Helping the offending parent recognize shades of gray in healthy parenting – as opposed to only thinking in terms of black and white
Improving the offending parent’s ability to view matters from a range of perspectives
Helping the offending parent relate more appropriately with the children
Helping the offending parent move beyond avoidance in efforts to resolve problems
Helping the offending parent improve parenting skills and become a more effective co-parent
FAQ about Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is difficult to define and pinpoint accurately, but it can lead to very negative consequences. The answers to some of the questions that are asked most frequently by others facing similar circumstances can help you address your own concerns more effectively.
If you have questions specific to your case, don’t hesitate to contact a trusted Round Rock child custody lawyer.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation refers to the psychological manipulation of a child by one parent in an effort to elicit a child’s fear of, negative feelings about, or anger or hostility toward the other parent. The practices that make up parental alienation generally occur in private, which means that the parent being alienated experiences the effects of the alienation rather than witnessing the alienation firsthand.
How Can I Be Sure that It’s Really Parental Alienation?
Every case of parental alienation is unique to the specifics involved, but there are several tell-tale clues that you should be on the lookout for:
Your ex has led your children to believe that visiting with you is a matter of their choice.
Your ex is sharing inappropriate, adult information about your divorce with your shared children.
Your ex is blaming you for the divorce-related pain your shared children are experiencing.
Your ex is enlisting your shared children to spy on you or to dig for information from you.
Ultimately, you’re going to need to trust your gut on this one, and if you think your children’s other parent may be engaging in parental alienation, you shouldn’t wait to seek skilled legal guidance.
Why Is Parental Alienation So Hard on Children?
Children love both of their parents, and they need both of their parents in their lives – barring extraordinary circumstances. Parental alienation chips away at children’s natural love, affection, and closeness with the targeted parent, which chips away at their support system, their worldview, and their ability to trust others.
Children generally don’t have the maturity to identify parental alienation when it’s happening and are, therefore, unable to protect themselves from its negative effects.
Can Parental Alienation Have Permanent Effects?
The sooner you address your concerns about parental alienation, the better your chance of diminishing its effects on your relationship with your children and on your children’s emotional well-being. If left unchecked, parental alienation can have lasting effects that are far more difficult to address effectively.
Reach Out to an Experienced Round Rock Child Custody Attorney Today
Parental alienation can sneak up on you slowly or can rear its ugly head quite unexpectedly, but the consequences of this practice are universally negative. The damaging effects of practices that alienate your children from you are too serious to ignore. You should proceed with the support of a skilled child custody attorney.
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Round Rock, Texas, is a compassionate child custody attorney with wide-ranging experience helping clients like you successfully identify and address parental alienation via legal channels. To learn more about what we can do to help you, contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule your FREE consultation today.