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What is parental alienation?

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2019 | Family Law |

No matter the duration of the marriage or the way it ended, a divorce can result in unforeseen difficulties. A parent, for example, might harbor negative feelings toward their ex that can be easily read by the children. When one parent, through verbal communication or non-verbal cues, disparages the other, this is generally referred to as parental alienation.

What are some ways your ex might be attempting to distance your children from you?

Promoting Anger Toward The Other Parent

It is not uncommon for one parent to criticize the other parent directly to the children. These negative statements can directly blame the other parent for a problem such as “We can’t afford the new shoes you want because your dad keeps taking his special friend out to restaurants.” This statement, or versions of it, is designed to elicit anger and resentment toward the other parent and draw the child into the adult environment as a partner in the blame.

A more covert or indirect scenario could be one parent on the phone with a friend making negative comments about their ex while the child is clearly within earshot. In their mind, the parent would never directly disparage the ex to the child, but the statement was brashly made when the child could overhear it.

Sharing Grown Up Details With The Child

The parent can also make the child a confidant by sharing details about ongoing conflict and various heated debates. This conflict can center on the legal issues or financial problems the parent is facing due to the divorce. This can lead to feelings of anger and resentment toward the other parent or, in some cases, feelings of guilt that the child might have ultimately caused the divorce.

Negative Non-Verbal Communication

Body language can be a powerful tool to communicate anger or other emotional cues without having to come out and directly comment. Additionally, it gives the parent a certain layer of insulation – of deniability – when confronted with a challenge of parental alienation.

The child might witness the parent rolling his or her eyes when on the phone to the ex, a frown behind the other parent’s back during pick up or drop off, or an impatient toe-tap during a conversation. These can all indicate anger or a certain level of blame for a bad situation.

Making False Accusations Of Abuse

In what might be the most overt, dramatic example of parental alienation, a parent might go so far as to make false accusations of sexual, physical or emotional abuse against the other parent. This can be especially problematic when young children are involved. They might lack the mental acuity or verbal skills necessary to understand the accusations and communicate their side of the story.

These accusations can have severe legal consequences and dramatic implications for the divorce decree, custody arrangement and visitation schedule.

From the start, it is important to have strong legal representation on your side. Every step of the divorce process can be challenging and fraught with conflict.


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