Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. If your former partner is constantly, and severely, making false statements about you to your child, can this lead to alienation and an accompanying syndrome? Let’s take a closer look.
In divorce and child custody cases, a syndrome often develops called parental alienation. Parental alienation is a strategy where one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent and to turn the child’s emotions against that other parent. Parental alienators are adept manipulators and you should look out for signs of this behavior immediately.
Here is everything you need to know about emotional abuse and how you can take action to protect yourself and your children.
Traits of an Alienator
Parental alienation syndrome, was a term coined back in the 1980s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner. As mentioned above, the sole purpose of parental alienation behavior is to keep the children with the alienating parent as much as possible, away from the targeted parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse accomplishes this goal by painting a negative narrative of the other parent by making deprecating comments, throwing blame, and making false accusations which are shared with the children.
Clinical psychologists have noted this type of behavior shown by the alienating parent has narcissistic or borderline tendencies. A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest and admiration in themselves – essentially they think the world revolves around them. While those with borderline personality disorders have emotional hyper-reactivity often expressed as anger and a tendency to see themselves as victims. A parent with an antisocial personality is an accomplished liar who has the ability to harm others without any guilt.
Alienation by one parent interferes with the rights of the child and the other parent involved to have a healthy relationship. It also interferes with the other parent being able to exercise their right to care for the child.
Signs and Symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome
When Gardner talked about PAS, he identified eight “symptoms” (or criteria) for it:
- The child constantly and unfairly criticizes the alienated parent (sometimes called a “campaign of denigration”).
- The child doesn’t have any strong evidence, specific examples, or justifications for the criticisms — or only has false reasoning.
- The child’s feelings about the alienated parent aren’t mixed — they’re all negative, with no redeeming qualities to be found. This is sometimes called “lack of ambivalence.”
- The child claims the criticisms are all their own conclusions and based on their own independent thinking. (In reality, in PA, the alienating parent is said to “program” the child with these ideas.)
- The child has unwavering support for the alienator.
- The child doesn’t feel guilty about mistreating or hating the alienated parent.
- The child uses terms and phrases that seem borrowed from adult language when referring to situations that never happened or happened before the child’s memory.
- The child’s feelings of hatred toward the alienated parent expand to include other family members related to that parent (for example, grandparents or cousins on that side of the family).
Impact of Alienation on Parenting Time
Parental alienation and parenting time go hand in hand when trying to determine an appropriate parenting plan that lays out with which parent the child will mainly live. Parenting Time of your child can become a very emotional law topic. The division of parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilites to make decisions for the child.
To determine the child’s best interests, the court must look at anything relevant to the question, including specific factors listed in state statute. Of those, some are particularly relevant when parental alienation may be involved:
- The child’s needs.
- The mental health of all parties involved.
- Restricted or modified parenting time.
- Parental ability to put the child’s needs first.
- Abuse against the child, including emotional or psychological abuse to try to alienate the child against the other parent.
- The ability of each parent to facilitate a close relationship between the other parent and the child.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with each parent.
Any parent who believes their spouse is trying to alienate their child against them should seek immediate assistance from an experienced Family law attorney. It’s important to have someone who can assist with reporting emotional abuse or protection for themselves or loved ones.
The safety of the child or children involved should always be your number one priority. If your child is being emotionally abused, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of the situation at hand prior to legal help. Masters Law Group is here to help you with divorce consultation or litigation involving parental alienation.
While all forms of abuse can feel like a never-ending hopeless situation, Masters Law Group is here to help you see a light at the end of the tunnel. We provide an array of family law services including Orders of Protection and divorce services for our clients. Our highly experienced family law attorneys offer skillful legal representation that will guide you through to safety for your children and yourself.
Get in touch with us here today to discuss and execute the best plan of action for you and your family.