According to the American Psychological Association, Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is defined as a child’s experience of being manipulated by one parent to turn against the other. This is a very serious form of psychological manipulation that can damage a child’s relationship with their parent and make it very difficult to repair. If you suspect that this may be happening to your child or you simply want to keep yourself informed, the information below could be vital to determining your next steps.

Warning Signs Of Parental Alienation

If the person you co-parent with is repeatedly violating your custody or visitation agreements, this can be a red flag that they are attempting to alienate you. If you still have contact and access to your child, but have begun to notice a change in their behavior toward you, this could also be a warning sign of alienation that stems from the parent badmouthing you, lying about you, or undermining your authority.

Even if you think that you have a “good” relationship with your child’s other parent, your child may hear or be told things while in their care that negatively affect the relationship you have with them. It is possible that the offending parent makes a sarcastic comment without fully thinking it through – they may even think that your child is too young to understand it. But, as the age-old adage goes, children’s brains are like sponges. Even if it was unintentional, this is still a form of parental alienation. 

Some signs that your child might be a victim of manipulation could be:

  • Expressing negative opinions about you that they have never expressed before
  • Expressing acutely positive opinions about the offending parent 
  • Breaking your rules or not following your expectations with irrational justification
  • Little to no displays of guilt or remorse
  • Hostility toward your family members (especially stepparents)

How Could My Child Be Affected?

Every child is different, so it would be impossible to definitively determine how your child – and the relationship you have with them – will be affected. It will also vary based on the age of your child, as a child experiencing manipulation at 5 would be much different than a child who experiences it at 15 due to their level of maturity. Some of the effects associated with parental alienation are:

  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and low self esteem, sometimes leading to substance abuse
  • Difficulty with relationships (both romantic and not) due to lack of trust and fear of loss
  • Delays in learning, development, and education
  • Overwhelming feelings of grief, loss, and guilt
  • Dysfunctional or disconnected relationships with parents and other family members

What Are My Options?

If you suspect that your child’s other parent may be attempting to alienate you, there are a few things you can do if you aren’t ready to meet with your family lawyer yet.

  1. Begin documentation. You should keep track of any instances that you feel are “proof” of the attempted alienation. This could be as simple as a verbal interaction with your child where they made statements about the other parents words or actions against you. It could also be a time where the other parent did not allow you to contact your child, or did not allow you to have your visitation time with them. You should be sure to note the date of the event, as well, to show the pattern of continued behavior.
  1. Keep all communication in writing. If the other parent is not allowing you to speak with or see your child, make sure you request this in writing. In general, if you are having issues with them that violate the custody or visitation agreements, you should be sure to address it in an email or over text. This way, you have concrete evidence to support you if the issues lead to court.
  1. Seek counseling – for everyone. If you and your child’s other parent are failing to co-parent amicably, going to counseling or mediation could be beneficial. Perhaps the issues will be resolved, perhaps not – even so, this is more evidence you can use in court to show that you are taking steps to help the situation. If your co-parent refuses, then again, this is another point in your favor. 

Your child may also need to speak with someone, as well. If alienation is, in fact, 

not occurring, then there is something else causing your child to behave in this 

way. Seeking a therapist could help find the underlying cause. In addition, a therapist could also assert their professional opinion in court as a witness if they do believe parental alienation is at play.

  1. Don’t give up. If everything else fails and you are ready to begin taking legal action, don’t let yourself get discouraged and give up on your child. It may be hard to keep fighting when it seems like the other parent has turned them against you, but your child needs you! Keep them in mind when you begin feeling hopeless, and reassure yourself that you have a right to be a part of your child’s life.

How Can My Family Law Attorney Help Me?

If the behavior is continuing even after you have attempted to correct it, it may be time to consult with your family law attorney. Their role is to first address the alienation that occurred through the repeated custody or visitation violations. You should share the dates of each violation (because you have documented them) and the text or email records of your contact with the other parent regarding the violations. If necessary, they will take your co-parent to court to reevaluate the agreements and modify them. Then, your attorney will address the other forms of alienation, if they exist. This is where your documentation and other records will also work in your favor. 

Hembree Bell Law, PLLC, Is In Your Corner

Our team takes the rights of parents seriously. If you suspect that your child is being alienated from you, don’t wait to take action! We will work to resolve your issues and connect you with the resources you need to heal and rebuild your relationship with your child. Call today to request a free case consultation and get back to making memories with your family.

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