Alienation of a child by one parent against another can lead to harsh consequences and may ultimately lead to irreparable damage to the parent-child relationship.
Alienation takes many forms, the obvious being the out-right denial of visitation by making a child physically unavailable at the appointed time.
However, there is a more subtle and insidious form of interference that has the potential for greater and more permanent damage to the emotional psyche of a young child: The psychological poisoning of a young person’s mind to turn him or her away from a parent.
There is not much that can be done in this situation that doesn’t require court intervention. Across the country, the great weight of authority holds that conduct by one parent that tends to alienate the child’s affections from the other is so inimical to the child’s welfare as to be grounds for a denial of custody to the parent guilty of such conduct.
It may take a sophisticated mental health professional to be able to identify that alienation is occurring. The court is able to appoint a forensic evaluator who has studied alienation and are able to recognize it.
Parental alienation is becoming more and more of an issue that the courts are dealing with.
I advise all my clients to document, document, document when it comes to their time with the children and issues that arise.
Since the courts will always retain jurisdiction regarding parenting issues, the sooner they can get into court to address the issue, the easier it can be to undo the damage caused by alienation.
The first step is to identify it. What exactly is the context of it and how is it affecting your relationship with your children.
Second, document it. Depending on where you are in the legal process, this could be important for an initial custody determination or as a basis for a contempt or modification action.
Third, deal with it. I would address the concern with opposing party, if you are able and depending on the egregiousness of it.
Talk to your attorney to see if there is anything that can legally be done to remedy it. If your child has a therapist, talk to him or to see if there is anything you can be doing to better your relationship.
More important than how to deal with it is how not to deal with it.
Do NOT take it out on your children and do NOT go tit for tat with the other party. It is not your child’s fault, and it is not okay to react in like manner.
When we run into this issue in Wisconsin, we often hire a psychiatrist to conduct psychological evaluations of the parents and any significant others, as well as preform what we call a custody study / evaluation.
If alienation is occurring, the evaluator will usually pick up on it quickly and will make recommendations on how to proceed.
Unfortunately, psychological evaluations and custody studies can be extremely expensive, but sometimes they are the only way we can truly get to the bottom of what is occurring in a situation and provide proof to the court.
I also have several clients who have worked with psychiatrists who specialize in reunifying parents with children who they have become estranged from either due to alienation or for other reasons. This can also be a helpful strategy in recognizing and overcoming parental alienation.
Anyone suffering from parental alienation should keep very good notes / records regarding the details of the situation, because that is the evidence they will need to present to the court in order to make their case.
In Ohio, a court often appoints a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interest of the children, and that person interviews Mom, Dad and anyone in between that the parents ask they speak with.
Finally, I would suggest family counseling to get to the root of the problem and help your child in the process.
As a disclaimer, parental alienation is VERY difficult to prove, so keeping good records and an open line of communication with the GAL can only assist the parent who is being alienated from their child.