If you have been through a divorce or separation, you and your ex may find it hard to raise your children and get along. Unfortunately, your relationship with your ex may have gotten to the point where you just cannot get along. If so, you may suspect your ex is trying to turn your children against you.
Every state has laws that define the specifics of parental alienation, including times when it interferes with custody, visitation, and parental rights. Some of those laws may give you some relief if you are a victim of parental alienation.
What Is Parental Alienation?
This alienation occurs when one parent attempts to turn a child against the other parent. In some cases, the actions were unintentional. But in most cases, they are. For example, your ex may talk about you in front of your child, or they may not allow you to have visitation rights. Or your ex may tell your child that you are a bad person or committed a crime.
How You Can Prove Parental Alienation?
In order to fight back against parental alienation, there are certain steps you should take to assist you and your family law attorney in court…
- Identify Any Witnesses
You and your ex are clearly going to be witnesses. The other witness is your child. You may also want to include any friends or family that have witnessed the alienating behavior. And you may want to include your therapist, if you have one.
If your child is a teenager, they may not realize alienation is occurring, so they might not be a good witness for you. In order to prove parental alienation with a teenager that has been totally brainwashed, you may have to rely on other evidence.
If your child is between the ages of 6 and 12, they may not know what is being done to them by the alienating parent. In this case, it may be best to put them in an interview process, where the alienation may be exposed.
Keep all emails and texts between you and the other parent. These messages may assist you in court. The documentation should be reasonable and consistent. If you pay attention, you will be able to pick up on the alienation via what your child says or does.
Other forms of documentation may include the other parent’s social media posts. For example, your ex may post a summary of conversations they have had with their children or negative comments about you. Keep in mind that you should never post anything negative about your ex on social media—because it can and will be used against you in court. Additionally, pay attention to what is on your child’s social media account.
- Reunification Therapy
This type of therapy is meant to reunite you with your child and restore your parent-child relationship. With a therapist, confidentiality could be an issue, but your family law attorney can help you determine if your reunification therapist is able to testify on your behalf.
- Litigation and Trial
It may be impossible to avoid suing the alienating parent. Remember that you never get another chance to make a good first impression with the alienating parent and their attorney.
It is very likely that your ex’s attorney has no idea what they have done. Therefore, it is important that you and your attorney clearly communicate with your ex’s attorney and make it very clear how extreme their client’s behavior and actions are.
How To Involve the Court
If you have to sue the parent making the alienation, you are accusing them of something in court and asking the court to make the offending party pay for the actions they have committed.
Your attorney may file a Motion for Contempt of Court when you allege parental alienation that indicates your ex is in violation of your court-ordered parenting plan. This motion involves asking the court to become involved and hold your ex in contempt for the violation of the court’s parenting plan order.
Your attorney may also file an Order to Show Cause and a Request for Service. These documents request a court date and ask the court clerk to issue a summons to the other parent, in order to compel them to appear in court and defend their actions.
How Does the Court Decide?
When your motion goes before the court, the judge will have to determine whether your ex is in contempt of the parenting order or divorce decree that includes your visitation and parenting terms. In these types of matters, it is very common for a judge to appoint an expert. This specialist is usually a psychologist who will then make an assessment of the situation and file a report with the court as to whether parental alienation is happening—and if so, how serious and severe it is.
Suing your spouse for withholding parenting time for non-payment of child support is not legal justification for parental alienation. It is also not a legal excuse that the alienation was advice from the alienating parent’s attorney.
Other excuses that will not hold up in a court of law include repeated illnesses or car issues that have interfered with scheduled visitations or parenting time.
What Are the Possible Results and/or Remedies in Court?
The goal of the court is going to be to reunite you with your child, not necessarily to order penalties against the alienating parent. Although the court has the ability to order jail time and fines against the alienating parent, this judgement is extremely rare. Generally, the court will award you additional visitation.
If the court finds that the alienating parent’s actions were misguided and unintentional, they could order them to go to therapy or attend parenting classes.
However, if your case is extreme, it is possible the judge may change primary custody and give it to you—if you can demonstrate that you are willing to work with the other parent, in order to have a healthy relationship with their child. Remember, the best interests of the child are always front and center in a judge’s mind.
What You Hope Judges Know about Parental Alienation
When judges are handling a case in which it is very clear that the child is being alienated from the other parent, the judge should focus on this kind of question: Is this child’s rejection of this parent in the child’s best interest? This question focuses on the welfare of the child, rather than on blame.
For example, if the court believes that the alienated parent may harm the child (either through neglect or abuse), then your child is better off not having contact with you. Therefore, the court will do everything they can to protect your child from you.
However, the court will want to protect your child from the parent who is hurting them if they determine the following:
- You, as the alienated parent would give your child a safe and loving home.
- Your child previously enjoyed a good relationship with you.
- Your ex is emotionally hurting your child.
Even if the court is not sure the extent to which the alienating parent contributed to your child rejecting you, the court could find it is in your child’s best interest to heal the relationship with you.
Here is what it boils down to: In some cases, it is easier for the court to determine whether it is in your child’s best interest to disown a parent than it would be for them to uncover the many factors that led to your child’s alienation of you.
If you want to stop the alienation, you must be willing and have the courage to go to court. If you do not take action and follow through on suing for parental alienation, you may never make any progress or have any hope of reconciling with your child.
The reality is that if your ex is intent on alienating your child from you, the only thing that may stop it is the court issuing an order that removes your child from your ex.
Keep in mind that this process is not going to be easy, but it is well worth it for the sake of your and your child. When one parent engages in parental alienation, it is a form of child abuse, and you are possibly saving your child from years of further abuse by going to court.