When parents divorce and the family is divided, there could be some amount of animosity between one of the parents and the child, especially in cases of infidelity or abuse. Normal levels of acrimony can be overcome with time and maybe some family counseling. However, parental alienation is another scenario entirely. Parental alienation is the deliberate attempt on the part of one parent to undermine and degrade the child’s relationship with the other parent, rather than a child’s natural emotional reaction to the emotional trauma of the divorce. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) has referred to parental alienation syndrome as emotional abuse of children. The criteria that APSAC uses to describe parental alienation disorder includes some or all of the following behaviors: The child strongly allies him or herself with one parent, rejects a relationship with the other, alienated parent without legitimate justification and refuses parenting time with the alienated parent. This usually occurs during a high conflict divorce.
What does parental alienation syndrome look like?
Here are some examples of the types of behaviors that might be going on in a parental alienation situation:
- Making baseless complaints to Child Protective Services against the alienated parent.
- One parent makes derogatory comments to the child about the other parent.
- Constant excuses about why the child is unable to see the other parent for their visitation time.
- One parent coerces the child to choose themselves over the other parent.
- The alienating parent sets themselves up as the victim and the other parent as the villain and shares unflattering details about the other parent’s life.
Possible solutions for resolving parental alienation
What do you do when you feel as if your child’s other parent is trying to alienate your child from you?
- You can work with a child psychologist who understands parental alienation and can support you and your child as you work through resolving the situation.
- Join a divorced parents support group.
- Enlist the help of your family law attorney in enforcing the existing custody order.
One parent using their power of manipulation to influence the child’s affections is harmful to the child’s healthy emotional development, and it is cruel to the other parent who deserves to be involved in their child’s life without interference. Maryland family law sees both parents as the natural custodians of their children, and therefore does not favor one parent over the other; the best interest of the child is the legal standard that the courts use when making decisions about child custody cases.
If you are involved in a child custody dispute in which it is becoming clear that your former spouse is trying to alienate your child, it is time to contact your attorney. If the court discovers that one parent has been deliberately trying to alienate the affections of the child for their own benefit, it will reflect poorly on the alienating parent.
The trusted Annapolis-based family lawyers at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can help you resolve family conflict. If you are struggling with child custody challenges in your Maryland divorce, you are welcome to call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form to learn more about how we can help.