Experiencing parental alienation as a divorced or separated parent can be extraordinarily difficult, and proving it can be challenging. In some cases, parental alienation is obvious: the children start exhibiting anxious and aggressive behaviors toward one parent after spending time with the other. Other times, it is more gradual, until you begin to suspect that your former spouse or partner is trying to poison your relationship with the children.
If you believe that your former spouse or partner may be attempting to alienate your children from you, it is extremely important that you act quickly. Alienation can have lifelong negative effects for your children, and as a parent, you have clear rights. However, proving your case can be difficult, which is why you should discuss your situation with an experienced California family law attorney.
Parental Alienation Defined
As the term implies, parental alienation refers to when one parent undermines the relationship between a child and his or her other parent in order to create distance or engender ill feelings. Although the term is not formally recognized by the psychological or medical communities, it can be highly damaging and require months, if not years, of counseling to process and deal with. In extreme cases, a parent’s relationship with their children may be irrevocably damaged.
If your child exhibits any of the following behaviors after a separation or divorce, parental alienation may be to blame:
- Withdraws from you suddenly for no apparent reason
- Calls you names and becomes aggressive
- Uses adult language when describing how you ruined their lives and ended the marriage or relationship
- Has a tendency to imitate their other parent
- Says they “hate” you, your parents/their grandparents, etc.
Seeing your child turn against you is incredibly distressing for a parent. Additionally, you should be concerned about the negative psychological and emotional impacts of parental alienation. In addition to internalizing hostile feelings towards you, your children are also at risk for depression, trust issues, and low self-esteem in the future. As a result, California law provides clear remedies in appropriate cases.
How to Prove Parental Alienation
There are a number of potential ways to prove parental alienation in California. However, each case is unique; and, due to the sensitive nature of these cases, parents seeking to protect their children against alienation must carefully choose the most effective course of action. Some potential options for proving parental alienation are outlined below.
Custody Evaluator or Minor Counsel’s Testimony
Allegations of parental alienation usually require a custody evaluator to perform a psychological evaluation and possibly testify as to a former spouse’s or partner’s actions and/or admissions regarding parental alienation. Counsel for the minor children may also report their findings and concerns to the evaluator.
Texts, Voicemails, and Emails
If you have written or recorded evidence of your former spouse’s or partner’s attempts at alienation, this can provide strong support for your request for modification of child custody or visitation.
If your children or your former spouse or partner have publicly posted any relevant information on social media, these posts are fair game. It is surprising how often adults say things on social media that they should not, and children often do not have a clear understanding of the boundary between what is ok to post and what is best kept private.
Relatives may be able to provide information to the psychological evaluator and/or testimony in support of your request for judicial intervention. Your relatives may also be able to testify as to changes in your children’s behavior or interactions that are consistent with parental alienation.
If parental alienation has already occurred and your children are old enough, they may be able to tell the psychologist what their other parent has told them. Asking them to provide information in a family dispute can be distressing for both sides, but you need to focus on preventing the relationship from being damaged further. You and your children deserve to enjoy a close and loving relationship, and intervention may be necessary when that right is damaged.
Once you have sufficient evidence of parental alienation, you can take your case to court. Potential remedies in parental alienation cases include modification of custody and visitation and an order requiring reunification therapy.
Concerned About Parental Alienation? Speak with North County, San Diego Family Law Attorney Richard M. Renkin
At the Law Offices of Renkin & Associates, we firmly believe that parental alienation is extremely damaging, and both you and your children deserve better. To learn more about your rights and how you can protect your relationship with your children, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a confidential initial case evaluation. To discuss your case with North County, San Diego family law attorney Richard M. Renkin, please call 866-228-7116 or request an appointment online today.