By Dugan P. Kelley
Parental Alienation in Divorce and Custody Cases (Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, Denton, and Wise Counties) —
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines alienation as “a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment; estrangement.” In cases involving parental alienation, one ex-spouse tries to undermine (intentionally or unintentionally) a child’s once positive relationship with both parents. When trust breaks down between parents, it is a common practice for those parents to begin justifying their separation and/or divorce from the other party by saying hurtful things about one another to the children. Often, a jilted and wounded parent will become defensive and critical of the other parent to the children.
Danger Signs Of Parental Alienation:
In custody cases, parental alienation can be fatal to the Court’s perspective on you as a parent, and it can definitely impact your ability to receive the visitation schedule you want. Family Courts in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, Denton, and Wise counties are always concerned about whether parental alienation is taking place. The ex-spouse who is engaged in parental alienation will suffer the consequences of an adverse ruling from the Court on visitation, parental rights, and/or child support obligations. Accordingly, it is imperative that you recognize the danger signs of when you are committing alienation or whether you are a victim of alienation.
Unfortunately, children are the real victims of parental alienation. A Court’s highest obligation is to look out for the children’s best interests, which will never include allowing unchecked parental alienation to persist. Obviously, there are definitely cases in which a parent, without the negative influence of the other parent, destroys their relationship with their child by their own destructive behavior, habits, or words. This article addresses only those situations in which the other parent is a substantial contributing cause to the breakdown of the parent/child relationship. Here are some warning signs that a child is a victim of parental alienation:
- Constant degrading comments – Children who are victims will express no positive sentiments about the alienated parent. The positive and uplifting life experiences with the alienated parent seem to be forgotten, and all that remains are derogatory comments and opinions from the child;
- No ambivalence or mixed feelings for the alienated parent – Unlike most parent-child relationships, child victims of parental alienation do not express mixed feelings about the alienated parent. Instead, the alienated parent is the source and cause of everything negative in the child’s life;
- Destroying gifts, tokens, or items related to the relationship with the alienated parent – Child victims will literally destroy all physical ties to the alienated parent or refuse to call the parent mom or dad (instead of using a their first name or a derogatory nickname);
- Isolation from the alienated parent – Child victims of alienation will be encouraged to find any way to cancel their periods of visitation with the alienated parent. The child is also encouraged to not speak with the alienated parent on the telephone, FaceTime, or any other electronic medium during non-possession periods;
- Manipulation of the children’s emotions – Child victims of parental alienation are often subtly emotionally manipulated by the off-handed negative comments, jokes, or non-verbal communication directed at the alienated parent. Children will mimic and/or subconsciously absorb those negative emotions and will emote those same feelings toward the alienated parent;
- Exaggerated and/or fake abuse – Child victims of parental alienation may contrive or exaggerate claims of abuse regarding parental punishment. This is dangerous and will require the Court to often engage Court appointed professionals (counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists) to find out the truth or even result in reports to and investigations by Child Protective Services; and
- Rejection of extended family members – Child victims of parental alienation will often also reject and/or portray extended family members of the alienated parent in a negative light.
Important Keys To Help Your Children Overcome Parental Alienation:
If you find yourself the victim of parental alienation, what should you do? Preliminarily, it is imperative that you recognize that your children are victims as well. Also, remember that you will have opportunities to be with your children and work on repairing the damage that has been done as a result of the parental alienation.
Seize every opportunity to love on your kids and spend time with them. Genuine love and affection are powerful tools that can often overcome even the most profound cases of resentment, anger, and fear. In the recent movie, About Time, the main actor makes the following statement “I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” Scripture also implores us to make the best of the “time” we have, even when we endure evil against us. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16.
Here are a few tips:
- Gently remind your kids of the special times and/or history that you shared prior to the divorce or separation with your ex-spouse;
- Don’t return fire. Speak highly of your ex-spouse, or at a bare minimum, don’t say anything at all if you cannot say anything nice;
- Create new positive memories unconnected to any negativity;
- Seize any opportunity to see and demonstrate genuine love for your kids;
- Create opportunities for the child to see extended family members that can also show them love;
- Try and repair the relationship with the parent who is engaging in the alienation efforts. Speak to them and respectfully request that they help. They may not even know the destructive consequences their alienation is having on the child; and
- Show the child that they need both parents in order to have stability.
Kelley Clarke, PLLC Can Help:
Parental Alienation is a significant and danger to the children and the alienated parent in divorce and custody cases. There is not a simple fix, and repair will require extreme effort. You can read about trying to work with your ex-spouse HERE. It may even require Court intervention and the appointment of a professional in order to curb and/or cease the alienation efforts that are so toxic. If you are a victim of parental alienation, or you believe you may be, please contact Kelley Clarke, PLLC for help in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, Denton, or Wise Counties!