It’s no shocker that in divorces involving minor children and custody cases, more often than not, the parties are not a fan of each other and will do whatever it takes to get what they want (i.e. primary custody). “Whatever it takes” however, often leads to one parent, and/or their extended family, voicing an immense amount of animosity towards the other parent. When this happens, all too often the child may join alongside that parent in their animosity and begin to reject the opposing parent as well. This scenario is best described by a concept set forth by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1985, called parental alienation.
Parental alienation is defined as the manipulation of a child to reject one parent or the other. If successful, this type of psychological manipulation can complicate issues such as custody and visitation rights. More importantly, it can have a detrimental effect on a child’s psychological and emotional welfare and effectively change their perceptions about the alienated parent forever.
Signs of Parental Alienation:
- The other parent tells your children the details of your divorce/custody case. While the other parent may claim to have shared these details because they wanted to be “open and honest” with the child, there are some “grown-up” details that are not appropriate to share with them. If the other parent divulges details about the reason for the separation and actions you took to end the relationship, it could put you in a bad light and your children could blame you and develop anger towards you.
- The other parent speaks badly about you in front of the children. Commonly seen examples of this are “we can’t have Christmas together because your mother is spending time with her new boyfriend” or “your dad is the one who wanted this divorce, not me.” Statements like these are made to incite anger and blame by the children in one parent or the other.
- The other parent uses negative body language such as crossed arms, rolling eyes, shaking heads, angry facial expressions. This type of body language sends a negative message to the children and can make them extremely uncomfortable when the two of you are in the same room.
- The other parent pries about your private life. All too commonly, we see parents prying for information regarding the other parent from the children. Children are slammed with questions about, “who mommy is spending time with”, or “who daddy had over for supper last night”, etc. Not only does this put the children in an extremely uncomfortable position but they feel torn as they want to be loyal to both parents. If a parent needs information for their case, going through their child is not the right way to get it.
- The other parent wants to keep your children away from you. If the other parent begins to alter the custody arrangement or starts making appointments/plans on your days with the children, this is a sign of parental alienation. The less time you spend with your children, the less of an emotional bond you can develop.
- The other parent gives your children choices about when to see you. Depending on where you are at in the case, you may have a court-ordered visitation schedule. All too often we see parents telling their children that they don’t have to see the other parent if they don’t want to. This is a lose-lose situation for the other parent because they either have to force the children to spend time with them against their will or they voluntarily give up their parenting time which is exactly what the other parent wanted and will use against them at court.
It is imperative that if you are going through a divorce or custody case, you put your child’s best interests before all else, regardless of your personal feelings towards the other parent. While this can be difficult to do, failure to do so can and will be used against you in your custody case, ruining your chance of having primary residential responsibility.
For example, in Wolt v. Wolt, a North Dakota divorce case, the Court stated that “evidence of parental alienation is a significant factor in determining custody.” In Martiré v. Martiré, the North Dakota Supreme Court once again addressed the impact of parental alienation in determining custody. Parental alienation is not a foreign concept and in a muddled divorce or custody case, each parent has the potential to be held by the court responsible for alienating the other.
If you or someone you know has been alienated by the opposing parent in a struggle for custody, contacting an attorney may be in your best interest as they can help protect your legal rights throughout the process. Do not hesitate to contact Rosenquist Law Office at (701) 775-0654 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free consultation.
*The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as so.