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Understanding Parental Alienation

Posted by Ahluwalia Law Professional Corporation | Nov 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

Jeff is concerned about his nine-year-old son, Ethan. The boy has been behaving strangely, and he suspects that his former wife, Tanya, is to blame.

It began when Jeff started seeing his new girlfriend, Rosa. Although Jeff introduced Ethan and Rosa and the two seemed to hit it off, during the next weekend visit Ethan seemed unusually quiet and sullen. He never admitted that anything was wrong, but his tone and body language suggested otherwise.

When Ethan started balking at spending the weekends with him, Jeff finally had enough. He gently confronted his son and, after much hesitation, Ethan blurted, “Mom says that Rosa and Tommy (Rosa's son) are going to move in and they're going to have my room. You'll make me sleep on the sofa because you love them more than me.”

It took every ounce of self-restraint for Jeff to not explode on the spot, followed by a blistering phone call to Tanya. He took a deep breath, calmed down, and focused on reassuring Ethan that –

  1. Rosa and Tommy were not moving in.
  2. If they ever did, that would not change the sleeping arrangements or Jeff's love for him.

Jeff's pain and anger are understandable: his vindictive ex-wife tried to turn their son against him. Their divorce had been less than amicable, and Tanya still wanted to punish him, even if she had to use Ethan to do it.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is the bullying or emotional manipulation of a child in order to make them turn against their other parent. It's a regrettably common consequence of a high-conflict divorce, and no one suffers more than the child. When children are basically forced to choose one parent over another, they are likely to experience intense emotional and psychological pain.

Examples of conduct that lead to parental alienation include:

  • Making one's love conditional on the child choosing a side (their side, to be exact)
  • Lying to the child about their other parent
  • Involving the child in vindictive campaigns against the other parent

How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Being Turned Against You?

Parental alienation has some warning signs. In Jeff's case, Ethan seemed withdrawn and hostile towards him. Other things to watch for include:

  • Your child shows a sudden and inexplicable change in attitude towards you
  • They say or imply that you were the cause of all the marital problems
  • They express knowledge of private legal details related to the divorce

At the same time, your former spouse will usually support the child's withdrawal from you by allowing them to decide where they want to live and encouraging them to avoid visitation. In extreme cases, the alienating parent will petition the court to change the visitation schedule to an arrangement calculated to hurt you or encourage the child to say that you abused them.

What Can You Do If You Are Facing Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a form of abuse because it can cause serious psychological harm to the child and, of course, you. If you are worried that your child is being alienated from you, take action immediately by contacting Ahluwalia Law P.C. Attorney Madan Ahluwalia can help you take appropriate legal action to end the alienation and preserve your relationship with your child. To schedule a confidential consultation, please contact us.

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