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What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a common topic in family law cases. Parental alienation generally involves manipulation by a parent of the children against the other parent.

Parental alienation is relevant in family law cases when there is no justification for the alienation. Severely alienated children might have little to nothing positive to say about a rejected parent. The rejected parent is just that, the parent that the child rejects. Children tend to align with the favored parent. Severely alienated children might threaten self-harm if they are “forced” to continue a relationship with the rejected parent.

Severely alienated children treat the rejected parent with extreme hostility, disobedience, defiance, and withdrawal. What is Parental Alienation, Dr. Richard A. Warshak, They may resist or refuse contact, vandalize and steal property, threaten and perpetrate violence. Id. I have seen alienated children threaten to commit suicide if they are ordered to see the rejected parent.

The question then becomes, if the children have an irrational reaction to the rejected parent, why do they have that irrational reaction. Many times, it is because the favored parent has manipulated the children against the rejected parent.

Reasons for Manipulation

The reasons for the manipulation can vary. The manipulation can be done knowingly or unknowingly. The manipulation can be because the favored parent felt wronged, is jealous, or takes a position that “you are either with me or against me.” The manipulation can extend to the rejected parent’s family.

Manipulation can be done unknowingly in the sense that the manipulating parent just believes beyond all certainty that they are well within their bounds to manipulate the children against the other parent.

Often times, the favored parent will take the children to a counselor who is not equipped to spot parental alienation. The favored parent will tell the counselor horrible things about the rejected parent. The children will corroborate the horrible things about the rejected parent. If the counselor contacts the rejected parent, which is not a certainty, the counselor may not give the rejected parent the ability to defend himself or herself.

What happens next is all too familiar in parental alienation cases. The counselor sides with the favored parent and the children. The counselor then testifies that the children are scared to death of the rejected parent and that they should be protected. The rejected parent then loses valuable time with his or her children. The favored parent then gets more time with the children, thus continuing the manipulation and without breaking the cycle.

Parental alienation can be done by a mother or a father, or even a relative of a mother or father, but men and women both alienate children.

What can be done?

There is hope. Parental alienation can be dealt with or undone, but it is not easy. To navigate the parental alienation waters, a party needs an attorney experienced in handling parental alienation cases.

Justin B. Morley

Mr. Morley primarily practices family law in New Braunfels TX.  He is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and a frequent writer and speaker on family law topics.  He  has experience in ...

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