Could you be accused of parental alienation?

Many family courts are beginning to recognize Parental Alienation as a problem in divorced families. The definition of PA is “any constellation of behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, that could evoke a disturbance in the relationship between a child and the other parent.” In some cases, custody has been transferred to the noncustodial parent, who is typically the victim of alienation. Although other experts deny PA because it is not recognized as a true psychological condition, the fact remains that if you attempt to disrupt the relationship between the other parent and your child, it could be used against you in court.

    The New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers put together a list of possible symptoms and types of behavior which are common in cases of parental alienation:

    • Blaming the other parent in front of the child for the marriage breakup, financial situation or having a new boy- or girlfriend
    • Refusing to be flexible with parenting time to accommodate the child’s schedule
    • Assuming the other parent will be abusive towards the child
    • Using the child to spy on the other parent to gain information
    • Asking the child about the other parent’s personal life
    • Breaking promises to the child
    • Eavesdropping on the child’s conversations with the other parent on the phone, Skype or through text
    • Asking the child to choose a favorite parent
    • Not giving the other parent access to the child’s school or medical records

    The AAML does not provide any cases which specifically discuss PA, but the New Jersey statutes indicate that the courts will take interference with parental relationships seriously. Sometimes, parental alienation behaviors occur innocently after a conflict between the parents. Other times, the alienation is much more intentional. In cases of child abuse or domestic violence, a child’s hostility or alienation might be justified. There are many other behaviors which could indicate parental alienation. It is a good idea to discuss any problems with visitation and custody with your divorce lawyer to make sure you are not jeopardizing your child’s situation.