Suddenly, your child begins to reject you. For the first time you hear, “I don’t want to see you.”. What is more heartbreaking? Your child seems to forget all the good moments you’ve spent together: building a fort, playing sports or watching a movie. You feel confused and ask “why?.” Your child gives you a vague or irrational answer: “you’re not fun” or “you don’t love me anymore”.
You anticipated hardships with a divorce or breakup — emotional and financial distress — but not this. You didn’t expect your child to paint you as the villain. But now, your child grows more distant by the day. You’re terrified they will gradually fade away from your life. What is going on?
You may be experiencing Parental Alienation.
Parental alienation occurs when your relationship with your child is, intentionally or unintentionally, harmed by the other parent. It involves behaviors that the other parent demonstrates to damage your relationship with your child. For example, alienating behaviors range from badmouthing to reconstructing entire past narratives. Usually, this is done to convince the child that you are a bad person, that you are the less responsible parent or that you are not entitled to spend any time with your child.
Parental alienation is typically reflected across four different criteria:
- Contact Blocking — when the alienating parent actively prevents contact between you and your child.
- False Abuse Allegations — when the alienating parent falsely accuses you of emotional or physical abuse.
- Corrosion of Relationship — when the alienating parent causes a deterioration of the relationship with your child, especially when the relationship was positive before separation.
- Fear Reaction by Children — when the alienating parent prevents your child from contacting you through a fear factor: “my way or the highway”.
In any well drafted divorce or separation agreements, estranged couples have agreed not to disparage each other, either publicly or privately. You might have communicated this to your ex-partner and tried all the collaborative approaches. You might have explained the benefits of joint child rearing, demanded a parenting time schedule or requested intervention from other family members. If your alienating ex still refuses to accept advice or to cooperate with you, your only alternative is to go to court.
What happens when parental alienation becomes a legal issue?
Proving parental alienation is difficult and complicated. You need to be prepared for an intense and intrusive process. Often, the courts assign a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to represent the child’s best interest. When attorneys serve as guardians, they need to be extremely skilled and knowledgeable of advanced legal procedures in family law. Both parents are equally responsible for the cost of a guardian, but hiring one is still very expensive.
Each parent, of course, should also hire an attorney to defend his or her own interest. It’s useful to appoint a therapist or counselor to testify to the psychological impact on your child. The courts might also request a psychologist’s evaluation of the alienating parent. All of this, in addition to bringing a counselor to testify in court, incurs high costs.
What should you do to prepare?
First of all, your attorney must prove that the alienating parent contributed to the development of parental alienation. For example, your attorney might raise an argument of denigration, emotional abuse or brainwashing.
That’s why it’s crucial that you document past and ongoing events. Moments in the child’s life prior and during parental alienation must be recorded. These include files, videos, photographs and witness statements. You should organize this material carefully, so that the judge has a complete understanding of what’s going on.
Family Law Attorneys in Boca Raton
Proving parental alienation is complex. Choosing the right attorneys for your case is imperative. If you are passionate about regaining access to your child’s life, then you must ensure the best results possible. At Klein Law Group in Boca Raton, our team of family law attorneys is committed to helping clients navigate legal matters, including parental alienation, child custody, divorce, and abuse. Get started on your family law case today and reach out to our law firm at 561-353-2800 to request a free initial case evaluation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.