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Parental Alienation: When an Ex-Partner Turns Your Child Against You

 

A parent badmouths the other parent in front of their kid. A father violates a court-ordered visitation schedule. A mother listens in on telephone conversations between father and son. A parent forces a child to choose between “mommy” and “daddy.” These are examples of parental alienation, where one parent, typically the custodial parent, alienates their child from the other parent.

Parental alienation can be conscious — the deliberate alienation of a child from the other parent — or unconscious, where the parent is unaware of their destructive actions. Either way, this damaging behavior is illegal here in Connecticut.

If an ex-partner tries to alienate you from your child, you must seek legal advice — the sooner, the better. Proving parental alienation to the court is difficult, so you require the skills of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you collect evidence. Follow the correct procedure, and a family law judge should place strict sanctions on your ex-partner, providing you with the justice you deserve.

What is Parental Alienation in Connecticut?

Parental alienation is a common manifestation of a high-conflict divorce or separation, but what does it typically involve?

“Parental alienation, simply put, occurs when one parent turns a child against the other parent and his or her family. Whether verbal or not, the behavior causes a child to be mentally manipulated or bullied into believing a loving parent is the cause of all their problems, and/or an enemy to be feared, hated, disrespected, and avoided.”

— Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO), a social network supporting parents who experience parental alienation

Few parents in Connecticut realize that parental alienation is emotional child abuse. This destructive behavior has long-lasting psychological effects on both parents, and ultimately, their child or children caught in the middle of it all.

So often, familial relationships break down because a parent turns their child against the other parent. Research shows that parental alienation causes psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and attempted suicide in both parents and children. Alienation can also influence a child’s academic performance.

Parental alienation is far more prevalent than one thinks. Over 13 percent of parents in a recent Colorado State University sample say they have become alienated from one or more of their kids. Forty-eight percent of these parents described the experience as “severe.” Here in Connecticut, thousands of parents might experience alienation but not know the correct legal term for it. These parents must seek legal justice now.

Recommended Reading: How to Prepare Your Child for Your Divorce

Rich Rochlin Law, based in West Hartford, CT, helps families resolve conflicts and solve problems. Here for all your family law needs in Connecticut, Rich Rochlin specializes in divorce, separations, child custody, child support, family law court enforcements, and more. Click here or call (860) 357-9158 to learn more. 

What Causes Parental Alienation in Connecticut?

Parental alienation manifests itself in various ways. Sometimes, this behavior happens over many months or years, making it difficult to establish a cause. An “alienator” will typically rupture the relationship, for one reason or another, between the passive parent and their child or children.

Sometimes the offending parent wants to “settle a score,” purposely causing emotional distress to the other parent. Other times, the offending parent might not be aware of their behavior.

Some factors that cause parental alienation:

  • Disputes over custody arrangements, child support, or other legal responsibilities.
  • “Payback” for a perceived injustice from the past. (For example, a passive parent’s infidelity.)
  • The alienating parent not considering the emotions or feelings of the passive parent.

 

Parental alienation often takes place over time, but there are some early warning signs:

  • A child describes their parents as “good” and “bad” to teachers, friends, or friends’ parents.
  • A child seems withdrawn or exhibits other behavioral changes at school or when with the passive parent.
  • A child chooses one parent over the other because of misinformation from the alienating parent.
  • A child is reluctant to foster a relationship with the passive parent.
  • A child acts differently towards the passive parent’s family.

 

Recommended Reading: Is There Ever a Right Time for Divorce?

Taking Action Against Parental Alienation in Connecticut

It’s hard to establish parental alienation, at least in a legal context. How would the courts know your ex-partner has alienated you from your child? How would you prove these allegations? Circumstances become complicated when the offending parent has broken no terms of a court order for custody, and parental alienation results in emotional or psychological manipulation or distress, which is difficult to prove.

In almost all instances of alienation, you must consult with a local family law attorney, who will navigate you through Connecticut’s ever-complicated legal system. Together, you’ll decide on the most suitable course of action for holding the offending parent accountable for their actions.

As you progress through the legal process, you might collect evidence of parental alienation to present to your ex-partner (or their legal team) or a family law judge. This evidence includes:

  • Keeping a diary of your ex-partner’s behaviors/actions.
  • Asking friends, family members, and local authorities (police, school boards, health officials, etc.) to authenticate your parental alienation allegation.
  • Proof that your ex-partner has violated court-ordered custody arrangementsand other legal obligations.

 

Act quickly. The longer you take to collect evidence, the hardest it might be to prove parental alienation.

Psychiatric evaluations of you, your child, and/or your ex-partner that prove the psychological and mental health implications of parental alienation are also valuable. An experienced family lawyer specializing in parental alienation can connect you with a reputable professional to carry out these tests.

The state of Connecticut doesn’t recognize parental alienation as a mental health condition. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM–5, doesn’t list parental alienation, despite a push for its inclusion as a diagnosis in 2012.) However, psychiatric tests can still form the basis of any legal action you pursue against your ex-partner.

Proving parental alienation might seem daunting. But a respected Connecticut family law attorney provides you with ongoing support during the entire process, helping you collect the evidence you require. With so many emotions involved — and the genuine risk of not seeing your child at all if tempers flare and the situation gets worse — it’s not advisable to fight parental alienation alone.

Recommended Reading: Frontline Workers Not Able to See Their Children Because of COVID-19 Exposure

Are you looking for a divorce lawyer in Connecticut that specializes in conflict resolution? Click here or call (860) 357-9158 to learn more about Rich Rochlin Law. 

What Do Connecticut Courts Do About Parental Alienation?

Judges in Connecticut don’t take kindly to parents who have alienated their child from the other parent. That’s why you, as the non-offending parent, could file a motion for contempt for parental alienation. The consequences of a successful parental alienation court case include:

  • Custody amendments that favor the non-offending parent.
  • The change of primary custody from one parent to the other.
  • Potential fines/jail time for an offending parent who violates a court order.

 

Whatever the court decides, the best interests of your child are the focus of all legal proceedings.

There are other routes you can take instead of pursuing court action:

Mediation

Unlike a judge, a mediator can’t make legal rulings but can negotiate aspects of your divorce or separation with your ex-partner, including parental alienation allegations. A trustworthy divorce attorney can serve as the mediator in alienation cases, helping you achieve a successful outcome.

Four-Way Meeting

This alternative to court proceedings in Connecticut involves you, your ex-partner, and two divorce attorneys (your attorney and your ex-partner’s attorney) discussing allegations of parental alienation.

Review Counsel

This method involves you or your ex-partner (or both) discussing mediation with a professional. A review counsel solves problems associated with alleged parental alienation.

These three alternatives could be less expensive and stressful and, most times, provide a more successful outcome than court action. Plus, as many Connecticut courts struggle with backlogged caseloads because of the coronavirus pandemic, you could resolve parental alienation disputes quicker. All the above methods are types of conflict resolution.

Recommended Reading: What’s the Difference Between Litigation, Mediation, and Collaboration?

Bottom Line

Parental alienation is a term you might not be familiar with, but it’s a chronic symptom of many high-conflict divorces and separations in Connecticut. Now is the time to consult with a family attorney in Connecticut who will provide you with the support and legal resources you need. The sooner you act, the better for everyone involved.

Rochlin Law handles all aspects of family law in Connecticut, including divorce, separations, child custody, child support, family law court enforcements, and more. Click here or call (860) 357-9158.

 

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