Parental alienation: What it is and how you can stop it.
Imagine this scenario. You’re on your way to pick up your 6-year-old son for your usual weekend together. You’re excited to see him: since the divorce, you’ve been living for these times together. This weekend, you have a special surprise- a brand new backyard swimming pool – and you can’t wait to tell him about it.
However, as soon as he gets in your car, you can tell something’s wrong. He doesn’t look at you and seems resentful. You’re surprised and hurt. You did have a heated text argument with his mother this week, but your relationship with him shouldn’t have been affected by that.
It gets worse as the weekend progresses. He says he doesn’t want to use the new pool. He stays in his room. At mealtimes, he doesn’t talk. As a loving parent, you’re beside yourself. What happened since the last visit to get him so upset?
It isn’t until Sunday that you learn the truth. After gently but persistently asking him what’s wrong, he blurts, “Mommy says you’ve got a new girlfriend, and she has a son. She says you like him better than me, and soon you won’t want me over anymore.”
You’re stunned. Then anger at your former spouse sets in. What she told your son is an absolute lie, likely inspired by this week’s massive fight. As you reassure him that none of this story is true, you’re angry and hurting. Your divorce had been contentious and hostile, and it looks like she still wants to hurt you, even if she has to use your son to do it.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is the use of psychological manipulation to estrange a child from his or her other parent. Examples include:
• Misrepresenting to the child about their other parent’s love for them.
• Blaming the other parent for missed timesharing or missing special events in the child’s life
• Forcing the child to choose sides by saying something like, “If you love Mommy, it means you don’t love me.”
• Making the child feel guilty about wanting to spend time with their other parent.
Below are some warning signs of parental alienation:
• Your child suddenly becomes hostile toward you and your family.
• Your former spouse tries to block timesharing by saying that the child doesn’t want to see you.
• Your child accuses you as the reason for the marital problems that caused the divorce.
• Your child criticizes you using language that’s beyond their age level.
• You discover that the child is aware of specific details of the past litigation
Sadly, high conflict divorce cases hurt the child as much as the affected spouse. When children are essentially forced to choose one parent over another, the psychological and emotional pain can be intense and long-lasting.
What can you do?
In Florida, our judges make careful timesharing decisions that are in the best interests of the child, their goal is to foster and maintain a close and loving relationship between the child and their parents. If one parent is unwilling to cooperate and support this essential bond, it can warrant enforcement or modification of an existing parenting plan or timesharing order for the parent and the child.
Having your child turned against you is incredibly painful. You probably want to confront your former spouse and vent your anger and distress, but doing so could actually hurt your case. Instead, let an experienced and compassionate Florida family lawyer help you seek appropriate remedies, such as modification of an existing order.
At the Law Office of Sheena Benjamin-Wise, P.A., although there are exceptions, we believe that children do best when they have a healthy and loving relationship with both parents. The final decision must always be what is in the best interest of the child. When a parent actively alienates the child for their own needs and damages that relationship, let us help you take steps to protect your child. For more information, please contact us at wiselawoffice.com.