Parental Alienation Is Common in a High-Conflict Divorce

One parent weaponizing their children to hurt the other parent isn’t only a movie plot. It’s a real-life tactic used in some high-conflict divorces.

Parental alienation occurs when one parent repeatedly disparages the other parent to their children. These unfounded and negative comments and behaviors distort the child’s perception of the other parent. The alienating parent wants the child to be on their side. They want the other parent to suffer.

If you believe your spouse is purposely damaging your relationship with your children, contact one of our attorneys at Samuelson Hause PLLC. We will address the problem head-on to help protect your relationship with your children.

How Parental Alienation Begins

Divorce can go much deeper than the ending of a marriage. The process can also be used to exact revenge. One spouse (or both) want to hurt the other spouse for perceived wrongs. Maybe there was an affair. Maybe they lied about money. In other situations, one spouse may have been controlling throughout the marriage. Alienating their child from the other parent is just another means of control and getting leverage in custody disputes.

Regardless of the reason, one parent starts driving a wedge between the children and the other parent. They do so by disparaging their ex in front of the children. They might place all the blame for the divorce at the feet of their former partner. They might tell the children that the other parent doesn’t love them or is too busy for them. The goal is for the children to begin to see the other parent as the enemy.

This behavior is an unfortunate tool seen frequently in high-conflict divorce. The child allies with one parent because of unjustified aspersions of the other parent.

Signs of Parental Alienation

If your spouse is argumentative, unable to compromise, and shifts blame to you, they are more liable to undermine your relationship with your children. A big tell-tale sign is if they violate temporary court orders put in place while the divorce is in progress.

Be watchful for any changes in the way your children treat you. Unchecked parental alienation can permanently damage the relationship between the child and the other parent.

These red flags could point to your ex waging an emotional battle using your child. A child may first exhibit subtle signs that then progress to more severe behaviors:

  • Your child may begin to resist spending time with you but displays no malice when you are together.
  • Your child acts hostile toward you when you are together.
  • Your child takes extreme action to avoid seeing you. They might hide or run away.
  • Your child says hurtful things about you while strongly defending the other parent.
  • Your child idealizes the other parent.

The other parent may be waging a campaign to ultimately remove you from your children’s lives. They do and say things to turn your child against you.

The other parent may engage in the following behaviors to align the child with them:

  • Tells the child you mistreated them, cheated on them, or lied to them
  • Tells the child you left or abandoned them
  • Creates false allegations of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Makes the child feel guilty about visiting you
  • Pretends to fear you
  • Asks the child to act as an informant about your home

The other parent does not necessarily have to tell the child to dislike you. But kids are smart and can read between the lines. The alienating parent’s behaviors and attitudes impact how the child feels toward you.

Parental Alienation Hurts Everyone Involved

Using deception to keep a child away from one of their parents doesn’t hurt only the parent. The child suffers in these cases as well. The obvious harm is that the child is prevented from having a meaningful relationship with their other parent.

Parental alienation also has other negative impacts on a child:

  • They may have ongoing problems with trusting others.
  • They can struggle to form healthy relationships.
  • The likelihood of their experiencing depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem increases.

The children are the true victims. They might feel like they are in a war and must choose sides. The vindictive parent also loses. They deny their child of a loving relationship with the other parent. Divorced parents can lean on each other when effectively co-parenting.

Take Action Against Parental Alienation

Take these steps if your ex is manipulating your child for an advantage over you. First, continue to show up for your child and be the best parent possible. Second, don’t retaliate. Doing so will only play into their narrative. Third, consider speaking with a licensed therapist. They can help you deal with your own emotions and feelings surrounding the divorce and the games your ex is playing.

At Samuelson Hause PLLC, we have handled parental alienation cases before. We know they are mentally and emotionally exhausting. Some parents believe that giving up is what’s best for the child. They stop pursuing their custodial rights or even decide to terminate their parental rights altogether, so the child is no longer in the middle of the drama. We believe strongly in fighting for your parental rights. It’s what is best for both you and your child.

If you think your ex is trying to turn your children against you, don’t back down. Schedule a consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Call (516) 584-4685.