A divorce or separation is never easy on children, and they can react in any number of ways. Some children may resent one or both parents for realistic reasons in the emotional turmoil caused by their parents separating. In some cases, a child’s reaction to divorce is caused by one parent.
This situation is difficult for everyone in the family, and parents likely have a lot of conflicting emotions. Some separating parents have deeply negative feelings towards their co-parent, or conflicts in the divorce become negative feelings. There is nothing wrong with this, but parents should avoid letting their children see or hear about these negative emotions. If a parent uses their children to harm their co-parent or attempts to undermine their child’s relationship with a co-parent, it becomes parental alienation.
Understanding Parental Alienation
Parental alienation comes from the psychological term parental alienation syndrome (PAS). It refers to the behaviors of children of divorce or separation. One parent may encourage a child or coerce them into disliking or rejecting their other parent for no real reason. This alienation is most often done by talking negatively about the other parent. Parental alienation may also include:
- Undermining the other parent’s authority or care for the child
- Telling a child lies about the other parent or falsely accusing the other parent
- Preventing communication between the child and the other parent
- Making negative or derogatory statements about the other parent to or in front of the child
- Blaming the other parent for the divorce, separation, or other issues
- Preventing a parent from their custody or visitation rights
- Telling the child they have to choose one parent or the other
The child may have negative feelings about the other parent that the alienating parent encourages. Parental alienation causes significant harm to a child’s mental and emotional health, as well as the targeted parent and their relationship with their child. Courts do not look favorably on parental alienation, but a parent has to prove parental alienation is occurring.
Recognizing Parental Alienation
In order to address parental alienation both with a child and in court, you must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of parental alienation in a child. One essential aspect of this is ensuring strong communication between you and your child. A divorce is never easy, but parents need to maintain healthy and age-appropriate discussion with their children throughout the process. Children who are experiencing parental alienation may show several signs, including:
- Having hatred, fear, or dislike for a parent with no legitimate cause
- Seeming to repeat or mimic statements and phrases said by the alienating parent
- Stating false accusations about the alienated parent as if they are fact
- Making negative comments about the alienated parent
- Refusing to spend time with the alienated parent, even when the parent tries to connect or establish contact
- Having an unreasonable dislike of the alienated parent’s extended family
- Having little to no guilt about these negative statements and actions
- Expressing idealization and constant support of the alienating parent
It may be a sign of alienation if these behaviors may be stronger or appear suddenly after spending time with the other parent. It’s important for parents to understand that negative emotions that a child expresses are not always a result of parental alienation. Parents should always discuss this with an attorney before taking legal action. An attorney can help gather proof of parental alienation and take steps to keep your child and family safe.
Addressing Parental Alienation
If you are going through divorce or separation, and you have reason to believe there is parental alienation happening, there are certain steps you can take. This includes:
- Finding Professional Help: A therapist or other mental health care professional can provide mental and emotional help for a child going through this. You can also work with a family law and child custody attorney to ensure this situation is properly dealt with.
- Document Alienation: If you believe your child is showing signs of parental alienation, document those signs and behaviors. This can be helpful in court.
- Talk With Your Co-Parent: Depending on your situation, it may be useful to talk with the other parent about their behavior and the negative impact it is having on the child.
Otherwise, there may be a need for court intervention, including court order modification.
Q: What Qualifies a Parent as Unfit in Oklahoma?
A: An unfit parent is a legal term referring to a parent who is unable to provide their child with the necessary care, support, and guidance. A parent that is neglectful, physically unable to care for a child, unable to provide a safe living environment, abusive, or violent will likely be deemed unfit. A parent with untreated substance abuse disorders or untreated mental health issues may also be considered unfit.
Q: How Do You Gather Evidence of Parental Alienation?
A: Useful evidence to prove the other parent is engaging in parental alienation may include:
- Witnesses to the other parent’s negative comments or false accusations, such as friends or family.
- A therapist or similar professional who can state the impact on a child.
- Communication between parents or between a parent and a child, including text messages, emails, and voicemails.
Q: What Actions Are Considered Parental Alienation?
A: Acts of parental alienation may include:
- Interfering with the other parent’s visitation or custody time.
- Intentionally scheduling fun activities when the other parent is meant to pick up the child.
- Reacting negatively when the child mentions the other parent positively.
- Using the child to spy on the other parent’s personal life.
- Falsely accusing the other parent of abuse or neglect.
Q: How Can You Terminate the Parental Rights of a Non-Custodial Parent in Oklahoma?
A: In Oklahoma, parental rights can be termination in certain situations, including:
- Verbal consent of the parent.
- Parental abandonment.
- Failing to comply with a voluntary placement agreement.
- Failing to support a child.
- A criminal conviction, such as child neglect, child abuse, felony assault with serious bodily injury, rape, murder, or voluntary manslaughter.
- Incarceration under certain circumstances.
- Incapacity or behavioral health condition.
- Significant erosion of the relationship between a parent and child.
Working With a Legal Professional in Oklahoma City
If you believe your child is subject to parental alienation tactics, an attorney is useful in presenting your reasons clearly to the judge. Contact the attorneys at Stange Law Firm today to see how we can help you prove a case of parental alienation.