Separating Fact from Fear: Parental Alienation
Divorcing parents spend hours, sometimes with each other, and sometimes with their respective attorneys, trying to agree on parenting responsibility as set out by the family law courts. Some families find that life post-divorce, while initially awkward and tense, eventually resumes a ‘new-normal’ with the guidance set out by parenting plans.
Other families may find that despite the provision of parenting plans and the implementation of time-sharing schedules, one or both of the parents are struggling to abide by the terms of the parenting plan or keep up with the time-sharing timetable. At such times, it may appear that one parent is, either deliberately or through sheer negligence, overstepping their allotted time with the child or making critical welfare-related decisions independent of the other parent. The parent being thwarted may feel alienated and seek to correct this interference between them and their child (or children).
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is when the relationship between a parent and a child is interfered with by the other parent, and can be seen as a manifestation of child abuse. The identification and diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) can only be made by certified mental health professionals who are called upon as witnesses in court.
What Causes Parental Alienation?
The root cause of perceived parental alienation may be as simple as difficulties in communication between the parents. However, the allegation of parental alienation itself is insufficient to prove its existence in court. If the matter goes to family court, the parent alleging parental alienation must bring forth proof that the other parent is turning their child (or children) against them. Criteria used to identify instances of parental alienation and a change in existing shared parental responsibility agreements include the following:
- One parent blocks or restricts contact and access to the minor child (or children) alleging that the other parent is unable to make appropriate decisions around the child, that meeting the parent makes the child uneasy or even that the interactions result in child abuse.
- One parent alleges abuse, in particular of emotional abuse or sexual abuse, by the other parent. If these accusations are later found to be false, the defending party may dig deeper into other allegations made by the accusing parent.
- One parent points out a breakdown in the relationship between the minor child (or children) and the nonresidential parent following the divorce. It is observed that natural, healthy relationships do not usually deteriorate without interference.
- One parent demands complete control of their child’s behavior and cannot tolerate even the slightest approval of the other parent’s interaction with their child. Their child (or children) lives in fear of upsetting the alienating parent, who uses banishment to the noncustodial parent’s home as a lingering warning and punishment.
In the state of Florida, the law finds awarding parents of a minor child shared parental responsibility in the best interest of the child, unless one of the parents or their circumstances are deemed unfit for the child’s welfare. This means the state of Florida finds that it is best for a minor child to have a nurturing relationship with both of the parents, when that is possible. If you think your ex-spouse is building a wall between your child and yourself, contact our team at Arwani Law Firm PLLC to protect your child and your rights to have your child without the interference of your ex.