Protecting What You Value Most

What is parental alienation?

Like all divorced spouses, you probably had some legitimate reasons for ending your marriage. If you do not get along well with your former partner, though, you do not want your marital problems to affect your children negatively. After all, you and your ex-spouse have an obligation to co-parent the kids.

Parental alienation, a form of psychological manipulation, occurs when one parent tries to turn the children against the other. The consequences from this behavior are potentially disastrous. Specifically, if your ex-spouse encourages your kids to mistrust or dislike you, your parent-child relationship may suffer irreparable harm.

Identifying parental alienation

While there is no such thing as standard parental alienation, watching for a pattern of alienating behaviors may help you identify a problem in your post-divorce family. Here are some common examples of alienating behavior:

  • Your ex-spouse makes disparaging or negative comments about you to your children.
  • Your ex-spouse asks your kids to spy on you.
  • Your ex-spouse tells your children not to respect you.
  • Your ex-spouse refuses to include you in normal childrearing activities, such as parent-teacher conferences or extracurricular events.

Protecting your parent-child relationship

Parental alienation can cause both immediate and long-term harm to your parent-child relationship. Fortunately, you do not have to stand idly by while your ex-spouse destroys the good relationship you have with your kids.

Your former spouse may not realize he or she is behaving inappropriately. If that is the case, you may be able to stop parental alienation simply by having a conversation with your children’s co-parent. Your custody agreement or parenting plan may also include a provision for dealing with disputes. If so, you may be able to use a neutral mediator or another approach to alter your ex-spouse’s behavior.

Clearly, you want what is best for your children. Because parental alienation runs counter to the interests of both your kids and your parent-child relationship, you must work diligently to identify and curtail it.