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Parental Alienation In Custody Disputes

Some separated or divorced parents fight custody battles by manipulating their children to the extent that the child turns completely on the other parent. This is called parental alienation. One parent wants sole custody of a child, and vilifies the other parent so much that the child sees that parent negatively and doesn’t want to be with that parent. Our post this week looks at this troubling occurrence in divorce and separation cases.

How Parental Alienation Works

A parent shapes a child’s view of the other parent by:

  • Giving the child a lot of gifts
  • Making endless promises to the child
  • Criticizing the other parent relentlessly

This conduct turns the child against the other parent over time.

Dealing With Parental Alienation

Handling parental alienation can be complex and delicate. The maligned parent can:

  • Ask the other parent, in writing, to stop the undermining action
  • Ask a judge to order the other parent to stop the alienating action
  • Ask a judge to allow the maligned parent more time with the child to counter the manipulation

A judge can set aside a child’s desire not to see a parent if the judge finds that the other parent has brainwashed the child into thinking that way.

Domestic Violence And Parental Alienation

Judges must ensure any accusations of parental alienation are true, especially if there has been domestic violence during the relationship. Marielle Albert, a Montreal women’s shelter counsellor, says some judges give abusive fathers custody. This happened in one recent case in which the judge believed the mother alienated her child from its father by claiming the father hit her, the child, or both before they separated.

Albert thinks judges must review what happened during the relationship, and after the parents separate, to decide if there has been parental alienation. This is especially necessary in cases of domestic violence in which a child may not want to be with a violent parent because they don’t feel safe, and not because one parent has alienated them from the other one.

If you are involved in a custody dispute and the issue of parental alienation arises, it is best to consult an experienced family lawyer who can help you deal with the allegations and put your arguments clearly and concisely to a family law judge.

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