Parental Alienation and Its Harm to Children

Not to be confused with Parental Alienation Syndrome, parental alienation is a process used by one parent to create a negative image of the other parent in a child’s mind. The goal is to damage the relationship between the child and the other parent. Divorce or separation can lead to the use of parental alienation, especially when it ends poorly. Parental alienation harm can even be unintentional. The term parental alienation syndrome is no longer used by mental health professionals for many reasons. Therefore, we speak of parental alienation or alienating conduct. 

Some things that can lead to parental alienation are simply bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with the other parent, blaming all problems on the other parent, making decisions about the child’s life without the other parent, or telling clear lies about the other parent. When these things happen, children may believe they have to choose a side. This could make them emotionally withdraw from the other parent. Sadly, way too many parents in Michigan engage in or have to deal with the fallout from parental alienation or alienating conduct. 

How Can Parental Alienation Harm My Child?

People separate for a reason, and it often means they do not get along with the other parent they are separating from. It may be natural for a disapproval or dislike of the other parent to come up in conversations around the children. However, a line is crossed when a parent conveys negative views of them to the children. It may seem harmless to want to be the better parent in their eyes, but do not be fooled – this action can be emotional child abuse

Picture of a broken heart symbolizing a child who experiences parental alienation

Parental alienation can lead to great harm for a child, including:

  • Lowers self-esteem
  • Difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships
  • Increased guilt
  • Higher risk of anxiety and depression 
  • Lack of impulse control

Children need a loving relationship with both parents, even if those parents no longer love each other. Separation involves a lot of emotion, but as a parent, you can’t influence your child’s opinions of their other parent. Destroying your child’s relationship with their other parent can damage them and actually hurt your relationship with your child once they know what is happening. And in the end, kids definitely do figure this all out. 

I Believe My Former Partner Is Using Parental Alienation Against Me. 

Parental alienation is taken very seriously in Michigan and can be child abuse. Michigan law considers serious mental harm to be “an injury to a child’s mental condition … that is not necessarily permanent but results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality.” MCL 750.136b (1)(g). Parental alienation can fall under this description and can lead to being guilty of child abuse in the first degree which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Though felony charges are highly unlikely, other serious consequences often come to a parent that behaves badly regarding the other parent. For example, in custody cases and in future relationships with the children. Or in interacting with the other parent for many years. 

If you believe you are the victim of parental alienation, it is important to seek representation immediately to protect your rights. Behaviors related to parental alienation can also be a violation of a custody or parenting time order. An experienced attorney can take steps on your behalf to sort out any of these issues. 

You will need an attorney on your side to properly allege parental alienation, but don’t fret! The Kronzek Firm has decades of experience that can help you in the court system to help your children stop being victimized by a parent that is using parental alienation. 

Call us at 517-886-1000 to start getting help.