What is Parental Alienation?

Parental Alienation is the unfortunate result of a child being negatively influenced by one parent to feel a powerful dislike or even hatred toward the other parent. It is often developed during or after a highly contentious custody battle or divorce. It is a form of parental manipulation accomplished by doing things such as speaking negatively about the other parent. The impact on the child can be devastating and long-term. This situation is different than a credible allegation of child abuse or neglect. Fortunately, our family court judges and Friend of the Court offices are familiar with alienating conduct and they will not tolerate it.

The concept of parental alienation may be familiar to you, but it has no single definition. It is the subject of some debate in the legal, medical, and mental health communities. Some claim parental alienation stems only from a “toxic” parent working to manipulate the child into disliking the other parent. More recently, other influences are considered, such as a situation where multiple family members are working to destroy a particular relationship.  We family law attorneys have seen a rise in this kind of group effort right here in Lansing in the Ingham County Family Court, as well as in Eaton County and Clinton County.

What Can Cause Parental Alienation?

When one parent verbally poisons a child against the other, great emotional and psychological distress results, and the child is subtly forced to choose between their parents. Over time, the child can develop an aversion to the other parent based on the manipulation taking place. Some of the following instances can lead to parental alienation: 

  • Giving the child harmful details of what the ‘other’ parent may have said or done
  • Telling the child that the ‘other’ parent is to blame for the separation and resulting difficulties
  • Asking the child to relay information about what the ‘other’ parent is doing 
  • Telling the child they have a choice of visiting the ‘other’ parent when the court has ruled against that

Sometimes, the ‘other’ parent can unintentionally contribute to parental alienation by exhibiting behaviors that would lead the child to grow to dislike them. This could be done by: 

  • Repeatedly breaking promises made to the child
  • Consistently putting work before the child’s needs, especially when visitation time is already limited
  • Not allowing the child to bring their personal items from one parent’s house to the other

Sings Of Parental Alienation

This form of emotional child abuse can come about in different ways, but there are some common signs. These signs should be cause for concern when exhibited by children going through a parental separation. Some signs we see around Lansing  include:

  • Showing anger toward the alienated parent without being able to explain why they feel that way
  • Refusing to visit or speak with the alienated parent
  • Refusing to have contact with relatives or friends of the alienated parent
  • A belief that the manipulating parent is good and honest and conversely that the alienated parent is the villain
  • Denial that their perspectives have been changed as a result of the manipulation

Some other terms used to refer to parental alienation include child alienation, brainwashing, pathological alienation, toxic parenting, hostile aggressive parenting, visitation refusal, and pathological alignments.

These Actions Can Damage Children

Whatever caused the breakdown of a relationship between a parent and their child, it may be a form of emotional child abuse. Some mental health professionals actually believe the adversarial nature of the court system makes matters worse and lots of us custody lawyers agree. Parents who are separating are often put in a “me against you” situation. This results in them being pitted against each other and can cause vast problems.

Unfortunately, parents can pass on their negative perspectives of their former spouse to their children. This can lead the children to experience lowered self-esteem, increased likelihood of anxiety and depression, and difficulty creating and maintaining relationships. 

Michigan law takes parental alienation very seriously. Our family law attorneys have handled dozens of cases dealing with parental alienation in Charlotte, St. Johns, Jackson and Lansing. These cases aren’t new or unusual, and can often be long and expensive. 

Don’t worry, The Kronzek Firm is here to help! If you are experiencing parental alienation, quick action is necessary to achieve the best result. Our attorneys have decades of  experience needed to get you there. Contact us at 517-886-1000 today for a consultation. Our phones answer 24 / 7 for crisis intervention.