Divorce is highly stressful for adults, and even more so for the children. What do you do if your offspring refuses to meet with you, or suddenly sees you as a bad parent? Should you just try to shrug this off? You actually better not, as you could be experiencing parental alienation.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is a circumstance when a child becomes estranged from one parent due to the psychological manipulation of another parent. In short, it's a hostile form of sabotage that anyone can experience, especially during divorce.
When a parent attempts to sever or harm the relationship between the other parent and child, the effects can be devastating. Moreover, if parental alienation is not recognized early on, it can massively impact further custody and visitation decisions.
That's why it's imperative to know what parental alienation looks like and to get the advice of an attorney if you think your former spouse is attempting such behavior.
Signs of Parental Alienation
If you are seeing that your child suddenly acts in one of the following ways, treat it as a potential sign that they are being subjected to alienating behaviors by another parent:
- Refusing to spend time with or speak to you
- Viewing one parent as entirely good and the other as entirely bad
- Denying ever having a positive relationship with the alienated parent
- Exhibiting anxiety or anger during visits
- Pointedly denying the favored parent's influence over their judgment
What You Can Do About Parental Alienation
Remember: the truth is on your side. According to Colorado laws, each parent must make an effort to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent. If either of the parents is found to be hindering a parental relationship, the courts could modify visitation and custody arrangements.
Thus, if you suspect that you are the victim of alienation, seek advice from a family law attorney early on. A qualified professional can explain to you how to act correctly in such a tense situation and whether you should seek further legal action to protect your rights.
You can also fight back by taking steps such as:
- Documenting concerning behaviors from your child
- Taking screenshots of texts and other odd communication you received
- Writing down the details of threatening or contentious phone calls
- Saving emails, letters, and voicemails
- Requesting the services of a Child Family Investigator to look into the matters
If the other parent’s behaviors include refusal to comply with visitation orders or denial of your visitation rights, you can also request a contempt or enforcement proceeding. Finally, you could be justified in asking an attorney to help you navigate a petition to modify custody.
In addition to the above, you should also follow these guidelines:
- Don’t retaliate by withholding support or visitation from the other parent
- Validate your child's feelings, and engage them in the discussion
- Make attempts to contact your child, and to appear for scheduled visitation
- Document visitation and contact attempts
- Don’t badmouth the other parent
- Suggest and seek counseling and advocacy for the child
- Attend any ordered classes, therapy, or mediation sessions
By consistently doing these things, you show that you are concerned with acting in your child's best interests and maintaining a relationship with them.
Seek Help Early On!
It can be emotionally devastating to see a child you love turn against you. What's more, children subjected to this toxic form of behavior can struggle with its consequences for years. That's why you should address any signs of parental alienation early on and obtain the advice of an attorney to protect your rights, and your child's well-being.