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Parental Alienation: Not a Black and White Issue

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | May 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

Parental alienation is becoming a more frequent discussion in family courts. The concern is often raised when there is difficulty with a parent-child relationship or parent-child access. Unfortunately, parental alienation is a term which is often misunderstood... Very misunderstood in many cases.

Photo Credit: Chase

Parental alienation can be described as an extreme form of visitation refusal when a child is refusing most or all access with one parent.  Parental alienation occurs on a continuum: mild, moderate, and severe. An example of mild alienation is a child refusing some parenting time, such as a mid-week visit on a regular basis. An example of moderate alienation is a child refusing most contact, and only having contact when the preferred parent is present. Severe alienation is when a child ends all contact with a parent. Obviously, there are a lot of variations beyond these simple examples, but the point is that parental alienation is far from a ‘black-and-white' issue.

In cases where parental alienation has been identified, there is an "alienated child", a "rejected parent", and a "preferred parent". The preferred parent is the alienating parent. "Alienating" means that the preferred parent is undermining the relationship between the child and the rejected parent in some way. It may be done passively or with a very active, overt campaign of denigration. A passive example is when the alienating parent says things like, “I asked him if he wanted to go to your house, and he said he had too much homework.” An active or overt alienation example may be when the parenting parent makes disparaging remarks or displays negative conduct directed at the rejected parent in front of the child. The child's conduct becomes evident as “alienated” when they begin adopting an attitude of rejection in which their words and behavior dismiss the importance of the relationship with the rejected parent. Oftentimes the child will mimic the disparaging comments or negative conduct they have heard from or seen displayed by the alienating parent.

What Should You Do?

The simple answer is you must deal with this issue as quickly as you can. Rather than allowing mild issues and behaviors on the parental alienation spectrum to worsen, it is ideal to get a targeted legal and mental health intervention in place as soon as possible. It is important to remember that when parental alienation is moderate or even severe, all is not lost. However, these cases required an experienced legal and mental health team to help restore the parent-child relationship in a healthy manner.

If you or someone you know is dealing with possible parental alienation issues, our experienced family court attorneys can help. Call (864) 598-9172 today to schedule a consultation.  

About the Author

J. Benjamin Stevens

Senior Partner


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