“Parental alienation” is a hot topic in family law cases around the country. In a nutshell, parental alienation is when a parent engages in conduct that attempts to negatively influence their children regarding the other parent. As far as your custody case is concerned, there is no bigger mistake than to engage in this type of conduct. Often, clients do not even realize they are engaging in this conduct.
In addition to the obvious acts of badmouthing the other parent to the children, do not forget that parental alienation can often be subtle. Children are very intuitive and can pick up easily if it angers or frustrates you to have to deal with the other party. Children will often try to placate their parent and because they do not want to let their parent down, and can easily mirror the behavior they see. Therefore, when you react negatively to the other party in front of your child, they may react the same way. .
And if a child comes to you and says, “Mom/Dad said _______ about you”, it is hard not to engage in a discussion about what was said with your child. However, it is important that you take the high road, reassure your child that Mom and Dad both love them very much and do your best to steer the discussion elsewhere. Document what your child told you, as it is obvious the other party has been discussing the case or disparaging you to your child. Do not retaliate by disparaging the other parent to the child.
In order to avoid being accused of trying to block access to your child, make sure your child can communicate privately with your ex over the phone or at the computer. You do not have to allow numerous and repeated phone calls on the same day – one phone call a day is reasonable and for a reasonable time. Do not spy on the conversation, do not quiz your child about what they discussed, and try your best to encourage communication between your child and your ex. It is also not a good idea to deliver messages to the other parent through your child, and you should avoid using your child to deliver mail, household bills, personal property, etc.
Failing to share information regarding your child’s educational, medical, extra-curricular and religious activities is unwise. The other parent needs to know this information, and a court will frown upon any appearance that one parent is excluding the other parent from this information.
This is only a brief list of some of the common mistakes clients involved in emotional custody conflicts often make. If the other party engages in this conduct, please document such instances for future use in your case.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.