How to Combat Parental Alienation in an NJ Custody Dispute
A family’s challenge following separation is to transition from an intact family structure to a separated family structure that is now united by the children and by the continuing parental roles and shared bonds of affection with the child.
Sometimes the emotional reactions and psychological functioning of one parent in response to divorce prevent this transition. When this occurs, children can be exposed to that parent’s continuing anger and sadness.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation is the outcome of a process of one parent (the alienating parent) influencing a child (alienated or targeted child) to turn against and reject their other parent (alienated or targeted parent) without legitimate justification. The alienating parent can also be a grandparent, a stepparent, and even a non-family member.
Parental alienation can occur even when the targeted child’s relationship and the targeted parent were once a very positive one. It occurs when a child is forced to choose one parent’s side over the other after family separation and during parenting disputes.
What Does Parent Alienation Look Like?
The alienator might divulge unnecessary relational details — for example, instances of affairs — to a child. This can certainly make the child feel alienated themselves and angry at (and feeling personally hurt by) something that was really between adults.
An alienator may prevent a child from seeing or talking to the other parent while saying that the alienated is busy/occupied/uninterested in the child.
An alienator may insist on the child’s personal items all be kept at the alienator’s house, regardless of how much time the kid spends with the other parent.
An alienator might plan tempting activities during the other parent’s custody. For example, “You’re supposed to be at your dad’s this weekend, but I thought it’s the perfect weekend to invite your friends to a sleepover here for your birthday this month. What would you like to do?”
Related to the above, an alienator might frequently bend or break custody guidelines, arranged inside or outside of court. On the flip side, an alienator may also refuse to compromise on a custody agreement. For example, if mom’s birthday falls on a day when dad has custody and dad is an alienator, he may rigidly refuse to let the kid go to mom’s birthday dinner when mom asks.
The alienator may ask the child about the alienated parent’s personal life and more. This can then become a subject of gossip. Oh, your dad has a new girlfriend? What’s she like? Wonder how long it will last. He had four girlfriends the year you were in kindergarten, and we were still married, you know.
The alienator may become controlling when it comes to the child’s relationship with the other parent. For example, the alienator could try to monitor all phone calls, text messages, or interactions.
The alienator may actively compare the other parent to a new partner. This could take the form of the child hearing that their stepmom loves them more than their mom. A child might even be told that their stepparent will adopt them and give them a new last name.
What Are the Consequences of Parental Alienation?
The consequences of parental alienation on children are serious and long-lasting. Some of these consequences include:
- Conflict with Parents
- Sleep problems
- Substance Abuse
- Speech Problems
- Sexual Promiscuity
- Poor Body Image
- Poor Eating Habits
- Eating Disorders
- Weight Loss/Weight Gain
- Disheveled Living Space
- Poor Executive Function (Disorganization)
- Diminished Activity
- Psycho-Somatic Distortions
- Feelings of Isolation
- Increased Use of Technology as an Escape
- Lack of Friends
- Sibling Conflict (Including Violence)
- Heightened Fantasy Life
- Diminished Attention Span
- Social Identity Problem
- Regressive Behaviors
- Conflicts in Peer Relationships
- School Dysfunction
- Memory Loss
What can I do to Combat Parental Alienation?
Create a plan and develop your resources.
Dealing with parental alienation is not easy. It can be exceedingly painful when your children resist your attempts to connect or view you as the “bad” parent, which is often the case. In your hurt or out of a wish to do what is best for your children, you might wonder if it is better to give up the fight. But this could mean giving up custody, your right to parent your own children, or even see them as much as you would like.
Utilize all available resources.
Develop a plan, with the help of your therapist and attorney, to address and face any allegations that may be made against you. Do you have proof to counterclaims you know to be lies? Track down proof. Keep a record of any incidents or contradictory statements without engaging or participating in conflict with your co-parent. Arrange to have a friend or trusted family member when you meet your co-parent to pick up or drop off your children. This can be a good idea for your own well-being and safety, but a witness may also be useful in the event of a legal battle.
Do not delay action.
Delay is the number one mistake that gets made and is the number one tactic of the aligned parent and their attorneys. Working with an understanding and knowledgeable attorney who understands that a mere allegation does not make something true is very important. You need someone who can help you defend yourself and your children from the abuse of parental alienation. It may act as grounds to modify a child custody order. There are no set answers, as the process can be extensive and arduous, but you are by no means alone. The sooner you contact a legal representative to assist you, the more expeditious the process will be.
Do You Want To Discuss further? Do not hesitate to contact a Monmouth and Ocean County Custody Attorney.
At the Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, we are prepared to help you recover a working relationship with your former spouse by stopping parental alienation in its tracks and creating a safer environment for you and your children. Our top-notch team is well-practiced in all facets of family law, from mediations to trials. Contact us today through our online form or call us at (732) 812-3102. Your family’s well-being is of utmost importance.