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What is parental alienation?

May 20, 2023 | Family Law

Divorce often brings negative and powerful emotions that can affect the entire family. When couples end a marriage, anger and fear may prompt one adult to systematically alienate the children from the other parent by manipulating their emotions and causing parental alienation.

The National Center for State Courts notes that one parent uses this type of emotional manipulation to turn their children against the other. Parents can identify this tactic by learning to spot possible signs of parental alienation and when to report the behavior to the court.

The causes of parental alienation

The alienating parent in a post-divorce situation may take advantage of his or her child’s emotions, especially if the child believes the other parent initiated the divorce. The alienating parent may use a variety of tactics to deepen a child’s animosity toward the other, including:

  • Blaming the alienated parent for ending the marriage
  • Exaggerating past events that put the alienated parent in a villainous role
  • Using negative language that labels the alienated parent

The impact of parental alienation

This type of emotional abuse can have a severe impact on the relationship between the child and the alienated parent, even if the relationship before the divorce was a positive one. The affected child may begin to lash out at others, behave poorly at school and refuse to visit the alienated parent. He or she may also cover feelings of guilt and confusion with anger.

Parental alienation can damage a child’s self-esteem and how he or she perceives the normality of future relationships. To protect the child, the alienated parent may want to report this problem to the court as soon as possible.

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