Claims of parental alienation in child custody, matrimonial and family law cases abound. This article will focus upon parental alienation in the context of child custody and parenting time or visitation cases. I have previously written about constructive emancipation which is applicable to child support cases. The ultimate sanction, if parental alienation has risen to a point that the relationship between one parent and a child is irreparable, is to have the child declared constructively emancipated and to terminate child support. This is the remedy for children of employable age. For children of less than employable age there is case authority that stands for the proposition that child support should be suspended until visitation with the non-custodial parent resumes. Please see my earlier blog article which discusses constructive emancipation in detail.
It is important to point out that certain actions that would be characterized as alienation, if they were taken for no reason, might be held by a court to be justified under certain circumstances. For example, protecting a child from abuse, be it physical or mental, can be found to be a proper justification for limiting contact. What constitutes and does not constitute parental alienation is a judicial determination that is shaped by the presentation of facts through testimony and argument. Something for both sides to keep in mind is that baseless allegations of abuse can be a reason for a court to find that the accuser puts their interests above the children. Specifically, though, what is parental alienation?
Parental alienation has been described by psychologists as behavior, whether intended or unconscious, by one parent that poisons the child or children against the other parent. When such poisoning occurs, the children take on mischaracterizations or embellish misrepresentations that a parent teaches them about the other parent. Interfering with another parent’s visitation or parenting time is one form of alienating behavior. Continue reading