Parental alienation occurs in high-conflict divorces where one parent deliberately tries to turn shared children against the other parent. They may tell their child terrible stories about their co-parent or try to limit contact and visitation, all in an effort to put physical and emotional distance between the child and parent. If you suspect your co-parent is engaging in deliberate parental alienation, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. Continue reading for tips on overcoming parental alienation, and call a seasoned Englewood child custody and parental rights attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
Address Lies Directly
If your ex is feeding lies about you to your children, conventional wisdom to “say nothing” might not be your best option. Do not respond in kind, but do explain the truth in a calm, factual manner: “I’m sorry Daddy/Mommy told you that I don’t love you, but that is not true.” Temper your conversation based on the age and emotional maturity of your children. If your kids are in their teens, they might benefit from a more adult discussion about the challenges of divorce and the different perspectives of you and your ex.
Maximize Your Time With Your Kids
Alienation works best when one parent can be reduced to an idea rather than a reality. The more time you can spend with your kids, the less effective deliberate alienation will be. Make sure to utilize all of your parenting time, including custody time, events such as dinner and recreational outings, as well as phone calls and video chats. Canceling on your kids can be devastating, especially if it reinforces untruths your former spouse is peddling.
Encourage Your Kids to Talk With You Directly
You should never intentionally put your kids between you and your ex. Your troubles should be resolved between the two of you, and turning your child into a messenger or go-between can be extremely emotionally damaging.
That being said, you should encourage your kids to come to you with any questions. If they hear something about you that they do not like or understand, or if they notice something that worries them, they should feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns. Your children will get your side of the story, at least, and will be able to form their own opinion rather than blindly accepting whatever their other parent says.
When Appropriate, Go to Court
Typically, parents should not get the court involved unless it is absolutely necessary. The court should not be involved in normal parental disputes after divorce, even if one parent is badmouthing their co-parent to the kids. However, if your ex goes so far as to violate the custody arrangement, then you might have reason to go to court.
At the conclusion of a divorce, your custody arrangement is established by court order. If your ex is preventing you from exercising your visitation, shared custody, parenting time, or other custody rights, then they are acting in violation of a court order. Violating a court order can result in sanctions including monetary penalties, reduced custody rights, and even jail time. Talk to your custody attorney about your situation to determine whether it warrants asking the court to intervene.
Additionally, if your co-parent’s behavior reaches the point of abuse, you must act to protect your children. With help from the proper authorities, you can get your kids away from your ex and keep them in a safe location. Make sure that your actions are necessary and that you go through the appropriate channels (talking to the authorities, getting permission from the court before or after the fact, etc.) to avoid running afoul of court orders and facing charges of parental abduction yourself.
Call Herbert & Weiss for Help With New Jersey Child Custody Matters
If you’re facing a divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.