Common Signs of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can be a negative outcome of divorce if your ex-spouse uses his or her ill will toward you to affect your relationship with your child. Parental alienation refers to a child becoming estranged from one parent due to the psychological manipulation of the other parent. It is a serious issue that can negatively affect the child-parent relationship, potentially for life. If you believe parental alienation is happening in your family after a separation or divorce, you have rights. You may be able to use evidence of parental alienation against your spouse during a child custody case.

Imitative Learning

One way to identify parental alienation is by observing your child’s actions and behaviors. Your child may start changing how he or she acts toward you, such as growing colder or more distant. While many people misconstrue this as general emotional changes in the child from the divorce, the cause could actually be parental alienation. Your child could be exhibiting signs of imitative learning. Children learn social behaviors by imitation. If an abusive parent is positioning him or herself against you, your child may start to imitate his or her negative attitudes.

Resisting Contact

Another common sign of parental alienation is your child resisting contact with you or growing codependent on your other spouse. While these could be signs of broader emotional trauma from the divorce, it could also be a red flag for parental alienation. Your spouse may be encouraging this behavior by badmouthing you around your child, lying about things you said or did, blaming the divorce on you or presenting false ideas about you not wanting to be around the child. This type of psychological manipulation could make your child pull away from you while growing closer to your ex-spouse.

Pushing for Primary Custody With the Other Parent

Your child may be the victim of psychological manipulation if he or she has a one-sided view of the split or extremely polarized feelings about each parent. If your child seems to have a rewritten version of events, it could be a sign that your ex-spouse has been manipulating the situation. This could lead to serious issues, such as your child siding with your ex-spouse during a custody battle. If your child is trying to help your ex-spouse get full custody by talking to a judge, defying joint custody orders or avoiding all contact with you, you could have a severe case of parental alienation.

Extreme Hostility

In other severe cases, your child could suddenly start to exhibit hostility or hatred toward you. Do not assume these behaviors are the result of emotional distress over the split, especially if your child’s anger seems only directed at you and not your ex or other adults. It is more likely that your ex-spouse’s venom toward you has trickled down to your child. Openly defying you, starting arguments, physically assaulting you or expressing wishes to hurt you could be signs of extreme parental alienation.

What to Do About Parental Alienation

Try to document parental alienation with proof, such as conversations your child has had with you about what your ex-spouse says behind your back, or comparisons between your healthy relationship with your child before the divorce and what it looks like now. Bringing your child to a therapist for an official diagnosis could also serve as important proof. Any evidence that could prove parental alienation or the psychological manipulation of your child could help your case.

If the signs of parental alienation are there and you fear for your child’s emotional wellbeing, speak to a judge about the situation. Showing a judge proof could lead to the modification of a custody order if the judge believes it is in the child’s best interests. Contact a Los Angeles family law attorney about your case for assistance as well.