What is parental alienation?

In many cases when parents divorce, decisions related to child custody and visitation are made by a family law judge. Once child custody and visitation orders have been established it is then the responsibility of both parents to follow the orders. Additionally, both parents are responsible for their actions and behaviors with regard to how they communicate and attempt to co-parent with an ex-spouse.

Unfortunately, some divorced parents are not able to move beyond their own hurt and negative feelings towards an ex-spouse for the sake of a shared child. As a result, a child may become the victim of what’s known as parental alienation the results of which, for both a child and parent, can have long-term emotional and psychological repercussions.

Parental alienation typically arises in children whose parents have gone through a contentious and high-conflict divorce. As a result of a parent’s negative and hostile words about and behaviors towards an ex-spouse, a child suffering from parental alienation also develops negative and hostile feelings towards one parent that severely damages the targeted parent’s ability to maintain a close relationship with the child.

Even very young children are incredibly perceptive and can tell when a parent is angry and hurt. In cases where parental alienation is an issue, one parent often intentionally says or does things to interfere with the other parent’s relationship with a child. From telling a child that mom or dad doesn’t love or want to spend time with them to destroying evidence proving otherwise, parents who are the targets of parental alienation are robbed of the opportunity to form and maintain close bonds with a son or daughter.

Frequently, fathers who have shared child custody or visitation rights are the targets of parental alienation. Illinois fathers who fear a child may be the victim of parental alienation and who wish to seek a modification of child custody or visitation would be wise to contact an attorney.

Source: Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, “What is Parental Alienation?,” 2014

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