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Child CustodyDivorce

What is Parental Alienation?

Over the years, PA has been a somewhat controversial topic in the family law arena.  Parental alienation (“PA”) is a term that is used to describe a child being encouraged by her parent (the “favored parent”) to unjustly reject the other parent (the “targeted parent”).  Some professionals, attorneys and courts question the veracity of the underlying theories that define PA.  Some experts use the term “parental alienation strategies” to describe the behaviors that the favored parent engages in when working to turn the child against the other parent.  While some of these strategies are present in most cases, it is uncommon for the strategies to be effective; that is, very often the child will not be wholly alienated from the targeted parent.

Dr. Amy Baker’s book “Surviving Parental Alienation” describes the strategies which fall under 5 categories–

(1) the favored parent sends poisonous messages to the child about the targeted parent (such as her parent is not loving or is unsafe or has abandoned her, etc.);

(2) the favored parent limits contact and communication between the child and the targeted parent;

(3) “erasing and replacing” the targeted parent in the heart and mind of the child;

(4) the favored parent encourages the child to betray the targeted parent’s trust; and

(5) the favored parent undermines the authority of the targeted parent.

If the favored parent is successful at alienating the child from his other parent, all or most of 8 defined behaviors will manifest in an alienated child. These behaviors include—

(1) the child will engage in a campaign of denigration (attacking) of the targeted parent;

(2) the child will assert weak, frivolous, or absurd reasons for rejecting the targeted parent;

(3) the child will lack ambivalence (one parent is all bad and the other is all good; thus, a child cannot hold two ideas about a parent; i.e. be upset with dad about a timeout but still love him; instead, dad will be 100% bad regardless of what dad does that may be good);

(4) the child will lack remorse for his/her poor treatment of the targeted parent;

(5) the child will automatically support for the favored parent;

(6) the child will use borrowed scenarios (stories from the favored parent);

(7) the child will claim that he/she is an “independent thinker” (i.e., she will claim that all her hatred toward the targeted parent is 100% her idea); and

(8) the hatred/animosity towards the targeted parent extends to the child’s friends and family.

PA cases are difficult.  They are difficult due to the behaviors and resulting emotions involved.  These cases are also difficult because significant and strategic evidence is necessary to prove that the ultimate cause of a child’s alienation from a parent is the result of the favored parent’s actions and manipulation of the child.  If you believe that PA may be present in your case, consult with an experienced family law attorney to obtain support, understanding, and encouragement.

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