There is general agreement that, when possible, a child attaching to both parents is essential to their healthy mental development. This does begin in infancy but it continues as they age. When a parent takes action to try and prevent their child from attaching to the other parent, there can be lifelong consequences for the child.
In California, who decides physical and legal custody of children will depend on a variety of factors but ultimately a family judge will have to approve any agreement. In some terrible situations, one parent may act illegally to try and prevent their co-parent from seeing their child or destroying the relationship the child has with said parent. This is known as parental alienation.
Disparagement is One form of Parental Alienation
When one parent makes cruel, critical, or otherwise negative comments about the other parent then they have engaged in disparagement. This can include telling a child that their other parent is at fault for the divorce or separation. It could include giving details of the other parent’s personal life and telling the child that their other parent is a bad parent. It could even be that the parent tells the child that their other parent does not love them.
Undermining Authority is a Type of Parental Alienation
Another example is when one parent undermines the authority of another. Ideally, both parents would have a say in decisions about the health, safety, and education of the child but this requires the child to follow the joint decision as well. If one parent decides to allow the child to do something that is not agreed upon by both, then they are undermining the authority of the other parent.
For example, if both parents agreed that their 14-year-old daughter had a ten PM curfew but one parent allows the curfew to be extended to midnight when the daughter is with them, this can be considered undermining authority. While it may seem innocent, the truth is that it can affect how well the child interacts with the rest of the world. Why? Because they are getting mixed messages from their parents.
How to Prove Parental Alienation
As is true of any dispute between parents who are having trouble working things out with each other, if you believe that the other parent is committing parental alienation then you will want to contact a family law attorney to find out what your options are. If it is an isolated event then you will likely not have many options. However, if there is a pattern of this type of behavior then you may have options.
If you are in need of a consultation with an experienced family law attorney we encourage you to contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 for a free legal consultation.