A key factor in how well a child adjusts to divorce is the ability for the parents to get along. Many parents are good about ensuring that the child is shielded from all of the conflict. However, some parents may inadvertently or even intentionally put the child in the middle by forcing the child to choose sides. In some cases, the parent may engage in parental alienation, which is very harmful to children. Parental alienation can also impact your child custody case, since New Jersey courts consider the best interests of the child in deciding custody arrangements.
Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to interfere with and undermine a child’s relationship with the other parent. Parental alienation can take many different forms, such as limiting contact between the child and the other parent or refusing to acknowledge the existence of the other parent. Most often, the alienation occurs as a result of disparaging comments the parent makes about the other parent in front of or to the child. The child may then become programmed to feel a more intense attachment towards the disparaging parent and to dislike or avoid the other parent. In extreme cases, parental alienation may even lead the child to make false allegations of abuse against the parent.
Studies show that parental alienation is very harmful to children. Children may experience serious emotional effects, like depression, lack of trust, and low self-esteem. These emotions stem from the child’s separation from one parent. The child may feel like that parent does not love or want the child.
If the other parent has engaged in parental alienation, you have legal recourses. New Jersey courts can order remedies when one parent interferes with the other parent’s court-ordered parenting time either by parental alienation or some other action. The court can order that the alienated parent and child attend reunification therapy, which is designed to help reestablish the relationship between the parent and child. The court could also award make-up parenting time, modify the parenting time plan, or impose sanctions on the parent who did the alienating.
Do you believe the other parent is violating the child custody orders? Contact a family law attorney to learn how to protect your rights.
Source: Psychology Today, “The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children,” Edward Kruk, April 25, 2013