Unfortunately, when parents are involved in a high-conflict divorce or custody dispute, kids can sometimes get caught in the middle. In some cases, a parent may go so far as to attempt to engage in parental alienation. Therefore, if you are involved in a contentious California divorce or custody case, you need to know: What is parental alienation in California?
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation refers to a parent taking deliberate action to turn their child against the other parent. In this circumstance, the alienating parent may say things to their child to get them to reject the other parent. These efforts usually go beyond a parent making an occasional negative remark. Instead, the alienating parent will engage in a pattern of behavior designed to disparage the other parent and damage the parent-child relationship.
How Can I Recognize Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation can be difficult to identify, particularly when it begins. Alienating parents often say and do seemingly innocuous things to interfere with the other parent’s relationship with their child. For instance, an alienating parent may begin to comment negatively about the other parent in the child’s presence. Eventually, these kinds of remarks can result in the child believing that the other parent does not care about them or their relationship and that they have to reject them to keep the love and approval of the targeting parent.
A parent may be engaging in parental alienation when they:
- Make disparaging remarks about the other parent in the presence of the child
- Interfere with the targeted parent’s parenting time.
- Deliberately violate the custodial order.
- Communicate excessively with the child while they are with the targeted parent.
- Unreasonably restricting the targeted parent’s communication with the child.
- Keeping information about the child and their schedule and activities from the targeted parent.
- Telling the child lies about the target parent.
- Conditioning their love and approval of the child on the child rejecting the targeted parent.
- Scheduling activities and events for the child knowing the child is scheduled to be with the other parent during the same time frame.
Parental alienation can be extremely damaging to a child and the parent-child relationship. Therefore, it’s essential to take steps to address the situation promptly.
Signs of Parental Alienation
Detecting alienation can be challenging because the targeted parent is often absent when the alienating behaviors occur. However, there may be some signs of parental interference, such as a child:
- Abruptly transitioning from having a good relationship with the targeted parent to refusing visits and making negative comments about them,
- Showing signs of psychological distress such as being unable to sleep, changes to eating, acting out, having frequent emotional outbursts, or regressive behaviors.
- Making disparaging comments about their parent based on information they should not know or using language that sounds scripted.
- Always taking the alienating parent’s side and seeing them as the “good parent” and the targeted parent as the “bad parent.”
- Being outwardly hostile towards the targeted parent and denying ever having had positive feelings towards them.
If you notice these or other behaviors in your child and they refuse to attend custodial time with you, you should consult an experienced California child custody attorney as soon as possible.
Proving Parental Alienation in California
Proving parental alienation may involve taking various approaches. In California, the court can appoint a custody evaluator to formally investigate a child’s custodial circumstances. Minor’s counsel can also be appointed to advocate for the child’s best interest. The targeted parent can also gather evidence such as social media content, emails, texts, voicemails, and information from relatives to demonstrate the alienating behaviors.
If you believe your child is being subjected to parental alienation, you should contact an experienced California child custody attorney to review your concerns and discuss your next steps and options.
Contact a California Child Custody Attorney
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced child custody attorneys who can help. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.