Parental Alienation: Not a Black and White Issue
Parental alienation is becoming a more frequent discussion in family court cases. The concern is often raised when there is difficulty with a parent-child relationship or parent-child access. Unfortunately, parental alienation is a term which is often misunderstood – sometimes very misunderstood.
Degrees of AlienationParental alienation occurs on a continuum: mild, moderate, and severe. An example of mild alienation is when some parenting time, such as a mid-week visit, is withheld on a regular basis. An example of moderate alienation is when a parent is denied most contact and/or is only allowed contact when the preferred parent is present. Severe alienation is when the parent loses all contact with a child. Obviously, there are a lot of variations beyond these simple examples, but the point is that parental alienation is far from a "black-and-white" issue.
DefinitionsIn cases where parental alienation has been identified, there is an "alienated child", a "rejected parent", and a "preferred parent". The preferred parent is the parent engaging in the alienating behavior, and the rejected parent is the parent being excluded from the child's life. Alienating means that the preferred parent is undermining the relationship between the child and the rejected parent in some way. It may be done passively or as part of a very active, overt campaign of denigration.
A passive example is when the alienating parent says things like, *I asked him if he wanted to go to your house, and he said he had too much homework.* An active or overt alienation example may be when the parenting parent makes disparaging remarks or displays negative conduct directed at the rejected parent in front of the child.
The child's conduct becomes evident as *alienated* when they begin adopting an attitude of rejection in which their words and behavior minimize the importance of the relationship with the rejected parent. The child may even mimic the disparaging comments or negative conduct they have heard from or seen displayed by the alienating parent.
What Should You Do?The simple answer is you must deal with this issue as quickly as you can. Rather than allowing mild issues and behaviors on the parental alienation spectrum to worsen, it is best to get a targeted legal and mental health intervention in place as soon as possible. It is important to remember that when parental alienation is moderate or even severe, all is not lost. However, these cases require an experienced legal team to help restore the parent-child relationship in a healthy manner.
We can help.If you or someone you know is dealing with possible parental alienation issues, our experienced family court attorneys can help. The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for well over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce, including complex cases. We are well-equipped to handle all family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at (864) 598-9172 to schedule an initial consultation.
About the Author: J. Benjamin StevensAggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Ben is a National Vice President and Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocates. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with all three of these distinctions.