An Introduction to Parental Alienation and Child Custody

When you choose to have a child with someone, you hope that they will love it and cherish it and act in its best interests with the same sense of urgency that you do. However, life generally and parenthood specifically are complicated. And there may come a time when your co-parent suddenly seeks either intentionally or unintentionally to alienate your child from you. Should this occur, your child custody dispute could become significantly affected by it.

Though parental alienation is not technically a mental disorder as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is still a widely recognized phenomenon in family law courts. This condition can result from a child’s reaction to divorce simply because his or her cognitive development has progressed in a certain way, or it can arise as a result of the intentional or unintentional behavior on the part of a parent.

Family law judges are required to rule generally in child custody matters according to the best interests of the child standard. If a parent is trying to alienate a child from its other parent, the court could certainly see fit to award custody to the non-alienating parent. Though, in more challenging and subtle cases, alienation could actually work in favor of the more manipulative parent even though it absolutely should not.

In the end, parents who have concerns that their co-parent is trying to alienate their child from them or that their child is alienating him or herself should speak to an experienced family law attorney. Only experienced legal counsel can help parents successfully navigate alienation concerns given their complexity and the serious consequences that they can inspire.

Source: Minnesota Lawyer, “In divorce, alienation a big risk,” Paul M. Reitman and Adam Gierok, Apr. 12, 2013

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