As a parent, you understand that a divorce affects more than just your relationship with your soon-to-be ex -- it also affects your children. Most parents work to make this process as easy as possible for their children by limiting conflict when they are around and ensuring that they still have ready access to both of their parents.
Unfortunately, some California parents use their children as tools. You may be one of an untold number of parents who experience having their relationship with their child harmed by your ex -- a phenomenon known as parental alienation.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is when one parent negatively influences a child's relationships with his or her other parent. While this might sound simple, its impact is anything but. Victims of parental alienation often miss out on valuable time with their children or lose custody altogether, and their relationships can suffer permanent, irreversible damage.
This type of alienation usually occurs because the other parent wants primary or sole custody. Parents accomplish this through a series of behaviors that, over time, can cause a child to turn against their other parent. These behaviors include:
- Speaking badly of the other parent in the children's presence
- Reconstructing events from the past to make the other parent look bad
- Preventing children from spending time with their other parent
Parental alienation is not uncommon
Exactly how often parental alienation occurs is unclear. However, small-scale studies indicate that this experience is not at all uncommon. One such study surveyed a random collection of 610 adults, of which over 13 percent reported that they experienced alienation from at least one child. Nearly half of the alienated parents reported that the experience had a severe impact on their lives.
Societal stereotypes might lead some to believe that mothers are more likely to alienate than fathers, or vice versa, but that study did not find any statistical differences between the two. However, although equally likely to alienate, both fathers and mothers tend to use stereotypes when engaging in this behavior.
Your relationship with your child could be on the line
You may feel tempted to let certain alienating behaviors slide or to excuse them as irrational behavior fueled by the divorce. While emotions do run high during divorce, alienating behavior has real and long-lasting implications for you and your children.
It is important to act swiftly as soon as your ex begins to exhibit behaviors of parental alienation. This may include establishing a temporary custody order prior to concluding divorce proceedings, which would protect your time with your children until you establish a more permanent arrangement. A lawyer experienced in California family law can help guide you through these difficult times to the outcome that has your children's best interests in mind.