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Child Custody & Parenting Plans

How to Protect Your Rights Against Parental Alienation Tactics

Is yours a divorce where it became clear early on in the process that the other adult involved was not going to make things easy for you? Like most good parents in California, you really just wanted to work out a fair and agreeable parenting plan, then allow the rest of the divorce process to unfold as swiftly and amicably as possible. You assumed your former spouse also had your children's best interests at heart, that is until he or she started to try to alienate them from you.

Such nasty and vengeful behavior happens so often it now has an official name: Parental Alienation Syndrome. It usually begins with one parent demeaning, degrading, insulting or complaining about the other parent in front of the kids. It can quickly escalate into something far worse, however. That's why it's critical to know where to turn for support if a PAS problem arises.

How to recognize this syndrome

How can you tell if your former spouse is simply angry with you (as usual) or is proactively trying to impede your relationship with your kids? The following list of PAS warning signs might help:

  • If the other parent keeps trying to squelch your visits, perhaps by making excuses that your child is ill or otherwise unable to be with you, it may be cause for concern.
  • If you and your child are used to having a close relationship, and your child suddenly starts telling you not to come to special events, such as baseball or soccer games, school concerts, or other festivities, you may want to further investigate a possible underlying reason, which might include PAS.
  • Did your spouse remove your name from the contact list on your child's school or athletic team forms? This is a major red flag that alienation is taking place.
  • If you notice that your child is more combative or disrespectful beyond the normal scope for his or her age group, it might be a reason to take a step back and closely review the situation.

It's one thing to suspect that your former spouse is trying to turn your child against you. It's quite another if such malice is affecting your ability to parent and negatively impacting your personal relationship with your son or daughter.

What to do about it

PAS often occurs when custody disagreements arise or when parents dislike each other so much they can hardly be in the same room without arguing. If you believe your former spouse is acting out of spite or anger to manipulate your child and pit him or her against you, you can bring the situation to the immediate attention of the court, especially if the other parent's actions are against an existing court order, such as not allowing a child to come to your house on your scheduled visit days.