Texas courts take the matter of parental alienation seriously. Public policy aims for children to have steady and productive relationships with each of their parents, and it is a core principle of family law. If one parent attempts to interfere in their child’s relationship with the other parent, judges may deal harshly with it, even to the point where they may take custody away from the alienating parent.
Parental Alienation Is Categorically Wrong and Prohibited
Parental alienation is thought of as a form of child abuse. One parent, for whatever reason, actively disparages and down-talks the other parent, either directly to, or in the presence of, the children. The parent may be actively trying to sabotage the child’s relationship with their other parent, or they may simply not be able to control themselves. Some alienating parents may have an agenda, while others are simply angry and inappropriately lashing out at the other parent through a child. Regardless of the motive, parental alienation should not happen under any circumstances.
Parental alienation serves to undercut a child’s relationship with the other parent because they are regularly exposed to the negativity that influences their emotions. In the end, the child may not even want to have a relationship with the parent about whom they have heard a continuous barrage of criticism from the other parent. This practice is profoundly damaging to a child. It is in the child’s best interest to have unfettered relationships with both parents.
Verbal Examples of Parental Alienation
Here are some examples of what may be considered parental alienation:
- Continuous criticism of the other parent’s methods and parenting
- Sharing details of the divorce or the day-to-day conflicts between the two parents (for example, blaming the other parent for the divorce directly to the child)
- Telling the children blatant lies or things they should not know to ruin the parent’s reputation in the eyes of their child
There Are Other Types of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation may be about more than just the words the other parent speaks, although these can be extremely harmful in and of themselves. Any type of action that can physically interfere with a parent’s relationship with their child may be alienation.
Nonverbal parental alienation can include:
- Keeping the child from speaking to or communicating with the other parent
- Making it extremely difficult for the other parent to exercise their custodial rights
- Making decisions about the child on their own and without consulting the other parent (in violation of the conservatorship agreement)
What to Do When You Discover Alienation
If you discover the other parent of your child has engaged in alienation, it is essential you take prompt action. First, you should attempt to talk about the matter with the other parent and respectfully ask that they stop. If you ever have to go to a judge to resolve the situation, you should be able to show them you took efforts to try to resolve the situation on your own. However, most parents who engage in alienation are so determined or set in their ways that they may not be able to stop. At that point, you may need to bring the matter to the court’s attention. Make sure you document and keep a log of everything you have heard or noticed. When you have specific examples of alienation, it can make for a more persuasive argument when asking a judge to put a stop to it.
It is not always easy to prove parental alienation. The other parent may be subtle about it, and you may not even be certain it is happening. The other parent will have an explanation as to why what they are doing is not parental alienation. Therefore, you should consult with an experienced child custody attorney if you have reason to believe your child is being alienated. Your lawyer will tell you the immediate steps you need to take to put an end to this harmful conduct.
Signs of Parental Alienation
Your child can show the following signs that may indicate the other parent is engaging in alienation:
- Your child suddenly does not want to spend time with you
- Your child appears to be using words and phrases that are not usual for someone of their age
- Your child increasingly becomes more negative towards you and your family
- Your child becomes more sullen and rebellious in general
Judges Will Not Let Parental Alienation Go Unaddressed
Parental alienation is not usually dealt with through the criminal process, but family court judges may make changes to a custody agreement in response to it. If the alienation is severe enough, judges may keep the child from the alienating parent or impose more limits on child custody. This is an indication of the seriousness with which the court views parental alienation. If you can nip the situation in the bud early, you may be able to limit the damage to your child. Otherwise, your child may end up having to deal with a psychologically traumatic experience from which it is not easy to recover.
A child may end up having difficulty forming relationships in general as a result of parental alienation. Their self-confidence may be harmed when a parent has broken down their ability to independently think about others. They may even have problems in school or with their peers because of the emotional turmoil they are experiencing. Once you are able to put a stop to parental alienation, your child may need psychological counseling to help them recover from the damage this conduct caused.