Parental Alienation: What Is it and What Can We Do About It?

It is no secret that child custody disputes can quickly become one of the toughest experiences of any family’s life. Whether it occurs as part of a divorce or if the parents were never married, a custody battle becomes the defining aspect of each parent’s life, raising feelings of fear, resentment, and worry. For the child involved, whether he or she is old enough to realize it or not, the custody arrangement will have wide-ranging effects that last for years, and potentially for a lifetime.
In particularly bitter divorces, parents sometimes attempt to pit their child against the other parent for various reasons. That is called parental alienation, and it is the topic of today’s post.

What Is Parental Alienation in Texas?

To put it simply, parental alienation occurs when a parent manipulates a child (or children) with the intent to cause the child to “turn against” or reject the other parent. Perhaps the most common example is when one parent criticizes and vilifies the other parent in front of the child, leading the child to develop a sense of anger or resentment against the other parent. These feelings then severely strain the relationship between the child and the other parent.
Parental alienation is far from a new development; it has happened in divorces forever. But in Texas, family courts have begun to realize how harmful it can be for children who find themselves in the middle of their parents’ dispute. Texas courts appear more willing to act in these situations than ever before.

Why Parental Alienation Happens

Why might one parent seek to pit a child against the other parent? Sometimes the offending parent truly believes the child will be better off in his or her custody. But in many cases, the root of the alienation is a desire to spite the other parent, to take revenge for a slight (real or perceived), or out of fear that the other parent would take the child and prevent the parent from having a meaningful relationship with him or her.

Consequences of Parental Alienation

A child’s emotional and psychological well-being is jeopardized when one parent conditions the child to hate the other. There are rather strong arguments to be made that manipulating a child to believe that a parent is evil or doesn’t care amounts to child abuse.
Under Texas law, the court must act in the best interest of the child. Usually, that starts with a presumption that a child is better off when both parents are involved in the child’s life. The issue is that when a child expresses a dislike for one parent, it is natural for a judge or a jury (who are only human) to believe that the child must have a valid reason for feeling a certain way. This can lead the judge or jury to suspect abuse or neglect by the alienated parent when, in reality, the child has been manipulated by the other parent to say these things.
While Texas family courts appear ready to act on issues parental alienation, it is not always easy to prove. A capable family law attorney will need to spend a good deal of time showing the court that parental alienation is indeed happening.

An Attorney Can Help

If you believe your child is being manipulated against you, an attorney can help by getting mental health experts involved, seeking custody modifications, or requesting various court orders. Contact the Law Offices of V. Wayne Ward in Fort Worth today to get the help you deserve.