Child custody is an emotional experience for any parent. A primary concern is not only protecting your child or children, but maintaining a close relationship. Unfortunately, there are cases in which one parent attempts to alienate the child from the other parent. There are different motivations for doing so, but parental alienation can have a devastating effect on the parent-child relationship and often the child suffers.
Judges do not like to see children brought into the middle of a custody battle in any way. If the other parent is trying to turn your child or children against you, it’s imperative to take swift legal action. Count on Bob Matteucci of Matteucci Family Law to stand up for you.
What Is Parental Alienation?
It’s not uncommon for parents to clash over custody. Courts have little tolerance for acrimony between parents and are highly sensitive to children being put in the middle of angry or bitter legal battles. For that reason, family court judges don’t condone parental behavior such as outward hostility towards one another in the presence of children.
However, parental alienation goes beyond this. It’s an intentional, concerted effort to turn a child against the other parent and damage the parent-child relationship. Alienating parents have different reasons for doing this, including jealousy, insecurity, or revenge. Regardless of the motivations behind it, parental alienation is viewed by many child psychologists as a form of abuse.
It’s worth emphasizing that parental alienation doesn’t happen by accident; rather, it’s the result of a deliberate desire to hurt the child’s relationship with the other parent. While every case of parental alienation is different, there are a few common behaviors that may lead to it. They include:
- Belittling, berating, or criticizing the other parent in the child’s presence, sometimes through false or exaggerated allegations
- Blaming the other parent in front of the child for problems such as the divorce
- Discussing details of the divorce or custody proceedings with the child
- Withholding information about the child from the other parent
- Excluding the other parent from the child’s extracurricular activities
- Refusing to share vital information about the child such as medical, school, and related matters with the other parent
- Allowing the child to decide whether to visit the other parent
- Discouraging the child from visiting the other parent
- Attempting to make the child feel guilty for wanting to visit the other parent
- Interfering with communications between the child and the other parent
- Constantly threatening court action over minor disagreements
What Are The Signs Of Parental Alienation?
While the other parent can become understandably upset at behaviors like those listed above, the real consequences of parental alienation are often observed in the child. You should be on the lookout for these signs:
- The child is resentful towards you
- The child appears fearful or distrustful of you
- It’s more difficult to discipline the child during your visitation time
- The child doesn’t want to spend time or communicate with you
- The child mimics some of the same negative statements or behaviors of the other parent
What Can New Mexico Courts Do?
To put it mildly, courts take a negative view of actions and statements that can damage the child’s relationship with the other parent and lead to alienation. Because the court’s paramount concern is the best interests of the child, the judge has to consider the child’s well-being throughout custody litigation and beyond. Even after a custody matter has concluded, the court can revisit it later if there’s reason to believe that changes should be made.
These are some steps that a court may take to attempt to reverse or mitigate the effects of parental alienation:
- Modify a previous child custody order
- Hold contempt proceedings
- Ordering counseling or similar measures for the child, parent, or parents
Strategies For Proving Parental Alienation
It’s one thing to suspect parental alienation, yet quite another to convince the judge it’s taking place. That’s why it’s important to work with a knowledgeable New Mexico child custody attorney. Here are some possible ways you can demonstrate parental alienation to the judge:
Written records. Parents who attempt to alienate children often leave a paper trail of emails, texts, social media posts, and other records. But the other parent will rarely admit to alienating the child, so the evidence has to be viewed in light of the overall circumstances. The more communications there are between the alienating parent and the child or the other parent, the more likely it is that written evidence will show exactly what’s taking place.
Witnesses. The non-alienating parent can serve as a witness in court to attest to damaging statements he or she has seen on the part of the alienating parent. The same is true for friends or relatives of the non-alienating parent. Of course, the alienating parent will simply claim those witnesses are biased. That’s why you should seek out objective witnesses like coaches, teachers, and others who can back up your assertions.
Expert witnesses. Expert witnesses may be necessary to explain to the judge the nature and effects of parental alienation. These are individuals who can offer professional opinions involving mental health, psychiatry, and related disciplines that touch on this subject. Ask your attorney about calling an expert witness to support your claims.
Contact A New Mexico Family Law Attorney About Parental Alienation
Because of the damaging effects of parental alienation, we recommend taking prompt legal action if you suspect the other parent is trying to turn your child against you. Let Bob Matteucci of Matteucci Family Law review your case and advise the best approach to handle the problem. Call us today to get started.