If you're divorced or broken up from an ex that you have a child with, you probably wonder what's being told to your kid when you aren't around. Small children process a split between their parents differently than a mature teenager would, so they'll have a lot of questions about your situation. How these matters are explained to your child could influence the way your child perceives you, especially if your ex blames you for the split and makes you out to be a bad person. This psychological phenomenon is referred to as “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS).
If your Pennsylvania child custody case involves parental alienation, the first thing you need to do is contact an experienced family law attorney. A legal professional can help you gain control of your situation before it's too late. But if you aren't sure about what parental alienation is, if it's happening in your family, or why it matters in child custody cases, read on.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Psychology Today defines parental alienation as the “programming of a child by one parent… to undermine and interfere with the child's relationship with [the other] parent.” It's emotional manipulation that encourages the child to one parent over another, resulting in the rejection or “alienation” of the targeted parent. When a child is being manipulated, they'll perceive the targeted parent as the source of their and the favored parent's problems.
Parental alienation syndrome is a term that was coined in 1985 by a psychologist named Richard Gardner. In his study, he noted that the increasing prevalence of this phenomenon was due to the skyrocketing number of child custody battles in the United States.
This syndrome often occurs in families in which one (or both) parents have developed a personality disorder, like borderline or narcissistic types. If your partner has been diagnosed with a personality disorder or displays of one, it's important you remain aware of what they could be capable of.
Indicators of Parental Alienation
Here are some behaviors that a manipulated child will exhibit:
- They come up with silly or unfounded reasons as to why they have chosen to reject the targeted parent
- They will attempt to justify the mistreatment of the targeted parent
- They will think in absolutes - the favored parent is all “good” while the targeted parent is all “bad”
- They will give unwavering support to the favored parent
Why It Matters
In Pennsylvania family court, the preferences of a child generally influence a judge's decision when determining custody. How heavily these preferences influence an outcome depends on the child's age and maturity. The effects of emotional manipulation will undoubtedly prompt a child to exhibit their prejudices in court.
There isn't much empirical evidence to date on parental alienation and its use in court, but some research has found that it is frequently claimed when allegations of abuse arise in custody cases - and judges have been receptive.
But what you're probably most concerned about is where you stand with your child. Unfortunately, once your child's perception of you is tainted, it may take years of therapy to mend your relationship and heal completely.
Need Help With Your PA Child Custody Case? Call Joseph D. Lento Today
Parental alienation is a form of child abuse, and should not be condoned. Children who are victims of emotional manipulation by one or both parents are susceptible to serious trauma, causing destructive behavior and trust issues down the line. Don't let this unacceptable behavior play out without a fight.
Joseph D. Lento is an experienced family law attorney who sees examples of parental alienation often. He understands just how much this phenomenon can wreak havoc on your relationship with your child and your custody. To ensure your parental rights are protected, and that your contributions are considered, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.