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Parental Alienation Syndrome- When Your Child Has Been Turned Against You

            Are your children refusing to see you during a divorce or custody dispute?  Is the mother of your child interfering with you seeing your child?  When this occurs it is easy to assume that the other parent has turned the child against you.  This type of behavior is commonly referred to as parental alienation behavior, and the outcome of this behavior can be parental alienation.  The Need to Carefully Screen for Family Violence When Parental Alienation is Claimed, by Daniel G. Saunders, Ph.D. and Kathleen Faller, Ph.D., Michigan Family Law Journal, June/July 2016. 

Of course, not all children who are refusing to see a parent have been alienated.  Divorce and custody disputes can be difficult for everybody involved, including the children.  Despite the fact that some parents may try to alienate children from the other parent, “parental alienation syndrome” is not generally recognized in the legal and mental health communities because it lacks scientific validity.  This makes it all the more difficult to fight against a parent who actually is trying to impair your relationship with your child without any good reason.

When your children are old enough to have an opinion about parenting time and relationships with each parent, it can be easier to determine the cause of why they do not want to see you.  It can also be easier to have a better understanding of such behavior and the issues your children are facing.  However, when they are too young to properly communicate, it can make approaching this problem that much more difficult. 

Children can be reluctant to visit the other parent for a wide variety of reasons at all ages.  For example, a child may internally blame one of the parents for causing the breakup of the marriage or the relationship.  A child may also have a normal developmental preference for one parent, such as a teenage girl being better able to identify more with her mother than her father.  A child may also refuse to see the other parent because they have witnessed physical or verbal abuse by that parent. 

Although the cause can be difficult to determine, the behavior associated with parental alienation is very common.  The mother of your child may refuse to allow the children to speak to you by phone, or she may refuse to follow a parenting time schedule.  She may also frequently try to change the parenting time schedule with the end result being that you do not regularly see your children.  The mother of your children might also talk to the children about how she feels about you, and speak ill of you in their presence.  All of this behavior interferes with your relationship with your children. 

The mother of your children may move away for no real reason, or try to change the children’s school without discussing things with you.  She may interfere with your relationship with the child’s school, such as removing you from the emergency contact, or telling school employees things that are not true about you.  She may also refuse to discuss medical decisions for the children with you, make unilateral medical decisions for the children, or change their doctors without notice or good reason.

There are ways to respond to this type of behavior, and you can assert your rights in a meaningful way to be certain that this behavior ends.  For example, if you have a parenting time schedule, but it is vague and says “reasonable parenting time”, it is possible to go through the court system and get a more specific parenting time schedule.  If you have every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. with the children, it will be much harder to deny your parenting time or for someone to claim “it’s not your week.” 

If the mother of your children is interfering with the information you get from your child’s school, you can go directly to the school and avoid relying on the mother or the child for information.  You can also deal directly with the child’s doctor, dentist, or care provider, instead of expecting the mother or the children to keep you informed.  These strategies involve asserting your rights, but of course you first need to know what your rights are.

There are many actions, both in and out of the court system, you can take to guarantee that contact with your children is reasonable and fair.  Most of the obstacles put in place by the mother of a child can be prevented through strategies offered by us as experienced divorce and family law attorneys.  You have a right to a relationship with your children without interference from their mother or anyone else.  We can help take a look at the current arrangement with your children and advise you how to have a healthy and happy relationship with your children, with or without the assistance of their mother. 

About ADAM (American Divorce Association for Men)

The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) is a group of highly qualified attorneys who advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child custody and parenting time, paternity, support, property settlement, post judgment modifications, and other family law matters. Since 1988, ADAM has been aggressive, diligent, and uncompromising when representing their clients. A team of compassionate and skilled family law attorneys, ADAM is dedicated to being Michigan’s leading divorce attorneys for men and practices a policy of integrity in all dealings.


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