When parents decide to end their relationship or marriage, the goal should always be to co-parent so that the children are able to retain a great relationship with both of their parents. However, in some cases, this becomes impossible because one parent may try to interfere with the kids’ relationship with the other parent. When this happens, there may be parental alienation involved. If you think that you, or someone you know, is not able to have the same relationship with his or her children after a relationship ending than what they had previously, it’s important for the parent being cut out of their children’s lives to act quickly.
When one parent begins utilizing words or actions that can cause a child to develop misconceptions about one parent, immediate legal action should be taken to end this type of behavior before the situation becomes more difficult to deal with. We have seen parents go from having a great relationship with their sons or daughters to, over a very short period of time, those same children refusing to visit with that parent. This allows the manipulating parent to claim, “It’s not me. They just do not want to be with you.” With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our attorneys understand that dealing with parental alienation means working through both emotional and legal challenges. O’Connor Family Law is prepared to help and support you through this difficult time.
Start Small when Dealing with Parental Alienation
Parental Alienation can happen in many different levels. If you, or someone you know, is in a position where the children are refusing to see the parent, it can seem hopeless, but the key is not to give up. A major part of dealing with parental alienation is trying to maintain a relationship with your children, even in small ways. As such, legal professionals often recommend working with your kids or the alienating parent, when possible, to rebuild the parent-child bond by:
- Sending encouraging and thoughtful cards and letters
- Remembering birthdays and holidays
- Scheduling bi-weekly phone or video calls
- Requesting supervised visits outside the home (when there have been allegations of physical abuse)
- Asking for additional visitation that is shorter in duration but more frequent
- Stay involved with what is going on in the children’s lives
- Show up at their school events or activities – even if you’re just sitting in the corner and they do not acknowledge you
Connect with a Compassionate Family Attorney
If a co-parent or child completely ignores all healthy attempts at contact, consider discussing your parental rights with legal counsel. An attorney from our firm can fight to protect or rebuild the relationship you once had with your child that the other parent has worked to try to destroy.
The law presumes that kids benefit the most when two fit parents share custody equally. Massachusetts’ custody and visitation determinations require advocates to consider each parent’s willingness to facilitate healthy relationships between children and a co-parent. Usually in parental alienation cases, the other parent will try to put the blame on the parent being alienated – he or she was abusive or does not listen to the children or has some other sort of issue that is meant solely to “muddy the waters.” Working with an attorney who understands that a mere allegation does not simply mean it is true is extremely important. Working with an attorney who can also look at the actions you have or have not taken and make suggestions on the changes you can make to help improve your relationship is just as important as well.
Request Judicial Intervention when Faced with Parental Alienation
Most parents who are acting in ways to interfere with the other parent’s relationship will refuse to resolve parental alienation disputes amicably. Unless forced to deal with their actions, they will just continue until the child believes everything negative about the other parent and refuses on his or her own to have a relationship. In these situations, you will need help from a family court. You may be able to file for a modification or a contempt to begin the process of stopping the alienation tactics.
Parental alienation may also act as grounds to modify an existing child custody order as many courts are beginning to understand that parental alienation has long-lasting effects on children that are just as bad as physical or emotional abuse. Although the paths to fix the situation can be long and wearing, more so the longer you wait to start correcting the manipulative actions of the other parent, there are many orders that a judge can issue to get you and your children back on the right path. One of our amazing lawyers who have a great deal of experience with parental alienation cases can file a complaint on your behalf to get you back on track.
Avoid Involving the Children when Handling Parent Alienation
While it may be frustrating when the other parent denies you the ability to see, communicate, or be involved in decisions with your children, it is important to avoid involving your kids when handling parental alienation situations. Parents bear responsibility for facilitating a healthy parent-child bond. You can harm your case by raising your legal concerns with your kids instead of an attorney, a therapist, or the court.
Judges often take emotional manipulation (i.e. badmouthing the other parent, encouraging the children to not see the other parent, or treating children as a sounding board for their frustrations about the other parent) extremely seriously when they are presented correctly. Massachusetts family courts consider these actions when entering or modifying child custody orders, and judges have sanctioned parents for discouraging healthy parent-child relationships. A dedicated legal advocate from O’Connor Family Law can help you decide what to do when dealing with parental alienation claims and rebuild your parent-child relationship in Massachusetts.