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How fathers can recognize and address parental alienation

Sometimes it can be hard for dads to compete with the connection most children have with their moms. This disparity can come clearly into focus when a couple separates or divorces, particularly if the mother is consciously or unconsciously creating parental alienation between child and dad. While constructive co-parenting should be the norm, 11-15 percent of divorces involve parental alienation. This can appear in a number of warning signs in the behavior of the child or ex-wife.

The signs of alienation

There many different symptoms, but here are some of the most common examples.

Signs in the child:

  • Exclusionary requests by the child, such as not wanting dad to come to a game or a teacher conference
  • Oppositional behavior from a child that did not previous exhibit this behavior
  • Spread of animosity to other family members, such as aunts, uncles and grandparents
  • Silly rationalizations for not wanting to see dad
  • A sense of entitlement paired with denigrating behavior towards a father
  • Failure to recall any past positive bonding experiences

Signs in the mother:

  • Exclusionary behavior, such as failing to inform dad about important meetings or events
  • Removal of father's contact information for school or daycare
  • Planning activities during father's scheduled parenting time
  • Speaking badly or disparagingly about dad in front of the child or children

What to do next

If there are legitimate concerns about parental alienation, a father's first response should be to continue to engage the child or children while meeting or exceeding every parental obligation outlined in the divorce agreement. While it will not always be smooth sailing after a divorce, remaining positive is important. This includes trying to build a working relationship with the ex-wife because it is in the best interests of the family.

Legal guidance may also be needed. An experienced Texas Board-certified family law expert attorney in Dallas, Plano, Frisco or McKinney, Texas can help enforce the guidelines of the parenting plan, including custody and visitation rights. As the needs of the family change, the attorney can also work with the ex-wife or her attorney to modify or update the parenting plan.

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