One of the biggest fears of parents who divorce is that their children will reject them. It can happen when one or all of your children refuse to honor the parenting plan by switching homes when scheduled. The rebuffed parent likely will feel angry and hurt, which may have been the other parent’s intent. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the other parent may have taken steps to turn the children against you and create parental alienation.
Parental alienation is an emotional form of abuse
Turning a child or children against you can happen in many ways:
- Sharing inappropriate and hurtful details about the unsuccessful marriage.
- Blaming you whenever there are issues like money concerns or scheduling problems.
- Planning fun or desirable activities when the children are scheduled to be with you.
- Not communicating important information or activities to you, such as a rescheduled game or recital.
- Justifying their punishing behavior because they are “telling the truth.”
What if the children want changes?
There may be other factors why the children do not want to visit. For example, they may miss activities, sports or friends because you do not live nearby. They also may feel uncomfortable if you live with a new partner. It is also common for children to want to switch primary residence to the other parent in their teen years for reasons of convenience, or to seek a home with greater apparent luxuries and/or less discipline. In cases like these, it may be best to communicate these concerns and find solutions by officially modifying the parenting plan with a new modified court order.
Parental alienation can become a legal matter
The alienated parent may be entitled to take legal action to enforce the parenting plan. However, before starting that process, it might make sense to seek counseling to help rebuild the parent-child bond. If that does not solve the issue, the courts may need to get involved.
Texas courts and family experts believe that children are generally best served when they have healthy relationships with both parents. It can mean removing the child from the alienating parent’s custody, restricting their access to the child, or holding them in contempt of court in order to encourage them to foster that bond. Whether the other parent agrees or not, it is normally in the children’s best interests when both parents are involved in their lives, so they should do everything in their power to foster and encourage the relationship.
These are complex issues in which the goal is to strengthen or rebuild a parent-child bond rather than create further damage. An experienced Board-certified Family Law expert attorney experienced in parental alienation issues can help protect the parent’s rights and ensure that they have regular healthy contact that fosters and encourages each child’s relationship with each parent.