After a parent has been wrongfully alienated by the other parent of their children, reunification therapy is the professional approach often used to try to repair the situation and support the mental health of all involved. As we wrote in Part 1 of this series, parental alienation may occur when a parent tries to alienate a child from the other parent without a reasonable basis for doing so.
Parental behaviors that can cause alienation include badmouthing the other parent without reason, blocking communication and contact with the other parent, and in extreme cases, making unsubstantiated allegations against the other parent, including of abuse.
The situation can be very complex and emotionally challenging since it can impact a child’s mental health. It must be determined whether the parent who is attempting to alienate the child from the other parent has legitimate concerns about the influence and behaviors of that parent vis-à-vis the child or whether the attempt at alienation is a manifestation of the high conflict between the parents that is not based on legitimate concerns for the children.
Reunification therapy is a carefully orchestrated process best undertaken by mental health professionals with specific experience in recovery from the impact of parental alienation. Normally, each parent should work individually with his or her own therapist alongside the child’s own work with his or her own reunification therapist.
According to one experienced professional, the child’s therapist’s work should be supported by both parents and the child-therapist relationship must be carefully cultivated into a trusting bond. In addition, the reunification therapist will likely direct each parent to take steps that may not be comfortable for him or her, but that will be motivated by the therapist’s perception of what is in the child’s best interest.
In divorce, allegations of alienation may arise at any stage. For example, the question of whether a parent is unjustifiably trying to alienate a child from the other parent could arise during divorce negotiation or mediation, in a contested divorce trial, or in court proceedings after divorce such as a motion to modify custody or visitation.
Each circumstance is unique. Parents, lawyers, mental health professionals and judges must look at each family situation to sort out what is in the best interest of children and the impact of parental rights in light of Florida law. If you are a parent in need of legal advice, we suggest that you contact our firm to learn more about alienation.