What legal rights do you have if your children’s other parent has turned them against you?
If your ex- or soon-to-be ex-spouse has engaged in parental alienation behavior that has caused your kids to reject you, the key to stopping this injustice is to show a judge that you should have primary or sole timesharing rights because that is in the best interest of your children. As we explained in part 1 of this post, most mental health specialists view parental alienation as a type of child abuse.
The children’s best interests trump everything
The child’s best interest is the primary focus of Florida custody and visitation law. This priority guides the court’s decision making in questions of timesharing, residence, custody and parental decision making. You may be facing the issue of parental alienation in an initial timesharing determination at the divorce stage or you may be back in court after divorce asking for a modification of timesharing in your favor because the alienation has become a significant change in circumstances that justifies a change.
How does alienation impact your children’s welfare?
A family and couples’ therapist is quoted in Psychology Today as saying that parents who alienate their kids against their other parent “are generally too narcissistic and emotionally volatile to be relied upon as nurturing caretakers.” She said that a divorce involving severe alienation is an urgent “emergency rescue mission” that should focus more on the children’s health than the parental conflict.
The therapist noted that in severe alienation, some professionals feel that the targeted parent should have full custody for at least three months during which the alienator should have no contact with the kids. Both the children and the alienating parent should undergo appropriate therapy – for the alienator, specifically to address the alienation behavior and determine if the parent can and will stop.
What evidence is important?
You should present evidence in court that the children’s reluctance to have a normal parent-child relationship with you is a reaction to their other parent’s wrongful, negative pressure on them to reject you. Be prepared to show the falsehood of the other parent’s assertion that the negative things they are telling the children about you are true or that the kids are justified in rejecting you.
Instead, you should show the court that the parent is engaging in parental alienation, which we explained in detail in part 1. The alienating parent likely has their own mental health problems when they pressure the kids not to see you or tell them lies about you designed to make them want to reject you. The other party’s mental health issues are manifesting in a way that is harmful to the kids, and the judge should know this because it is detrimental to your children’s welfare.
Depending on the circumstances, you may need to explain to the judge what parental alienation is so that they understand this complex process. Especially if the court feels your child is mature enough to express a preference between parents, the judge should know that parental alienation may be improperly influencing their preference.
This introduces a complex phenomenon harmful especially to children, but also potentially devastating to the targeted parent. A family lawyer with parental alienation experience can answer questions and begin to plan your strategy to help your children.