By: Michelle L. Searcy
As a family law attorney who has been practicing for more than ten years, I hear a lot of allegations made between parties. A particularly difficult dilemma for parties and their attorneys arises when someone is actively involved in alienating children from the other parent or when a party believes the other parent is alienating them from the children. Because the legal impact of alienation can be severe, it is important to distinguish alienation, which is a form of child abuse, from other bad behavior on the part of parents.
Psychiatrist Richard Gardner first coined the term parental alienation syndrome and stated, “Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It is caused by a combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrination and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.” If you are reading this article because you fear the other parent may be alienating your children, it is important to note the two primary aspects of parental alienation: (1) that the child denigrates the targeted parent and (2) that there is no justification.
Therefore, if the other parent makes derogatory statements to the child but the child continues to have a loving relationship with the targeted parent, there is no alienation. This is not to say that badmouthing the other parent to the child is acceptable. Courts do weigh each parent’s ability to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent heavily. However, if such efforts by the parent attempting alienation have not impacted the child’s relationship with the other parent, it is not parental alienation syndrome, yet it is still wrong and action can be taken. Continue reading