It’s a given that both you and your former spouse want to get through your divorce without too much turbulence. As such, it’s certainly healthy to put aside any underlying resentments and move forward in a positive manner. This helps you and your respective family lawyers to reach fair custody arrangements that are in the best interests of you and your children.
However it’s important to recognize that this civility shouldn’t end once the terms of the divorce and custody have been agreed on. Unfortunately, it may be the case that your former spouse doesn’t share your commitment to maintain a positive relationship to ensure that your children have the best possible experience with both parents. Indeed, there may be signs they’ve sought to alienate your children from you.
This is not only frustrating and upsetting. It can make you feel hopeless, particularly when you can see it’s damaging your connection with your children. Taking legal action is usually your best course of action, but this also requires you to provide evidence of the situation. So, let’s take a closer look at the subject of parental alienation and how you can prove it.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation occurs when one parent intentionally and repeatedly tries to portray the other parent in a negative light to the shared child. This is often an attempt to disrupt or damage the other parent’s relationship with the child. There are various ways your ex may be pursuing this course of action. They may be telling your child untruths about your behavior. It may involve them expressing their negative feelings about your relationship and framing you to be entirely at fault. Your ex may even share what they consider to be faults you have in an unbalanced and exaggerated way. Whatever the tactics are, the intention is the same. Your ex wants your child to feel positively about them and negatively about you.
Importantly, this is also a serious form of manipulation. Many child psychology professionals and child welfare organizations consider parental alienation to be a form of child abuse. After all, this is a systematic attempt to negatively influence your child and compromise their relationship with a parent. While this may not result in overt physical danger, it can certainly impact their emotional wellness, social development, and psychological stability. As such, it’s only right that your child should be protected from this as they should from any other form of abuse.
How Can You Be Sure Alienation Has Occurred?
One of the difficulties with parental alienation is catching it early enough to make a real difference. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll witness attempts at alienation first-hand. Indeed, there are few ways you can be absolutely certain it is occurring. As such, you should be mindful of certain symptoms in your child that can suggest the presence of alienation tactics. These include:
EXCESSIVE CRITICISM. It’s not unusual for children — particularly teenagers — to be critical of their parents occasionally. However, if younger children in particular are frequently critical of your behavior, choices, lifestyle, or personality this could be a sign that alienation is occurring. This is particularly prevalent if they’re using language or expressing opinions about you that seem too adult or beyond what you’d expect their understanding of you and your ex’s relationship to be.
EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL DISTANCE. One of the most upsetting signs of alienation as a parent is when your child starts to become distant from you. This could involve them being reluctant to engage in hugging or holding hands. They might be hesitant to spend time with you. In some cases, this can extend to more stilted conversations and an unwillingness to talk openly about their feelings or thoughts. This shift can happen quickly.
ERRATIONAL FEAR AND NEGATIVITY. The reasons a child feels negative toward you in these cases don’t come directly from their own ideas. They have been influenced by the other parent. As such, when alienation occurs, your child may become irrationally angry or upset with you. They may also be scared of you for seemingly no reason. Importantly, when confronted about these feelings and responses, they usually won’t be able to provide an explanation for this. They will tend to tell you they don’t know why they feel or react in this way.
DEFENSIVENESS ABOUT YOUR EX. Remember, alienation is as much about your child seeing their other parent in a positive light as it is about creating a negative opinion about you. Unfortunately, a result of alienation tactics is often that your child will become defensive about your ex. Indeed, any concerns you have about your child’s influence by your former spouse or even mild criticisms can be met with overly defensive responses.
How Can You Prove Alienation?
As with any legal and custody situation, you can’t just express your opinion about alienation and expect results. The courts and relevant authorities require that you prove this by providing evidence. As parental alienation can be performed in quite subtle manipulative ways, you may need more than one form of evidence. Therefore, when you’re establishing how to prove parental alienation, you should gather the following:
SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS. When your spouse is pursuing alienation, they may not purely be badmouthing you to your child. This may extend to your shared friendship circle or family. One of the most common ways of doing this is through posting negative social media content. These may be posts your ex has shared regarding their opinion of you or details of your relationship. They could also include negative replies to your own social media posts or those of your family members. Your child may also be seeing these posts when viewing social media, adding to their sense of alienation from you. You should therefore, take screen grabs of such posts and provide them to your lawyer.
WITNESS STATEMENTS. Parents that are subjected to alienation often forget that their experiences of their child’s symptoms or ex’s behavior is valuable evidence. As such, you should start making detailed records of actions that may suggest alienation is occurring. This should include dates, times, and quotes. It can seem uncomfortable taking notes on your child’s behavior in this way. But you have to remember you’re doing so in their best interests.
A RECORD OF BEHAVIOR. There can be various parties who will have witnessed examples of your ex’s attempts at parental alienation. Some of these will be people who have heard your former spouse bad mouthing you in front of your child. Others may simply be privy to notable changes in your child’s relationship with you or have heard your child repeating opinions they’ve heard from your ex. Some of these witnesses may be your friends, others could be connected to the other parent. In either case, it’s important not to collect witness statements yourself. Rather, collect a list of witnesses and provide these to your attorney, who may arrange for them to be called to provide evidence under oath.
How Should You Proceed?
Proving alienation can be a delicate matter. To get the best results, it’s important to proceed carefully. Don’t directly confront your ex with any evidence you have gathered. Certainly don’t address the issue directly with or in front of your child. This could lead to your former spouse claiming you are the alienating party. It is vital you remain reasonable and calm in this situation.
Instead, your first step should be to seek an attorney experienced in representing men in child custody cases. They understand how to strategize your approach to handling alienation to make sure you can gain the most relevant proof and present it to the courts in an unambiguous way. Take the time to meet with them and provide the records and other evidence you’ve gained so far. From here they can help prepare paperwork to bring the matter in front of a judge and talk to you about what type of outcome is most appropriate to pursue. This is usually either family therapy or an adjustment in custody arrangements.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We have the knowledge and skills to guide our clients through the frustration of parental alienation and provide practical advice to address it. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.