When parents separate or divorce, sometimes one parent tries to turn the children against the other parent. This conduct is sometimes intentional, and a parent might believe they are protecting their children. At other times, a parent’s inability to manage their feelings surrounding the separation can unintentionally lead to this behavior.

Regardless of the intent, parental alienation is a serious matter. A child’s mental health is at risk when a parent forces, or tries to force, a child to pick sides. A parent who feels their co-parent is trying to alienate their children should consult an Upper Marlboro parental alienation lawyer to protect themselves and their children. There are effective steps you can take with a diligent family attorney’s assistance to preserve your standing with your children.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Instilling negative feelings about a co-parent in a child’s mind is parental alienation. It is reprehensible even when the behavior is unintentional because being taught that one parent is harmful or dangerous impacts a child’s self-esteem and mental health.

Parental alienation occurs most often during or after a high-conflict divorce when the parties are learning how to implement their parenting plan. Parents sometimes manipulate children due to their hurt to achieve a desired outcome in a child support or custody dispute. However, involving a child in a dispute is a form of emotional abuse.

Judges must prioritize the children’s best interests, such as custody and visitation plans, when making decisions that affect them. Judges take possible parental alienation seriously because of the great potential for lasting damage to the child’s mental health. A parent in Upper Marlboro or Largo who believes their co-parent is employing alienation strategies should bring their concerns to their attorney’s attention immediately.

Combatting Alienation Before a Custody Order is Final

When alienation occurs before a court has issued a final custody decree, a well-versed attorney could ensure the judge is aware of the concern. Maryland Family Code § 7-103.2 allows a judge to order parents to take an educational seminar on the impact of divorce on children. In addition, a parent could report the changes they have noticed in the child’s behavior and ask the court to order therapy, family counseling, or counseling for the offending parent.

Requesting a custody evaluation can be an effective strategy. The court would appoint a mental health professional, often a social worker, to observe the parent/child interactions and become familiar with both parents’ households. The evaluator then makes a recommendation regarding custody to the court. Working with a parent coordinator can sometimes help reduce attempts at parental alienation as they have a mental health background, but their role is to mediate disputes between parents, coach them through parenting challenges, and help them work together to promote their children’s best interests.

What to Do After a Court Has Issued a Custody Order

Sometimes, a parent does not begin alienating a child until the court has issued a custody decree. The parent might interfere with the co-parent’s time with the children by canceling parenting time, not adhering to the schedule, not having the children ready for visits, and other violations.

The targeted parent should note every failure to adhere to the parenting plan and every unusually strained interaction with one of the children. It is normal for children to have difficulty adjusting in the early stages of separation and divorce, but do not allow behavior or remarks that seem hostile to pass without documenting them.

When there is evidence that a parent is intentionally interfering with the custody order and trying to alienate the children, an attorney in Upper Marlboro could request a modification of the custody order or even a change in custody. The judge will consider each parent’s conduct and the children’s needs when deciding whether to modify the arrangement. In some cases, the court could decide transferring primary custody to the targeted parent serves the children’s best interests.

Consult an Upper Marlboro Attorney About Parental Alienation Concerns

Parental alienation interferes with your relationship with your children. It is a serious issue that can permanently impact a child’s self-esteem and their mental health. It is crucial to seek the assistance of an Upper Marlboro parental alienation lawyer for help crafting an appropriate response.

Protect yourself and your children from this form of abuse by scheduling a consultation with Carmiece Graves Law today. An experienced lawyer could help you understand all available options and advocate for you and your child’s interests.