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3 warning signs of attempts at parental alienation

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Family Law

There is a general expectation that parents going through divorce in California should make the well-being of their children their top priority. With exceptions for unusual cases, most family law matters involving children lead to shared parental responsibilities.

Both adults get to spend liberal amounts of time with the children, and both have a degree of responsibility for making important decisions and providing financial support. Unfortunately, not everyone gracefully accepts the reality of co-parenting. Some adults intentionally go out of their way to damage the relationship that the other adult has with the children.

Parental alienation involves one parent trying to harm the bond that the other has with their shared children. The following are some of the warning signs of parental alienation that could harm a family dynamic.

Frequent cancellations

Parental alienation often involves an attempt to reduce one adult’s involvement with the children. The fastest way to achieve that goal is to consistently deny them access to or time with the children. If one parent cancels the time the other should have with the children, they should allow the parent denied time to arrange for makeup parenting time. Consistently canceling or shortening one parent’s time with the children can start to affect the bond that the parent has with the children, especially when combined with other forms of alienation.

Inappropriate conversations

Parents often struggle with oversharing or hiding too much information from children during a divorce. There’s something to be said about giving children age-appropriate information, but no minor child needs to hear the laundry list of complaints that each parent has toward the other. One parent canceling the other’s time and then telling the children the other parent didn’t show up could constitute an attempt at alienation. So could conversations where one parent badmouths the other with the intent of altering how the children see the other parent.

Threats and inappropriate communication

Some people engaging in parental alienation are clever and try their best to appear amicable when interacting with the other parent. Others quickly expose themselves by telling the other they don’t want them around or sending them text messages saying they won’t see the children again. When one parent asserts that they intend to disrupt the other parent-child relationship, there’s every reason to take that claim seriously. Parental alienation can take months before it starts to impact the dynamic between one adult and the children. At that point, can become very difficult for the parent experiencing alienation to counter the damaging actions of the other.

Recognizing parental alienation is important for those in shared custody arrangements in California. Parents who endure alienation attempts may need to pursue a custody modification or custody enforcement to protect their relationship with their children.