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What Is Parental Alienation and How Can It Impact Child Custody?

Posted on in Parenting

Waukesha County child custody lawyerIt practically goes without saying that many divorced or separated parents are not especially fond of each other. Parents who do not see eye-to-eye can struggle to co-parent effectively. Some disagree about their child’s education or church involvement. Others differ with regard to household rules or discipline.  

Some parents hold onto anger from their marriage and let this anger influence the way they parent their children. They may talk badly about the other parent or even discourage the child from having a close relationship with the other parent.

In some cases, the situation escalates into parental alienation. Parental alienation occurs when a parent intentionally sabotages the relationship between the child and the other parent. Many experts consider parental alienation to be a form of emotional abuse.

Some Effects of Parental Alienation

Save for cases involving abuse or other mistreatment, it is usually in a child’s best interests to have a close relationship with both of his or her parents. Unfortunately, divorced parents’ resentment toward each other can sometimes negatively affect the child’s relationship with the parents. Sometimes, a parent intentionally damages the child’s relationship with the other parent. This is extremely harmful to both the alienated parent and the child. The child may feel confused, angry, guilty, and afraid. He or she may fear that having any positive feelings toward the alienated parent is an insult to the parent discouraging the relationship. The child may suffer from low self-esteem, problems at school, anxiety, depression, and difficulty forming friendships and relationships with others.

Parental Alienation Can Take Many Forms

Parental alienation often involves:

  • Talking badly about the other parent

  • Becoming angry with a child who expresses love or affection for the other parent

  • Withholding court-ordered parenting time from the other parent

  • Intentionally scheduling appointments or other activities that conflict with the other parent’s parenting time

  • Manufacturing lies about the other parent

  • Encouraging the child to express hatred toward the other parent

How Can Parental Alienation Influence Child Custody Matters

Parents are generally expected to help facilitate a positive relationship between their child and their child’s other parent. In fact, Wisconsin courts consider this matter to be extremely important, and they do not respond favorably when a parent is suspected of engaging in such behavior.

If a parent is intentionally turning a child against his or her other parent, violating the visitation schedule, or causing significant emotional or psychological harm to the child, any of these can absolutely influence child custody matters. However, it can be extremely difficult to prove that a parent is systematically and intentionally alienating the other parent. Parents in this situation are highly encouraged to work with a family law attorney experienced in child custody disputes.

Contact a Waukesha County Child Custody Lawyer

For more information about parental alienation and how such behavior could affect your child custody dispute, contact an experienced Waukesha family law attorney at Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP. Call 262-232-6699 for a free consultation and case review with a member of our team today.


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