While the subject of parental alienation is getting more and more attention due to the detrimental impact it can have on children of divorce or separation, there are still misconceptions about the topic. Understanding the facts (and inaccuracies) about parental alienation can help parents correctly see the signs and take steps to address the issue expediently and effectively.
Be aware of these 5 common misconceptions about parental alienation:
- The parent who spends the most time with the child is never the target of alienation.
While the parent who sees the child most is the one best positioned to contribute to alienation that does not mean the alienator is always the custodial parent. A 2010 study (Bala, Hunt, McCarney, 2010) found that in 16% of cases, the alienated parent had either primary or joint physical custody.
- Once the divorce and child custody proceedings are finished, the alienation will cease.
According to psychologists, at the root of parental alienation is the alienating parent’s fear of abandonment and feeling of betrayal. He/she uses the child to fill that void left by the divorce and retaliates against the other parent by destroying a relationship that they cherish. While alienating behavior may end after divorce as they find other relationships or work with a therapist, in more serious cases it may become an ongoing way of life for the parents and children.
- Alienation should be addressed in a therapist’s office, not a courtroom.
Again this depends on the severity of the parental alienation. Mild cases may be effectively handled with parents and a therapist. However, in severe cases where the alienated child and parent are opposed to working with a therapist, a judge is the only individual who can make them attend a therapy session- at times using threats of fines, jail time or change in custody to get the alienating parent to cooperate.
- Rejecting a parent is just a healthy coping mechanism to divorce in the short term.
By believing this and not recognizing parental alienation as a serious issue, parents are often encouraged to accept a child’s rejecting behavior until the child has “cooled off” and is ready to move on. This can allow the negative attitudes and alienation to become a fixed pattern of behavior that continues into the long term.
- Children who irrationally reject a parent, but are thriving in other respects do not need intervention.
First, the appearance that a child is thriving may be superficial or carry with it some underlying psychological problems. Second, even if the parental alienation is the only issue, it is serious enough to demand attention. It carries with it the potential for significant damage to a child’s ongoing psychological health and wellbeing.
Parental alienation is an important issue to understand and identify during the process of divorce. If you suspect you are the victim of parental alienation, it is critical to an attorney who is experienced in the field and can help you address the situation immediately.
Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney Charles D. Jamieson understands that divorce is an extremely sensitive and important issue. Thanks to extensive experience and a focus on open communication, Attorney Jamieson adeptly addresses the complex issues surrounding divorce while delivering excellent personal service. To discuss parental alienation, please contact The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. online or call 561-478-0312.
National Parents Organization, A Family's Heartbreak