Parental alienation – a hot topic in family law and in the media – is the systematic alienation of a child from one parent, purposely caused by the other parent. The words and actions of one parent in effect poison the child against the other parent. Because of the special position of trust that a parent is in, this manipulation can unfortunately occur quite easily.
More and more, courts are being called on to review custody and visitation arrangements based on claims of parental alienation. Parents ask the court to consider the circumstances and modify the custody arrangement. In some states, it is unusual for primary physical custody to be modified based on interference with custody or visitation alone. Unusual, but not impossible (especially when programmed parental alienation can be proved). In other states, judges won’t hesitate to modify a custody order if he or she finds a custodial parent alienating the child from the non-custodial parent.
Some courts will enforce visitation primarily through contempt orders (and sometimes incarceration following a finding of contempt). In some cases though, the interference with the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the child is so severe that the court considers it to be a material change in circumstances to support a modification of custody. The court will generally have to find an adverse effect on the child and determine that the altered custody order was in the best interests of the child.
State statutes often outline the factors to be considered when determining the best interests of the child. Many times, in parental alienation cases, the court will find that the manipulation of the child has caused unhealthy emotional ties to the custodial parent.
If you are experiencing problems with custodial interference or parental alienation, you should discuss your legal options with an local family law attorney.