There are no winners in a child custody case. Regardless of how a judge decides the case, the child does not live with both parents. A child of divorce loses the benefits of having both parents in the home to provide care, support, guidance, attention, and affection. 

However, children can continue to benefit from a loving, close relationship with both parents. For that to occur, both parents need to work together to develop a parenting plan that meets this goal. Sadly, many parents cannot communicate except through their lawyers. Some engage in harmful and destructive parental alienation to drive their children from their other parent.

What is Parental Alienation? 

Parental alienation is when one parent attempts to drive a wedge between a child and the child’s other parent. The action is generally motivated by one parent’s animosity or hatred for the other parent. Parental alienation may occur during a highly-contested divorce where child custody is disputed.

In some cases, custody is used as a bargaining tool or as punishment. The parent engaging in parental alienation “weaponizes” the child by turning them against the other parent. 

What is the Judge’s View on Parental Alienation?

New Jersey courts view custody in the same way as other courts. The child’s best interest is the primary concern when deciding custody cases. It is presumed that a child benefits from a close, ongoing relationship with both parents.

Therefore, courts encourage parents to be active participants in their child’s life, even after their marriage ends. Unless there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or other factors that would harm or endanger a child, courts often favor joint custody whenever possible. Courts favor balanced parenting plans that give children as much access to both parents as possible. 

Therefore, judges view parental alienation harshly. Not only is a parent depriving a child of a relationship with the other parent, but the parent could also cause emotional and mental harm to the child. Lying to and manipulating the child into believing negative and horrible things about their other parent can only cause them harm.

Signs of Parental Alienation 

Learning how to prove parental alienation also requires understanding how to prove child manipulation. 

Some signs that could indicate your ex-partner is trying to turn your child against you:

  • Your child says things that their other parent says, especially negative comments or feelings about you. 
  • Your child resists visitation with you. Younger children may cry or have temper tantrums. Older children may “schedule” other things instead of being with you. 
  •  Your child says that you are abusive or cruel when you use reasonable discipline tactics to enforce realistic and sensible rules.
  • Your child refuses to obey you or listen to you. The only person they will listen to or obey is the other parent. 
  • When you try to discuss positive experiences with your child, your child refuses to acknowledge that they ever experienced good times with you. Every experience with you in the past and now is negative. No matter how much you remind them of the good times, they view everything as bad.
  • Your children do not like anyone associated with you. They have turned against their grandparents, other family members, and long-time friends. They reject them as extensions of you.

If you believe that your ex-partner is manipulating your child and using parental alienation to turn your child against you, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your legal rights as a parent. 

How to Prove Parental Alienation?

One of the first steps to take is to hire a child custody lawyer who handles these types of matters. An attorney explains your legal rights. Your attorney develops a strategy to prove parental alienation to protect you and your child’s best interests. 

Things you should immediately begin doing while you search for a family law attorney include:

  • Keep logs of all attempts to contact your child, including dates, times, and why your ex said your child was not available
  • Make a list of all attempts to visit with your child or attend your child’s events, including specific ways your child’s other parent thwarted your attempts
  • Print copies of all emails, text messages, and other forms of communication with your ex and your children
  • Create a log of every conversation and interaction you have with your child’s other parent, including who was present, date, time, and substance 
  • Make a list of all disparaging remarks your ex-partner makes about you, including who conveyed this information to you, dates, and times
  • Make photographs of you and your child enjoying activities when you are together and keep evidence of every game, school function, and event you attend to prove you are attempting to remain close to your child
  • Make a list of all witnesses that could testify about the parental alienation, including friends, family members, counselors, teachers, and caregivers
  • Print and keep all social media posts, especially if they show acts of parental alienation 

Your divorce lawyer guides you through the process of proving parental alienation. It may be a difficult battle, but you can win.