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What is
Parental Alienation

In 1985, Dr. Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist, mentioned for the first time the concept of parental alienation. Dr. Gardner explained that the highly charged arena of child custody disputes dramatically intensified when abuse allegations were made. Dr. Gardner again repeated the same findings in 1998. Parental alienation syndrome is the brainwashing or programming of a child by one parent to denigrate and alienate the other parent and the child’s willingness to contribute to it. In the 1980s and 1990s, very few judges or attorneys had heard of parental alienation. This was evident in 1997 when our firm encountered its first parental alienation case. Our attorneys had an expert flown in from California, who expertly described parental alienation, but did not use that terminology. Since then, the Kraayeveld Law attorneys have litigated countless parental alienation cases, and through the years information and studies became more widely available, and additional experts were able to provide expert testimony.

Are You Dealing with Parental Alienation?

Today most mental health care providers and judges are familiar with the term parental alienation. That does not mean that a counselor or judge views parental alienation as a real or recognized problem. Even so, the signs of parental alienation are unmistakable, and the harm to the child and you, the parent, is significant. Depending on the severity and duration of the parental alienation, the harmful effects of parental alienation are long-term and sometimes permanent. In 1991, Stanley Clawar and Brynne Rivlin published research setting forth the techniques the brainwashing parents use:

  • Denying and not acknowledging the social existence of the other parent;
  • Attacking something about the character, lifestyle, past, present, or future of the target parent;
  • Discussing visitation arrangements with the child, thus pressuring the child to make a choice; failing to inform the other parent of educational, social, and religious functions, thus communicating that the other parent lacks importance;
  • Creating or exaggerating differences between themselves and the other parent in front of the children;
  • Asking the children to ally their sympathies and support with the alienating parent; making moral judgments regarding the target parent’s values, lifestyle, friends, and so on;
  • Implicitly or explicitly threatening to withdraw affection if the child expresses a desire to be with the other parent;
  • Creating the belief that the other parent is not sincere in his or her love for the child;
  • Creating the belief that the other parent is unable to properly care for the child; and convincing the child to doubt his or her ability to perceive reality.

(Clawar and Rivlin (1991). Since 1991, others, such as Dr. Richard Warshak have provided similar findings.

From our two decades of experience, we consistently see similar claims in parental alienation cases. Some of the symptoms of parental alienation that we consistently see our clients deal with are:

  • The child has the choice whether they wish to visit the other parent;
  • The parent shares significant information about the divorce proceedings with the child, especially information such as child support arrearages, the reason for the breakup of the marriage, etc.;
  • The child may not bring their personal property to the other parent’s home;
  • Refusing to allow the other parent access to school and medical records;
  • The parent consciously or unconsciously suggests to the child that the child is not safe with the other parent, and thus, sends the child with a cellphone to visitation and requests phone calls frequently;
  • Special codes to be used between parent and child while the child is with the other parent — “If you call and want to come say the following . . .”;
  • Frequently and without just cause canceling parenting time because the child is ill;
  • Allegations of verbal, physical and sexual abuse that are unfounded, and after investigation, the parent maintains the belief that it occurred;
  • Child is instructed to or rewarded for taking photos or videos of the other parent;
  • Scheduling events or extracurricular activities during the other parent’s parenting time;
  • The alienating parent often has other mental health problems, such as narcissism.

Cases involving parental alienation syndrome are often extremely difficult and complex. Judges are often conservative in their judgments or may underestimate the magnitude of the problem. Unfortunately, throughout the years, we have seen many parents act slowly in this regard, and sometimes parents act too late. Many parents visit several attorneys who are not qualified and have no experience in this arena and precious time is lost.  Prompt and substantial intervention is key. If you are being unjustifiably alienated from your child following a divorce or separation, please contact our firm immediately so that we can take immediate action and fight for you and your child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with each other. After more than two decades of experience with parental alienation cases, we have the experience to represent you during these proceedings until a successful conclusion.

A final word to some parents on the other side of the spectrum. Our firm has represented countless clients who have been falsely accused of alienating behavior. Invariably, when a parent appropriately protects his or her child, the other parent will argue parental alienation. This is a difficult balancing act for judges, psychologists and lawyers. Our decades of experience in this field, thorough review of a case and close relationships with experts will allow our firm to successfully represent you against false allegations of parental alienation syndrome.