While divorce is tough on families, you may have hoped that you would receive your fair share of custody or parenting time after yours finalized. Yet, if your split was acrimonious, your former spouse may take steps to keep you from your children. You might have had a close relationship with them before, yet they may now want nothing to do with you. Your former spouse, then, might be engaging in parental alienation. If you suspect they are, it’s important to understand the signs – and what you can do about them.

Understanding parental alienation

Parental alienation is the effort of one parent to estrange their children from the other through manipulation. The alienating parent will often spread negative or false information about the targeted parent to their kids. They do so in hope that their children will no longer see the targeted parent in a positive light. Children who are victims of parental alienation may start rejecting a parent they once were close to – whether by criticizing them or avoiding them – without a valid reason.

Your former spouse may be engaging in parental alienation if:

  • They tell your children that you are responsible for your divorce
  • They divulge details about your divorce to your children
  • They denigrate you in front of your children
  • They try breaking custody guidelines or prevent your children from seeing you
  • They offer your children the option of alternative activities during your scheduled custody or parenting time
  • They make false accusations of physical or sexual abuse against you

Fighting parental alienation

You may feel powerless against your former spouse’s alienating, especially if your children no longer want to spend time with you. Yet, you will want to keep a record of your former spouse’s actions, as well as any instances where these influenced your children’s behavior. By collecting evidence, you can motion to modify your custody agreement. If a judge finds your spouse’s actions violated your agreement, they could face contempt of court charges. Depending on the harm the alienation caused, they might also lose custody. The court may also order reunification therapy for your children to help them reestablish a relationship with you.

While parental alienation is hurtful, you have ways to fight back against it. A family law attorney can help you protect your rights as a parent.