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Parent Alienation Syndrome - The Struggle of Non-Custodial Parents

Many non-custodial parents struggle with the same battle — that of parental alienation. Parental Alienation can be damaging to a child’s emotional and mental well being, and is generally associated with high-conflict divorces.

Definition of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

Parental Alienation Syndrome – also known as PAS or parental alienation – has been defined as a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s feelings, thoughts and overall denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification and thus alienates the non-custodial parent.

This type of emotional abuse results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. Essentially, Parental Alienation Syndrome is the culmination in a child of one parent’s words and actions regarding the other parent.

Examples of alienating behaviors include badmouthing and withholding visitation with the non-custodial parent. These actions can often lead to an unfavorable parent-child relationship.

Types of Parental Alienation

The first step in coping with parental alienation is being aware of the types of parental alienation.

  • Naïve Alienators – These are parents who are passive about their child’s relationship with the other parent, who occasionally say or do things which can be alienating. These parents generally understand that what they are doing is wrong, and they will attempt to correct their behavior.
  • Active Alienators – These are parents who, due to their pain and anger impulsively lose control over their behavior, even though they are aware it is wrong. These parents may need professional assistance in correcting their alienating behaviors as this can lead to parent-child relational problems.
  • Obsessed Alienators – These are parents who fanatically try to destroy the other parent with a host of false allegations. These borderline, narcissistic parents are completely focused on destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent. They are not afraid of the court’s authority, and no one can rationalize with these parents regarding their actions. Unfortunately, with obsessed alienators sometimes the court evaluators and mental health professionals intervention ultimately will not help.

How to Prevent Parental Alienation Syndrome

In order to reverse parental alienation, you must be able to recognize the symptoms. The following are examples of common symptoms of parental alienation:

  • Allowing a child to skip visitation with the non-custodial parent
  • Asking a child to choose between parents
  • Disclosing too much information about the parent’s relationship to the child
  • Eavesdropping on a child’s conversation with the other parent
  • Using the child to gather information

An alienated child will display similar feelings to the alienating parent’s feelings towards the non-custodial parent. This child will not want to visit with the other parent, will not be frightened by the court’s authority, or the child might display anger, hatred or disdain for the other parent and his/her family members with no true cause.

How to Reverse the Effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome

The best thing the non-custodial parent can do for their relationship with their child takes every opportunity to reverse the effects of parental alienation. Spend time with your child, focus on the positives of your relationship rather than the negativity the alienating parent is facilitating.

For those occasions where access to visitation is being inhibited, the non-custodial parent should seek the court’s assistance and possibly the assistance of a mental health professional.

The legislature in California’s family court has declared it a public policy to ensure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents except when that contact is not in the best interest of the child. In light of this policy, the Courts have repeatedly found it important that the custodial parent encourages the child to maintain this relationship with the non-custodial parent. If a custodial parent refuses to facilitate visitation with the non-custodial parent, some courts have used this as grounds to modify a custody order.

Bremer Whyte provides individualized counseling and representation in all areas of California family law. Contact them at (949) 229-8546 for more information.