Parental Alienation and Family Court Custody and Visitation Cases

Parental Alienation and Family Court Custody and Visitation Cases

Parental Alienation and Family Court Custody and Visitation Cases[1]

The recent headline out of the State of Michigan, http://observer.com/2015/07/exclusive-interview-dad-whose-kids-were-locked-up-for-not-having-lunch-with-him/, has had social media buzzing. Most of the comments side with the mother and express outrage that the children were placed in detention. While this is most certainly a tragic case, it is also an example of a phenomenon called “parental alienation”. One must assume that this judge has all the relevant facts and it is clear that the court has spent significant effort in avoiding the outcome that was ultimately ordered, even finding the oldest child to be defiant. The Court has not found the father to be abusive or that any of the allegations that the mother has made are true. To the contrary, the Court appears to find that the children need a relationship with their father.

Parental alienation is a form of child abuse. It occurs when one parent seeks to destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent. I am not a psychologist and will not use this forum to specify exactly what a psychologist would say constitutes parental alienation. However, it typically involves unfounded allegations of child or spousal abuse and results in a child refusing to see the other parent, even in the face of severe consequences. It is essentially brain washing of a child by a parent.

Fortunately parental alienation in its worst forms are pretty rare. However, I do regularly see clients and GAL litigants that obviously would prefer that their child not love or spend time with the other parent. These parents typically fail to see their own fault in the situation. Children typically resist efforts at parental alienation. I find that even children of very difficult divorces love and want to spend time with both parents. Occasionally there are cases in which a good counselor can smooth out any rough spots and establish good communication and separated relationships. If cases cannot be resolved, children can (and have been) removed from the alienating parent and placed either in the custody of the other parent or third party.

The cases are difficult and become more difficult as the children get older. South Carolina law provides that the wishes of a child of any age will be considered by the Court. But the weight given to those wishes by the Family Court Judge may be very little if the child has been a victim of parental alienation. This appears to be the situation in the Michigan case.

All custody cases are very fact specific. A good lawyer will counsel the client that the child should have a good relationship with both parents in order to grow into the healthiest, strongest adult possible. Unfortunately some clients’ resentment and pain related to the break-up prevents them from being able to nurture the other parent’s relationship with the child. Those clients need to be referred to a mental health professional.

If you need assistance with a custody or visitation matter, contact me via email at mj@mjgoodwin.com. Email inquiries are typically answered within twelve hours.

[1][1] This blog does NOT apply to legitimate, real cases of child abuse and or neglect.

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