How Fathers Can Prevent Parental Alienation After a Divorce

Parental Alienation is used to describe a situation where a parent who has effectively coached their child into fearing, rejecting, and completely alienating the other parent.

In a court of law, Parental Alienation is used to describe a situation where a parent who has effectively coached their child into fearing, rejecting, and completely alienating the other parent. Due to the fact that Parental Alienation Syndrome is not fully accepted by the medical community, the term is held to different standards by Ohio judiciaries and child custody experts.

It is wise for practitioners and parties to be weary of using this term in court. Instead, it’s better to use terms such as “coaching” or “gatekeeping,” which have established guidelines. 

Divorce is already a stressful and emotion-filled process, and with children, it can be even harder. Emotions cause parents to retaliate against each other, and the child ends up being used. It can be difficult for a father to stop a child from alienating themselves once it has already started. Ultimately, the parent-child relationship suffers greatly, and serious emotional and mental harm can be caused to the child. 

For example, if a mother tells her child every day that their father is a bad person, and does not want to spend time with them, then the child will eventually start to believe this. This is especially true in cases where the mother makes excuses or simply refuses to let the father spend time with his children.

Regardless of if the allegations made by the mother are true or not, the child suffers, and the father no longer has a relationship with them.  Here are a few tips for preventing and stopping parental alienation.

How Do I Prevent My Ex-Wife From Alienating Me From My Child?

Generally, the first warning sign of Parental Alienation is disparagement. Coincidentally this is also one of the first steps in coaching a child to alienate their parent. In court, disparagement is known as using negative verbal comments about the other parent. Noticing these signs right away will help you stop the alienation in its tracks. Following are some of the different forms of disparagement a mother may use:

  • The mother makes comments directly to the child which tarnishes the child’s view of their father. Comment topics can range from reasons for their divorce to convincing the child their father doesn’t love them or wish to see them. This usually escalates to general negative and inappropriate judgements against the father. 

  • The mother allows others to disparage the father in front of the child. A lot of the time, a mother will use her friends and family to help disparage the father of her child when she is trying to alienate them. Grandparents and siblings are most often the ones to make an impact on the child. If they hear their grandmother talking poorly about their father every day, then they will soon begin to believe it. 

  • The mother will disclose the details of her divorce with the child, but only give them information that makes the father look bad. They could possibly make false statements about the proceedings of the divorce, but essentially this is all to make the mother look like the “good” parent and the father look like the “bad” parent in the eyes of the child. 

It’s important to catch and address parental alienation in the earliest of stages. One way you can do this is to request your child talk to a counselor or therapist to make sure that the divorce isn’t taking a silent toll on their mental health. During these conversations, a therapist or counselor can identify the early signs of parental alienation. Their testimony may also be helpful in proving your case in court. 

Collect as much evidence as you can, and hire an experienced lawyer to help you obtain at least shared custody. The Psychiatric Times published an article stating that all separations should default to shared separation unless factual evidence states that the child will be in danger in the custody of that parent.  

What Are the Different Kinds of Parental Alienation?

There are several ways a parent can manipulate their child into completely alienating the other parent. We’ve already covered Parental Alienation and disparagement, which is one of the first warning signs. Disparagement will continue to occur throughout the entire time a mother tries to alienate her child from their father.

Recognizing the warning signs and documenting as many of these things as possible are the keys to proving your case in court. Make sure to also have a conversation about your concerns with the mother and document that too. This will show that you are 100% trying to be cooperative and willing to work with them, but they are not willing to work with you. Also, it’s very important to keep in contact with your child and maintain a relationship with them. Tell them how much you care about them and love them when you have the ability to spend time together, even if it’s over the phone. 

 Here is a list of some things to be mindful of that can cause Parental Alienation:

  • Parentification
    • Parentification is a form of parental alienation where the mother (or father) puts their child in a position to make life decisions about things that they either don’t have the experience or maturity to make. These aren’t simple run-of-the-mill decisions like what they want for breakfast that day. These are decisions that will completely undermine and override the authority of the father’s wishes. The most common examples of this are:
      • Letting the child make decisions as to whether or not they want to see their father. This, coupled with other forms of parental alienation, makes for a perfect way to influence their child not to see their father. It looks like the child is making the decision on their own, but in fact, they are being manipulated into believing this. 
      • Letting the child decide what they want to do causes alienation. If the mother creates an environment full of freedom in which the child gets to choose what they want to do with their time instead of having structure, then eventually, Mom’s house will become the “fun” house. Over time this will essentially teach the child that their mother’s house is the house they would rather go to and causes the father to be alienated. 
      • To prevent this from happening, have a cordial and clear conversation with the mother about how you feel and what you would like to change. Tell her you don’t mind your child calling them their step-parent.  Remember to document this conversation, whether it be in person or via phone, or by text. 

  • Improper Parental Substitution
    • In some situations, a father has given up his parental rights to his child, and another can step in and be their father. In some circumstances, it’s another family member who steps up to help take care of the child. This is an example of a properly handled parental substitution. When it is improper is when the mother is “replacing” him with her new significant other.  She may tell her child that this is her “new father” or “you have two dads” and allow them to take on parental roles and make parental decisions such as discipline. 
    • It’s imperative that you stop this form of alienation in its tracks. Even if you can prove you are being alienated via improper parental substitution, you may never be able to reverse the damage caused to your child. 

  • Undermining Authority
    • When one parent undermines the authority of the other, parental alienation occurs. In a healthy co-parenting relationship, the parents are mostly in agreement with their child’s safety, education, extracurricular activities, and welfare. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in every co-parenting relationship and causes the child to believe that their father’s form of parenting is insufficient and may cause the child to stop listening to them. This will further cause their relationship to deteriorate and ultimately cause the child to only live with their mother. 
    • This doesn’t happen overnight, but over time undermining the father’s authority at every step will cause the child to believe that their father is incapable of parenting and, ultimately a far less important aspect of their life.

How Do I Handle Parental Alienation?

It is very important that you take the warning signs seriously. Document as many things and instances as possible to help prove your case. In order to adequately prove your case in court, you need to hire an experienced child custody lawyer. Child custody lawyers have the knowledge and capability needed to protect your rights as a father to your child. Most parents who manipulate their children into parental alienation think they are invincible and capable of getting away with their actions. Your lawyer will work very hard to prevent that from happening. 

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