You’ve already been through the divorce process, which was emotionally trying enough. Now you’re starting to feel like your former spouse is trying to turn your child away from you and impede your relationship. It may be blatant, it may be more sinister and subtle.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation post-divorce. Although you may be the one feeling the immediate effects of the alienation, children are the ones that suffer the most in this situation. Parental alienation is considered a form of child abuse, and the courts take these cases seriously.
Parental alienation is when your former spouse tries to drive a wedge between you and your child. Although some former spouses may not even realize that what they are doing could be considered parental alienation, many do. Here are some examples of red flags you need to look out for:
- Your child tells you that your former spouse has been saying negative or false things about you. Make sure that you don’t respond to this false, hateful speech with negative words of your own.
- Your child undermines your authority and treats you as if you’re not equal to your former spouse. Whenever your child challenges your authority or acts like you’re not the adult in the situation, this could potentially be a sign of parental alienation.
- Your former spouse allows your child to make adult decisions on his or her own, like whether or not your child wants to see the other parent, what time to go to bed, when to do homework, etc. Allowing your child to make these adult decisions provides more freedom at one house and can create a sense of resentment about spending time at the other house.
- Your former spouse suggests your child think of his or her new boyfriend or girlfriend as another parent. Your former spouse’s new partner should not be as important to a child as a parent, and no one should ever give your child the impression that you (and your relationship with your child) can be replaced.
- Your former spouse makes abuse claims against you. This can be an attempt to reduce the amount of time that you spend with your child by either having your custody or visitation reduced or completely revoked.
What You Can Do
When your child tells you that your former spouse says false or disparaging things about you, get a notebook and keep good notes. Although it can be difficult to prove parental alienation, keeping a journal of events and reports from your child can be helpful. Remember, judges take these charges seriously, so write down anything that you think might possibly be parental alienation. This may sound silly, but we have found that our clients that follow our advice and keep a journal significantly increase their chances of increasing their timeshare in court and successfully defending themselves against their spouse’s false allegations.
Also, as tempting as it might be to respond to your former spouse’s claims, resist. Your best bet is to give your child a big hug and tell your child how much you love spending time together.
Finally, hire a qualified family law firm. If you’re in California and you believe that your former spouse is trying to alienate you from your child, our experienced legal team can help. At Fenchel Family Law, we’re particularly passionate about helping California fathers continue to be a part of their child’s life. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us or give us a call today at (415) 650-1112.