What Constitutes Parental Alienation Situations?

A Quiz: Three Hypothetical Parental Alienation Situations

Students prepare for a quiz, parental alienation situationsIt’s the night before a high school junior’s first AP exam and it is his father’s visitation time. According to his mother, the dad has shown a pattern of lax supervision resulting in the kids staying up late and running out the door without breakfast in the morning. What should she do?

  1. Let the child go to dads anyway. Put a box of granola bars in his backpack.
  2. Address it with the dad and let him know how important it is for that particular night that the kids sleep and eat well.
  3. Request a swap of custody days explaining that dad can benefit from having the kids on a less pressured night.
  4. Mom should confront her ex-spouse with a litany of accounts of his past parenting failures in front of the kids and demand that he forgo the visitation.
  5. Complain to the kids about their irresponsible, “possibly alcoholic” father and tell the child to call the father to explain why he can’t come over.

A father’s four-year-old daughter came home from her mother’s house with bruises on her arms and cuts on her hands. He should…

  1. Assume she fell off the monkey bars again. Help her with bandages and don’t give it another thought.
  2. Ask the child how she was hurt. Tell the mother that he is concerned about the bruises and ask her to keep a closer eye on the child.
  3. Take pictures of the injuries and write down what the child said about how she got hurt. Keep the records in case he needs them in the future.
  4. Write a note to the school demanding that they report any future cuts or bruises to him because he is trying to build a case for sole custody.
  5. File a CPS complaint. Tell the kids they won’t be able to go over to their mother’s house anymore because she’s a child-abuser.

student ties shoes before track meetA child’s middle school track debut is on dad’s custody day. He should…

  1. Invite the other parent for ice cream after. The more the merrier
  2. Let the ex-spouse know that he will be going. Inform his ex-spouse that as much as he’d rather not see her, he thinks it’s important that both parents are there.
  3. Put the event on the mutually-shared calendar. Mom can come or not.
  4. Intentionally provide the wrong date in hopes that she will miss the meet and he won’t have to see her with the new boyfriend.
  5. Threaten her with a restraining order if she shows up. Then tell the child that the reason his mother didn’t come is because she thinks he’s slow and she’s embarrassed of him.

You get the idea. These fictional parental alienation instances are not based on actual cases or clients but as examples of possible hypothetical parental alienation behaviors.

1’s are the most easy-going. No chance of alienation there.

2’s are responsible co-parents who are mutually motivated to look out for their child’s best interests.

3’s are human. They may have been hurt by the former spouse’s betrayal and are experiencing an array of emotions that may include fear, suspicion, and anger. Appropriate co-parenting may be punctuated by moments of spitefulness. These parents may benefit from therapy and/or co-parenting classes to help them move past their lingering thoughts of vengefulness. Co-parents’ primary goal is all about raising healthy, responsible kids and not a means of exacting revenge on a cheating ex.

5’s are in clear-cut parental alienation mode. These are not behaviors that are in the best interests of the children. When children are obviously encouraged to hate or mistrust one parent, it is painful for them and can have lasting traumatic impacts. Children of parental alienation situations may be mistrustful in relationships, wary of affection, depressed, and potentially at risk for suicide.

As the number of cases increase, family law attorneys are becoming more vigilant in watching for signs of parental alienation. Attorneys, judges and court referees are aware of parental alienation situations and can take steps to encourage the alienating parent to change behaviors or risk losing custody.

As the courts are becoming more conscious of cut-and-dried parental alienation situations, it’s the 4’s – the closet alienators – that can do a lot of damage. These cases may never reach a courtroom. The closet alienators devise subtle, masterfully-underhanded ways of surgically removing the other parent’s influence in the children’s lives. The kids may not even be aware that the parent is being systematically cut out of their lives. The insidious danger here is that the kids may be left wondering if it was their fault that the parent didn’t come around like they used to.

Michigan Family Law Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler recently attended a continuing education family law conference that included a seminar on Parental Alienation. The presenters, Pamela S. Ludolph, Ph.D., Natalie Alane and Keldon K. Scott wrote, “Misinformation and misunderstanding predominate this real and dangerous phenomenon. Disbelieved, misdiagnosed, or left untreated, parental alienation can cause lifelong trauma and destruction in a child’s life. As family law attorneys and judges, the responsibility of understanding and properly addressing parental alienation—or claims of it—is a critical function of our job.”

Wayne-Spindler has seen first-hand the underhanded tactics that vengeful ex-spouses may take at the expense of the children. “It’s so sad when I see grown adults so wrapped up in their hatred that they can’t see that they’re hurting their children more than their ex-spouse.”

She said she believes strongly that kids are better off with both parents in their lives so unless there is a good reason (like addiction or abuse). Wayne-Spindler does her best to argue for parenting agreements that give children time with both parents.

The attorneys at the law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are aware of the life-long impacts on the children of parental alienation situations.. If you suspect that your ex-spouse is manipulating the children against you, don’t let it go on too long. Once a pattern is established, it can be difficult to break. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office at 248-676-1000. The experienced and compassionate attorneys can help with divorce, custody concerns, post-judgment modifications, restraining orders, and other family law matters in Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee and Livingston counties. We help clients in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; Howell; South Lyon; New Hudson; Linden; Holly; Grand Blanc and many more local communities.

Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates