Recognizing Parental Alienation & What to Do When It Happens
Parental alienation occurs when one parent’s behavior causes their child to feel overwhelmingly negatively about the other parent. This can result in the child not wanting to spend time with their other parent, having a bad, incorrect perception of the other parent, or behaving antagonistically or defiantly with the other parent. Parental alienation can be both obvious and insidious.
Alienating behaviors on the part of the parent can look like this:
- Lying about the other parent to the child
- Only speaking negatively about the other parent
- Putting the child in a position where they feel like they have to choose between their parents
- Refusing to allow the child visitation with the other parent
- Telling the child that their other parent doesn’t care about them
- Not consulting the other parent on important matters, such as educational decisions
Parental alienation is serious and can cause irreparable damage to a child’s relationship with both parents. If you suspect your child’s other parent has been trying to turn your child against you, you should contact an attorney. Even if you aren’t sure that you have proof that this is happening, if something feels off, you are best served to consult with a legal professional who can help guide you in what steps to take.
Parental Alienation Laws in Tennessee
You may be wondering if parental alienation is considered a crime in Tennessee. And if so, what is the punishment for parental alienation? Though parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is not a recognized syndrome, TN courts do acknowledge that parental alienation happens. When one parent is found guilty of parental alienation, they can be held in contempt of court. This can result in fines and jail time.
Two legal ways to remedy parental alienation and facilitate the rebuilding of the parent-child relationship include:
- Requesting custody or visitation enforcement
- Requesting custody or visitation modification
However, proving parental alienation and holding the other parent legally responsible can be challenging. If you suspect your child’s other parent is trying to turn your child against you or you see signs of alienation, document everything and seek legal counsel immediately.
The Signs of Parental Alienation
Spotting parental alienation when it happens can be very difficult. As we’ve shown, it can be very insidious, and you may not notice it until your children have been significantly impacted. Review our below checklist of the signs of parental alienation syndrome to help determine if your relationship with your children is being damaged due to parental alienation.
Parental alienation checklist:
- Has your child’s behavior toward you changed?
- Is your child acting out of character?
- Has your child become defiant or combative with you for no discernable reason?
- Is your child’s other parent withholding visitation from you?
- Is your child’s other parent keeping you out of the loop regarding important matters, like school, healthcare, and religious upbringing?
- Is your child displaying signs that they may be suffering from depression or anxiety?
How to Combat & Survive Parental Alienation
When faced with parental alienation, you may not know what to do or where to turn. If you suspect your child’s other parent of parental alienation, your first step should be to secure legal representation from a skilled, experienced attorney. After you have consulted with your attorney regarding legal remedies to parental alienation, you should see to your own mental health and your child’s mental health.
Parental alienation can have a profound, lasting impact on families. Going back to court to deal with parental alienation is incredibly stressful, even if you have tried to shield your child as much as possible. Repairing your relationship with your child may not be easy and may not happen quickly. Additionally, depending on the current emotional state of your child, they may not initially be open to repairing the relationship, especially if the alienation has been severe.
Tips for surviving parental alienation:
- Work with a therapist or family counselor
- Provide your child with individual counseling or therapy to help them work through their feelings
- Don’t pressure your child
- Be patient
- Spend extra time with your child when appropriate
- Listen to what your child has to say
At Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC, we understand how devastating parental alienation can be. If this is something you and your family are going through, reach out to our law firm for guidance. We are here to help you when you need us most.