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  • Writer's pictureAngela Larimer

Parental Alienation

An often thrown around term in family law cases is parental alienation. What is it? How does it affect families? How do we recognize it? How can we minimize the harm it causes?

Parental Alienation is when one parent attempts to alienate the child from the other parent through bad mouthing the parenting, cutting communication methods between that parent and the child, isolating the other parent from the child, refusing parenting time to the other parents and the like. Parental Alienation tends to occur in high conflict divorces whereby parents have unresolved emotional issues with the other parent. Sometimes it can be hard to notice because the behavior occurs when the other parent isn’t present in front of the child. Sometimes it could involve one parent attempting to bad-mouth the other parent or make them look bad to the child. Other instances could include one parent attempting to remove the other parent from the child’s life or even severely limiting the child’s access to the other parent’s line of communication. Moreover, a parent might pressure the child to choose a favorite parent or even lie to their child about the other parent to make themselves look ‘better’.

Parents who create situations of parental alienation may be acting out on their own unresolved emotional issues of feeling wronged or rejected or even jealousy. Some parents even act out due to either feeling entitled that they are the superior parent or even due to fears of losing their child altogether. Being able to recognize the poor behavior and identifying the reasons why one or both parents are acting in such a way, is the first step towards correcting the issue. There can be severe long-term negative effects on a child’s mental health when one or both parents attempt to alienate the other.

Upon identifying the behavior, both parents must practice conflict resolution skills in order to break the parental alienation habits. Children suffer when parents attempt to use parental alienation. If the parties cannot resolve the issues on their own it is highly advised that they should consult their family attorney or mediator. In some extreme events a judge can be involved to make sure parental alienation does not occur and in extreme situations a Judge may order that the “friendlier” parent be the primary parent.

Children need both of their parents to be involved in their lives. If it is possible to find a middle ground, it is more important to do so. Remember it is not about your feelings of animosity towards the other party, it is about the needs of the child. Presuming that both parents are not abusing their child, no child deserves to feel alienated by one or both parents in their life. Make the effort and positive steps towards a healthier future for your child. You won’t regret it.

If you want to learn more about Parental Alienation or family law matters, please contact Angela Larimer at or 773-370-0600.

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