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What is parental alienation and how does it affect child custody?

When people hear the phrase "parental alienation", many aren't sure what to make of it. However, this is a term commonly referred to in child custody hearings, and it is used to describe an effect that a parent's actions toward the other parent have on a child. it is certainly not something a parent wants to be accused of promoting, as a parent who is exhibiting behavior that is characterized as parental alienation could face repercussions in child custody decisions.

Parental alienation occurs when a parent exhibits behaviors that negatively impact the way a child interacts with and thinks about his or her other parent. Behaviors constituting parental alienation can manifest in either verbal or non-verbal ways and will mentally and emotionally affect a child's relationship with his or her parent. Children can feel fear or hate toward the victimized parent and will disrespect or avoid the parent in an extreme way. The types of behaviors related to parental alienation are often seen in high conflict divorces.

There are ways to avoid the negative affects of parental alienation. Most of this hinges on a parent's ability to avoid displaying negative thoughts or behaviors towards the other parent. Naturally, co-parenting after a divorce is hard, and you will likely disagree with the other parent at some point on how to parent the child. However, the basis of the child's exposure and decisions should be based on the best interests of the child. This will ensure that the child is exposed to positive behaviors that do not inhibit his or her relationship with either parent.

If the parental alienation type behaviors are being exhibited and inflicted upon a child, it could affect a parent's legal position when vying for child custody. A court could in fact deny the parent in question of physical custody since parental alienation is seen as a form of child abuse. Again, the best interests of the child are the basis for this type of child custody decision.

Source: paawareness.org, "PAAO- Raising awareness of parental alienation," Accessed March 15, 2015

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