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Parental Alienation in Colorado Divorces

According to research from Science Direct, approximately 22 million American parents are victims of parental alienation during high conflict divorces. Of that number, 10 million American parents experience severe cases of parental alienation. Unfortunately, parental alienation is a serious issue that can greatly affect child custody, child support, and the overall emotional wellbeing of the children involved. Family law attorneys at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton take this issue very seriously. We will help you prove parental alienation while taking appropriate legal action to resolve the situation for the sake of you and your child. Contact our law office today at 303-951-4506 for more information.

parental alienation

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is basically a form of child abuse that most commonly happens in high-conflict divorce. More specifically, it’s a form of emotional abuse towards children. Parental alienation is when a child has a strong, unjustified hatred for one parent due to pressure from the other parent. Generally, the child appears comfortable and happy with the custodial parent while strongly disliking the non-custodial parent. 

Alienating Parent vs. Alienated Parent

There are two types of parents involved in this type of abuse: the alienating parent and the alienated parent. Basically, the alienating parent plants the seeds of hatred into the child’s mind while actively interfering with the child’s relationship with the other parent. Meanwhile, the alienated parent (or the target parent) is the one who is unjustifiably hated by the child. So the victims in this situation are the alienated parent and also the child.

Parental Alienation Tactics

Parental alienation can range from mild to severe. Unfortunately, there are many parent alienation tactics, including:

  • Forcing the child to choose between the two parents
  • Teaching the child to disregard all lessons and rules from the other parent
  • Not giving the child birthday presents from the other parent in order to show the child that the other parent doesn’t care about them, which feeds the child’s hatred
  • Blaming the alienated parent for causing the divorce, ruining the family, or for anything else that goes wrong
  • Telling the child that they’re not loved by the alienated parent
  • Creating an overall bad image of the target parent through constant criticism or false allegations
  • Generally interfering with the alienated parent-child relationship 
  • Making the child feel bad for loving the other parent and wanting to spend time with them
  • Not telling the target parent about important sports or school events so that they don’t show up, therefore supporting the idea that the child isn’t loved by the target parent

Parental Alienation vs. Parental Alienation Syndrome

It’s important to note that parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome (PAS) are two different things. The syndrome was originally identified by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1985. His definition of PAS is described as:

“A childhood disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. It is a disorder in which children, programmed by the allegedly “loved” parent, embark upon a campaign of denigration of the allegedly “hated” parent. The children exhibit little if any ambivalence over their hatred, which often spreads to the extended family of the allegedly despised parent.”

So parental alienation simply describes the abusive behavior of the alienating parent. Meanwhile, PAS is the condition that the child suffers as a result of the alienating behavior. However, parental alienation syndrome cannot exist if the hated parent is abusive or neglectful in some way. If the hated parent is completely loving and caring, then there is simply no justification for the child’s hatred. Therefore, PAS is a definite explanation for this hatred.

While the syndrome manifests itself in the emotionally abused child, it’s unquestionably caused by the alienating parent. Issues that may cause one parent to resort to emotional abuse include unresolved:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drug abuse
  • Narcissism
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Abandonment from their own parents

Signs of Parental Alienation Through the Child

Parental alienation is a complex form of psychological child abuse, therefore making it difficult to spot. Alienated children may exhibit these signs and behaviors if they’re enduring this type of child abuse:

  • An exaggerated, unjustified hatred of the other parent
  • Speaking the same way as the alienating parent about the target parent
  • Refusing to spend time with the target parent
  • Sharing the same beliefs as the alienating parent about the target parent 
  • Having generally irrational and delusional beliefs about the target parent or the divorce case at hand
  • An inability to see the good in the other parent
  • The negative beliefs and claims about the other parent aren’t created through actual experiences, instead they’re created through what the abusive parent is saying and doing
  • An inability to feel guilty about their negative behavior or claims towards the target parent
parental alienation

How Parental Alienation Affects Children

Children can certainly experience long-term consequences from the abuse of parental alienation. Family therapists who work with victims of previous parental alienation cases report the following long-term issues:

  • Difficulty in creating and maintaining any type of relationship.
  • Lack of trust in friendships, romantic relationships, and family members.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Little to no self-respect.
  • Major guilt, anxiety, and depression later in life because they believe they destroyed a healthy relationship with the target parent. In reality, it was the abusive parent’s fault.
  • Difficulty in controlling impulses.
  • Struggling to succeed in school.
  • Later abandoning or alienating their own children.

How to Prove Parental Alienation

If you suspect that your child is suffering from PAS as a result of the other party in your divorce, it’s important to notify a family law attorney and even a child family investigator. This type of abuse can certainly impact the outcome of your divorce, child support, and child custody order. Proving parental alienation to Colorado courts is crucial for creating a parenting plan that protects your child’s emotional wellbeing. You can potentially prove parental alienation to family courts in the following ways.

Document Everything

As the target parent, you must document every time you spend time with your child or every time you’re denied a visit with your child. Make sure to include specific dates, times, locations, etc. Include pictures and videos of your visits with your child too if you can. 

Document all evidence of your ex-spouse criticizing you or creating false allegations about you through text messages, social media, phone calls, videos, etc. Make sure to include specific dates, times, and locations in relation to these negative statements. If your child is also saying the same things about you, this kind of documentation will certainly help prove parental alienation. 

Lastly, collect text messages, call logs, and emails between the abusive parent and your child if you can. These conversations may clearly show the abusive parent manipulating the child into hating you for no reason.

Collect Social Media Evidence

If you can no longer see your spouse’s social media posts, ask a friend or family member to monitor their social media for posts and comments that hint towards parental alienation. Also, make sure to monitor your child’s social media posts and comments, because they may reveal something about the divorce or their parents. You can certainly use all relevant social media information to your advantage.

Identify Witnesses

Make a list of witnesses who may have spent time with your child, your spouse, or both. Make sure to specify what your witnesses saw or heard, and how it supports your case. Your witnesses can be anyone, including:

How Do Colorado Courts Respond to Parental Alienation?

If the target parent is able to prove parental alienation, courts will respond accordingly. Depending on the severity of the situation, they may alter child custody, seek civil or criminal remedies, or suggest therapy for the child.

Custody Changes

Depending on the severity of the parental alienation, courts may deny custody privileges altogether or modify parenting time through supervised visits with the abusive parent. Whatever the decision is, courts will certainly create parenting plans that have the child’s best interests in mind.

Civil Remedies

Colorado courts can enforce civil sanctions through contempt-of-court orders. If the target parent can prove parental alienation, the abusive parent may receive financial sanctions or a short jail sentence for contempt of court.

Criminal Response

Emotional child abuse or maltreatment of a child is a crime in every state, so the consequence could be a criminal charge. Custody interference, for example, is a third-degree offense in New Jersey. It’s punishable by three to five years in prison, a $7,500 fine, or both.

Child Therapy

Lastly, because parental alienation is a form of abuse that can certainly impact the child’s short-term and long-term mental health, courts will recommend therapy for all parties involved: the alienator, the child, and the other parent. The abusive parent will likely have individual therapy while the child and the target parent undergo reunification therapy. This type of therapy is specifically designed to repair the relationship between parent and child by improving communication, healing emotional wounds, rebuilding trust, and emphasizing attachment. If reunification therapy is successful, the child may suffer fewer long-term mental and emotional issues while having a strong relationship with the target parent.

parental alienation

Call a Family Law Attorney at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton Today

Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton offers the best family law services in Denver, Colorado. When it comes to parental alienation cases, our attorneys will fight tooth and nail to protect the alienated parent and the child so that neither have to face this abuse for a long period of time. For more information on how we can protect you and your family, contact us at 303-951-4506.

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