Parental alienation — where one parent tries to detach children emotionally from the other parent — is especially toxic for children of divorce, and therefore highly frowned upon by New Jersey family courts. Both fathers and mothers can be on the receiving end of parental alienation, so it helps to know the warning signs and address them immediately by informing your attorney.
Some clear warning signs of parental alienation include the following:
- Your child asks you not to attend any activities or functions that you usually attend.
- Your child suddenly starts exhibiting oppositional behavior, when they have shown little or no such behavior toward you in the past.
- Your ex fails to include you in parent/teacher conferences and takes you off the school’s parental contact list.
- Your child becomes argumentative and tries to goad you into an angry reaction.
- Your child no longer enjoys activities with you that used to bring both of you closer together.
- Your ex criticizes and speaks badly about you in front of your child.
- Your ex tells your child all the details about your divorce and your ongoing conflicts in an attempt to gain sympathy.
- Your ex refuses to be in your presence or to co-parent reasonably.
- Your ex makes false accusations of abuse.
- Your child feels guilty about the divorce and tries to take responsibility for the discord between his or her parents.
- Your ex doesn’t want your child to be around any of your family or friends.
Parental alienation can happen to anyone, but it typically occurs when one parent has a narcissistic or borderline personality disorder. Parental alienation has even been labeled a form of child abuse, since it weakens the bond a child has with one parent and hinders a child’s emotional development. The child may feel a need to “protect” the unstable parent; they will acquiesce to that parent’s demands for distance from the other parent, thinking that in doing so, he or she is safeguarding the unstable parent.
If you suspect that your ex is trying to alienate your children from you, talk to your attorney. You may also want to explore this dynamic in your family with a therapist. When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.