Divorced parents have an obligation to support their child’s relationship with the other parent as much as is reasonably possible. Unfortunately, many parents engage in destructive behavior, either deliberately or thoughtlessly, that undermines the child’s relation with the other parent. This includes subtle or overt rewards for rejecting the other parent as well as punishments for maintaining a positive loving relationship. If you suspect your ex might be practicing parental alienation on your child, you have to recognize the signs and take decisive steps to end the alienating behavior.
Signs of parental alienation include:
- A change in your child’s attitude toward you
- Loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy together
- Child late or unprepared for parenting time
- Cancelation of parenting time sessions
This is not to say that when a child, especially an adolescent, is moody, withdrawn or inconsiderate, you should immediately conclude your ex has been attempting to alienate the child’s affection. But when a pattern emerges and your ex seems to be supporting the child’s rejection of your parenting time rather than enforcing the schedule, you need to take action.
First, you should keep a log of incidents such as lateness, cancelations and remarks your child or your ex makes that might be pertinent. Mention your concerns to your ex. You shouldn’t immediately make accusations of alienation, but make it clear that you object to interruptions to your parenting time schedule. Remind your ex the parent who has majority timesharing has a legal duty to make the child ready for parenting time sessions. Make it clear that you value your time with your child and are not happy with the way things have been going.
If you see no improvement in your ex’s handling of the situation, consult a family law attorney. Sometimes a letter from your lawyer can prompt a friendly reminder from your ex’s lawyer about legal obligations under your parental responsibility order. If that step fails, you can ask the court to enforce your parenting time. In cases of parental alienation, courts can sanction the offending parent. A judge can even amend an order to give equal time to the parents or give the targeted parent sole parental responsibility.
However, under no circumstances should a targeted parent take “self-help” measures, such as withholding child support payments or keeping the child for an impermissible amount of time to compensate for lost sessions. Such actions will make it more difficult to convince the court that you’re the one who’s been wronged and could result in sanctions and loss of visitation rights.
For reliable legal advice specific to your circumstances, consult the dedicated Tampa Bay-area family law attorneys at the Law Offices of K. Dean Kantaras, P.A.