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Parental alienation in the context of divorce

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2023 | Child Custody, Divorce | 0 comments

A divorce comes with many areas of contestation, including child custody. As a parent, you want to make major decisions for your child. You also want your child to spend as much time with you as possible. The other parent most likely will wish to have the same parental rights. In most cases, joint physical custody, where the child spends a substantial amount of time with both parents, benefits the child. But there are circumstances where it can be harmful; for example, if your ex-spouse tries to turn your child against you.

This tactic is often referred to as parental alienation – when a parent manipulates their child to think negatively about the other parent. They make the child believe their other parent is bad or unfit, so the child will prefer to be with them. It is a malicious act that aims to ruin the relationship between the targeted parent and child.

How does parental alienation happen?

Parental alienation is brainwashing. A parent may do it intentionally or unconsciously, particularly when they feel resentment toward their former spouse. Below are some ways parental alienation can happen:

  • Making the child believe the other parent does not love them
  • Lying to their child about spousal abuse and negligence
  • Persuading the child to refuse to go to the other parent’s home
  • Badmouthing the other parent to their child
  • Demeaning and harshly criticizing the other parent in front of their child
  • Undermining the parental authority of the other parent
  • Preventing the child from talking to the other parent
  • Confiding in the child about the other parent

A person may do this to get revenge on their spouse for filing for divorce or having a new romantic interest. They may also do it to get full custody of the child and child support.

How does parental alienation affect child custody?

One of the factors a court will use to determine child custody in New Jersey is the relationship of the child with their parent. If your former spouse is alienating your child from you, it can potentially sway the court’s decision in their favor. However, more than the legal implications, the child may develop psychological and mental issues from learning to hate a person they look to for love, guidance and support.

The relationship between divorcing spouses should not affect each one’s relationship with their child. If you notice your child is suddenly acting distant, it might be time to talk to your co-parent.