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Parental Alienation - What to Avoid & How to Recognize Symptoms

Divorce brings out the worst in people, but that should never extend to children of the relationship. While parents sort out their dispute, they should do their best to shield their children from the nitty gritty details. Unfortunately, however, some take the divorce as opportunity to poison their children against the other parent-essentially demanding that a child choose "sides." This, in a very general sense, is Parental Alienation.

The Texas Family Code has added certain protections and provisions to help guard against Parental Alienation Syndrome, but the State of Texas has yet to acknowledge the Syndrome as a mental problem requiring treatment. The court may appoint a parenting facilitator or parenting coordinator to aid throughout the pendency of the suit and thereafter, but many fail to take full advantage of their services.

Likewise, Denton County has outlined specific prohibitions to alienating behavior, which take effect as soon as the original petition in a divorce or suit affecting the parent-child relationship is filed. These are included in the Denton County Standing Orders, and additional restrictions may be requested via temporary orders and injunction. Of utmost importance, the parent shall not discuss the ongoing suit with the child-the child gets to be a child, meaning they should know as little about the suit as possible.

When going through a suit involving child custody, be sure to watch for some general symptoms:

  • A complete change in relationship: If the child suddenly shows excessive anger and disrespect toward a parent to whom he or she previously had a close relationship;
  • Feeling the need to protect one parent from the other: If the child starts blaming one parent for the divorce, refuses to spend time with the other parent, or starts spying on the other parent;

There are also actions by the opposing parent to watch for:

  • scheduling the child in activities or events, so the other parent does not get to spend time with the child;
  • forcing the child to discuss adult issues like finances or new relationships, often arising to the level of blaming the other parent for the shortness of funds available at a given time;
  • telling a child that he or she does not have to abide by rules at the other parent's house;

There is no concrete way to address or treat this Syndrome. Certainly, when physical and/or emotional abuse is at issue in the suit, alienation becomes more of a crutch for the abusing parent to attempt to maintain control.

If you are considering filing suit that will involve child custody and are concerned with your child's well-being, contact Yale Law about protections available at 940/891-4800.

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