Is your ex making disparaging remarks about you in front of your children?
Is your ex inappropriately sharing feelings about the divorce with your children?
Is your ex undermining your authority with the children?
Is your ex failing to honor your shared custody or parenting time schedule?
If so, your ex is damaging your relationship with your children and violating your parental rights. This is called parental alienation, and either parent, the custodial or the non-custodial parent, can act to cause alienation of affection.
You have a legal right to a relationship with your child in PA!
Whether its malicious mother syndrome, or a father turning a child against a mother, we have helped resolve child alienation situations in Pennsylvania for over 40 years through mediation in PA family law, the collaborative process in PA, and child custody litigation. Call us if your ex is creating problems with your relationship with your children. You have rights, and we can help you exercise those rights.
What Qualifies as Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is one parent interfering with the relationship the other parent has with their children. People also call it brainwashing a child against a parent, or malicious parent syndrome.
Parental alienation can take the form of physically keeping children away from the alienated parent, malicious speech or disparagement meant to create a division between the alienated parent and the children, undermining the alienated parent, or convincing the children to falsely accuse the alienated parent of abuse or neglect. The goal of the alienating parent is to cause estrangement and/or hostility between the children and the alienated parent.
The interfering parent may be bad-mouthing the other parent intentionally or may just be reacting to the divorce angrily and talking about it in front of the children. Either way, parental alienation is harmful to both the children and the alienated parent.
Parental Alienation in Pennsylvania
Simply put, parental alienation is the term used to describe one parent manipulating the children and the situation to cause the children to disrespect or hate the other parent and refuse to spend time with them. When a child is manipulated by one parent, they can develop parental alienation syndrome.
What are the signs of parental alienation syndrome? Your ex may be guilty of child manipulation if::
- The child asserts silly or unfounded reasons why they have chosen to stop spending time with the alienated parent;
- The child attempts to justify the mistreatment of the alienated parent;
- The child thinks in absolutes – the alienating parent is “good” while the alienated parent is “bad”;
- The child gives unwavering support to the alienating parent.
Is Parental Alienation a Crime in PA?
Not per se, unless there is another component to the act of alienating the children from the other parent such as child abuse, which is a crime.
If the alienating parent physically takes possession of the child when not authorized, for example, if not having custody, or parenting time is not scheduled, that may be a felony of the third degree punishable with up to seven years in prison.
Interference with the custody of children is a misdemeanor of the second degree if:
- The defendant acted with good cause for a period of time not exceeding 24 hours;
- The child is the subject of a Pennsylvania child custody order;
- The defendant has either partial custody or visitation/parenting time rights;
- The defendant is a PA resident and did not remove the child from PA.
A parent found guilty of interference with child custody can lose custody entirely.
A family law judge also may, in their discretion, charge an alienating parent who is not complying with the custody order or visitation schedule with contempt of court.
How Can I Prove Parental Alienation?
You can prove parental alienation by first documenting all instances of conduct and speech you suspect are causing parental alienation, and the behavior of your child or children toward you as a result.
Next, you should consult a child custody lawyer in PA right away – time is of the essence, as the longer the alienation is allowed to take place, the more damage to your relationship with your children.
If you have a case for parental alienation, your attorney will prepare a motion to be filed in family law court which will present proof of the instances of parental alienation syndrome in your children. Depending upon the facts of your situation, your attorney may have to bring in a mental health professional who is experienced with parental alienation syndrome to help draft the motion.
In the motion your attorney will also ask the court to order that steps be taken to repair your relationship with your children. Such steps might include:
- Impose a formal parenting time schedule and allow for uninterrupted parenting time;
- Forbidding the alienating parent from contacting the children or the alienated parent during parenting time;
- Evaluation of the children by a child psychologist professional;
- Enrollment of the children in a reunification program to remediate the alienation.
What Do Judges Do About Parental Alienation in PA?
The family law judge will likely appoint a custody expert and schedule a trial, during which your attorney will argue that you are entitled to the relief requested because prior to the divorce, you had a healthy relationship with your children, and since then, certain conduct or speech by the alienating parent damaged the children’s relationship with you.
If your motion is successful, there then is the issue of enforcing the court’s order. For example, if the alienating parent is the custodial parent and persists in calling or texting the children during the alienated parent’s parenting time, the judge has the power to reduce the amount of child support paid to the custodial parent.
Your attorney will also make an argument that you are entitled to have your counsel and court fees paid by your ex as the alienator.
Can I Get Custody of My Children Due to Parental Alienation?
A parent can lose custody for causing parental alienation, so the answer may be yes.
In extreme cases of parental alienation, a family law judge in PA may determine that the best interests of the children will be served by granting custody to the alienated parent due to the parental alienation syndrome, which causes great emotional harm to the children. In severe cases, the alienating words or conduct may be considered neglect or child abuse in PA, and this can justify a change in child custody.
Manipulating and convincing children to make false allegations of drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, violence or any form of child abuse is the type of severe parental alienation that might warrant a change in child custody in PA.
Discuss Your Parental Alienation Case with a Child Custody Attorney Today
Do not wait – the longer you wait to take action, the more damage the relationship between you and your children will suffer. Call our child custody attorneys today to schedule your parental alienation case consultation. We can help you take the necessary steps to repair that relationship, for your sake and also your children’s.