How Can I Prove Parental Alienation in Lawrenceville, GA?
Parental alienation can harm a child’s mental health and destroy a parent’s relationship with their child. In some cases, one parent will use it as a weapon in a divorce, separation, or other child custody dispute. By alienating the child from their parent, the other parent might persuade a court that they should have primary or even sole legal and physical custody.
Proving parental alienation is not easy. You may need evidence of actions undertaken to alienate you from your child. Even more importantly, you must show the other parent’s involvement in alienating the child. If you or the child destroyed or eroded your parent-child relationship without outside influence, the other parent has not engaged in parental alienation.
Table of Contents
What Constitutes Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation has both a broad and narrow definition. Broadly, it encompasses any action that intentionally or inadvertently drives a wedge between a parent and child. For example, a grandparent can cause parental alienation by belittling a parent in front of a child. The grandparent might create a rift between the parent and child even if that was not their intent.
A narrower and more insidious version happens when someone engages in a pattern of behavior specifically designed to create a physical or emotional gap between a child and their parent. This behavior is part of a strategy to gain favor with the child at the other parent’s expense.
Gaining the child’s favor and eroding their relationship with the other parent can serve a purpose. The alienating parent can elicit favorable testimony from the child in court, thereby increasing their chance of gaining custody. They can even use their influence over the child to persuade them to lie about the targeted parent.
Some behaviors that can contribute to parental alienation include:
Deriding the Other Parent
The most fundamental form of parental alienation comes when someone, typically a parent, targets the other parent for derision and scorn. This behavior goes beyond stray comments and fair observations. “Dad spends a lot of money” or “Mom is out with her friends again” may not rise to the level of parental alienation.
But objectively unjust and overly harsh criticism may qualify. “Dad is going to keep spending until we’re homeless” or “Mom would rather spend time with her friends than her kids” might cause parental alienation.
Derisive criticisms might also cause parental alienation as they increase in frequency. A relentless campaign of belittling the targeted parent can cause damage even if the individual comments are not that harmful.
Telling Lies About the Other Parent
Truthful comments often constitute a defense against parental alienation, while lies almost always suggest an effort to alienate the child. These lies can include objectively untrue statements like, “Dad is drunk again,” when, in fact, he was not.
They can also include truthful statements tinged with untrue commentary. Thus, “Mom couldn’t come to your football game because she doesn’t love you” might be untrue because of the false reason given for missing the game.
Keeping the Child From the Other Parent
One parent might have legitimate grounds for keeping a child from the other parent. The targeted parent might have abused or neglected the child. They might have addiction or mental health concerns that make them unstable and potentially dangerous. They may have even threatened to kidnap the child.
But outside of those types of situations, keeping a child from the other parent might unfairly estrange the child from them. Georgia law does not recognize legal separation. In the absence of a custody and visitation order from a court, a parent could alienate your child from you by blocking visits.
What Does Not Constitute Parental Alienation?
To argue that someone has engaged in parental alienation, you must show they took some action.
Parental alienation does not occur in any of the following circumstances:
- The child rejects the parent
- The parent abandons the child
- The parent and child are estranged for reasons other than the other parent’s involvement
In these cases, the child may be alienated from the parent. However, they cannot have parental alienation syndrome (PAS), and the estranged parent cannot accuse the other parent of causing the alienation.
Proving Parental Alienation
Proving parental alienation will often require evidence of several facts, including the following:
Wrongful Actions By the Other Parent
You need evidence of wrongful actions committed by the parent accused of parental alienation. In many cases, this evidence comes from testimony from witnesses such as the child, their siblings, and other relatives like grandparents. They can testify about what they observed the parent saying and doing. Your family law attorney might also gather written communications, like emails, text messages, and social media posts, that prove the parent’s wrongful actions.
Bear in mind that you may also need to develop evidence about the other parent’s motivation. A lie or unduly harsh criticism only constitutes parental alienation if you can provide context that suggests their reason for saying what they said.
The Effect on the Child
Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse. It manipulates the child in ways that:
- Make the child more dependent on the “good” parent
- Drive the child away from the “bad” parent
- Cause the child to become willing to defend the “good” parent or even lie for them
You can prove the effect on the child by looking for signs of parental alienation, such as:
- Hatred or fear toward the targeted parent
- Belief in lies about the targeted parent
- Words that mimic the alienating parent’s language
- Certainty by the child in their feelings about their parents
- Radical shifts in the child’s behavior toward each parent
- Relating facts about the targeted parent that the child heard about but did not see
In some cases, you might need expert testimony to support your claim. A mental health professional can talk to your child and determine whether their symptoms match those of parental alienation syndrome. This diagnosis can provide strong support for a claim of parental alienation.
No Evidence That Your Actions Caused Alienation
The other parent’s primary line of defense will likely focus on your behavior. Specifically, the other parent will try to show that your actions alienated your child. They will raise all acts of neglect, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or even physical abuse. If you spanked your child or yelled at them, expect that to come out.
Your job is to prove that your actions did not cause your child to reject you. You can do this by showing you did nothing to justify rejection. You can also do this by showing the other parent’s undue ability to influence the child’s attitude toward you.
Repairing Parental Alienation in Lawrenceville, Georgia
Often, the first step in repairing parental alienation happens in the courtroom. You need access to your child to break the other parent’s hold on them. Contact our Lawrenceville child custody attorneys to discuss how you can prove parental alienation and begin repairing your relationship.