Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.
Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.
Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.

Parental alienation and its implications for child custody

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2023 | Family Law | 0 comments

After a contentious divorce, some parents may use their children as tools in their battle against each other. One tactic they may use is parental alienation. This involves one parent actively turning the children against the other parent.

Parental alienation is a form of child abuse. It can have serious negative effects on children’s overall short- and long-term mental wellbeing. As a result, it can also affect child custody arrangements.

What does parental alienation encompass?

Parental alienation refers to one parent’s deliberate negative manipulation of his or her children’s perception of the other parent. This may involve speaking negatively about the other parent, limiting contact, name-calling or influencing the children’s emotions to create a rift between them and the targeted parent. The alienating parent also often tells lies about and leverages false accusations against the other parent.

What are some potential consequences?

Parental alienation can lead to confusion, anxiety and a strained relationship with one of the parents. Children exposed to parental alienation may also struggle with issues related to self-esteem and trust in the future. They may also experience difficulty keeping healthy relationships or develop a distorted black-and-white worldview.

What is the impact of parental alienation on custody?

Kentucky judges base child custody decisions on the best interests of the child, both physical and psychological. One of their goals is to ensure that children have meaningful relationships with both parents because they believe it is important to the children’s development. Because parental alienation can hurt children emotionally and mentally and damage their parental relationships, courts may intervene in cases where it is present. They may investigate and order a custody modification.

What are the signs of parental alienation?

While children may act out after a divorce, it is important to differentiate this behavior from ones that may indicate parental alienation. Previously loving children suddenly becoming disrespectful, hostile or even hateful towards only one parent is a red flag. Another indicator of alienation is children blaming one parent for everything, including random, harmless things, without reason and refusing to listen to any rationale that goes against their view. Alienated children may mistreat and badmouth the targeted parent and display no guilt at all, showing an inflexible mindset that the parent is evil no matter what.

Psychiatric Times states that between 11% and 15% of divorces involve some form of parental alienation. When parents recognize signs of parental alienation in their children, it is important for them to investigate and report the abuse to the judges. Parental alienation creates a negative environment for children and can have deep and long-lasting consequences. Judges may consider it grounds for a custody change.


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Photo of Kenneth L. Gibson Jr.