Parental Alienation and Child Custody in California

Parental Alienation and Child Custody in California

Divorce and the circumstances leading up to it can cause a lot of animosity between parents. Even still, the court expects parents to cooperate and work together to co-parent when they are no longer married. Sometimes, usually for selfish reasons, one parent will try to turn the children away from the other parent.

This parent encourages the child to reject the other parent unfairly. They may control the child with guilt or fear, which helps to alienate the other parent further.

Child custody disputes are extremely stressful on divorcing parents, but most importantly the children. Child custody cases are expensive to litigate in a family law court and frequently involve mental health professionals. Parental Alienation and Child Custody in California

Custody cases often severely damage the relationships between spouses and the child usually suffers the most from their parent’s battles in court.  Typically, child custody cases involve disputes over visitation where parents can’t reach a mutual agreement how much time each of them will spend with the children.

In Los Angeles family law courts, the judge will usually attempt to ensure the children will have regular contact with both parents, unless it’s not in the children’s best interests.

Child custody situations become even more difficult when one parent makes claims the other parent is taking action to cause their child to reject them. If one parent actively takes steps to damage the other parent’s relationship with the child, by denigrating a parent in the presence of the child, it’s commonly known as “parental alienation.”

If you believe that your ex-spouse is guilty of parental alienation, it’s time to hire a compassionate Los Angeles family law attorney to find out what your rights are and stop their negative behavior. It is not merely a family issue or just between the ex-spouses; if necessary, the courts will get involved to take corrective and punitive action.

To give readers a better understanding of parental alienation and its connection to child custody, our California divorce attorneys are providing an overview below.

Defining Parental Alienation

Parental alienation occurs when a child rejects or turns away from one parent. While it may seem like the non-custodial parent would be the one being alienated, this isn’t always true. Parental alienation can occur in any type of divorce situation, whether the children spend equal time with both parents or not. Both moms and dads can be the target of this behavior.

If the child accepts a parent’s comments and thinks they are true, and then acts on the comments by rejecting the other parent, it is often believed the child has developed a “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS).

It typically starts with small negative comments about the other parent made in the presence of the children and often progresses to actively interfering with the other parent’s visitation time.

The alienating spouse can make excuses as to why the children cannot come over, such as they are ill, have a sporting event, or have a big test to study for. In this process, the child may come to fear the alienating parent and be more likely to defend them.

Signs of parental alienation include:

  • Exclusionary requests from your child (don’t come to my ballet recitals)
  • Shut out or requests made by your child to not attend parent/teacher conferences.
  • Shut out from school meetings (by the other parent with indirect and not so direct means)
  • No longer listed as contact parent for school/camp
  • Your child challenges you and they become argumentative, combative and even rageful
  • Your child has a sense of entitlement to receive parental tasks or gifts
  • An arrogant attitude of how they are better than you
  • A failure of the child to identify any prior positive bonding experiences
  • Your child repeating negative or degrading comments that they heard from the alienating parent
  • Your child will not acknowledge manipulation by the pathological parent and may hold the process of rejecting as their own

What You Can Do About Parental Alienation

If you are the parent being alienated, take the high road. Remain calm and cordial while setting your boundaries. What your child’s other parent is doing is detrimental to all of the relationships involved and is highly frowned upon by the court.

Typically, discussing this behavior with the alienating spouse is unsuccessful. You may need the legal insight and help from a seasoned family law attorney in Los Angeles or child psychologists to help get through this.

Parental alienation is considered emotional abuse by some family courts and may be the basis for a child custody modification or other actions.

Family law courts have acknowledged parental alienation and have ways to deal with it. When there are claims of alienation, the court will have to determine why the child is alienated, and how to possibly repair the broken relationship in order for both parents to have a role in raising the child.

What the Family Court Can Do About Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can often be handled by therapy and by increasing the amount of time the child spends with the alienated parent.

Normally, a child custody evaluation will be performed by an expert in order to determine the extent of the problem and then they can make recommendations to the court for therapy and time share to improve the relationship between parent and child. This is commonly known as a 730 Custody Evaluation as described under California Evidence Code 730.

In severe alienation cases, the only solution might be to remove the child from the house of the alienating parent and place them with the alienated parent.

However, before a family court judge will change custody from one parent to another, they will normally request a psychological evaluation, which can take months to complete.  It should be noted that many evaluators are often reluctant to recommend a custody change to the alienated parent, so they will recommend a reunification plan, which includes therapy sessions.

Parental alienation is on the rise. As such, courts are starting to recognize it and the harm it causes and take corrective actions. If one spouse can prove that parental alienation is occurring, the court can:

  • Find the alienating parent in contempt of court and impose sanctions accordingly
  • Change the physical or legal custody of the child if it appears that the alienation is causing the child harm
  • Order reunification therapy where both the parents and child are counseled in an after to reunify the child with the parent who has been alienated

Hire a Skilled Los Angeles Family Law Lawyer

Suspecting that your child’s other parent is attempting to alienate them from you can evoke many emotions. You may feel bitter, angry, or even betrayed by your child or ex-spouse. It is crucial that you don’t act on these emotions but instead reach out to a family law lawyer in Los Angeles as soon as you begin to see the signs.

The challenge in severe alienation cases is getting the family law court to act quickly. Extreme alienation cases are complicated and will usually require expert testimony.

Our family law attorneys may be able to help you through this challenging time. We can assist you in gathering the evidence alienation and presenting it to the court so that action can be taken. We need to first review all the details of your situation and legal options.

Furman & Zavatsky are experienced Los Angeles family law and divorce lawyers located in the San Fernando Valley at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (818) 528-3471.


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