What Do the Courts Do in Cases of Parental Alienation?

What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent uses various tactics to influence their child against or distances them from their other parent. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a term coined in the 80s to describe the behavior of a child that has been subjected to parental alienation. Parental Alienation Syndrome is somewhat controversial as it has not been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Similarly, it has not been recognized by the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, nor the World Health Organization.

However, despite the controversy regarding PAS, parental alienation itself is something that happens, and it can be very damaging to children and their relationship with their parents.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Identifying when parental alienation is happening can be challenging. This is especially the case in high conflict situations where reading your child's behavior and emotions can be difficult. For example, just because a child doesn't want to go to their other parent's house doesn't mean parental alienation is going on. The child may have their own reasons for not wanting to go to a parent's home for visitation that does not involve influence from the other parent.

However, if you have noticed a change in your child's behavior towards you, it is worth being aware of the signs of parental alienation to ensure that if it is happening, you can take action immediately.

Some common signs of parental alienation include:

  • The other parent makes false allegations about you to the children
  • The other parent overshares details of your divorce in an attempt to make you look bad
  • Your child is suddenly acting cold or hostile towards you
  • Your child suddenly does not want to attend visitation with you

Divorce is difficult for everyone, especially children, and parental alienation can create long-term divisions between children and parents and have a long-lasting emotional impact on children.

Review our blog on the signs of parental alienation to learn more about these symptoms in depth.

Do CA Courts Recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Though there is controversy over whether PAS should be recognized as a syndrome, the courts have recognized that parental alienation does happen and that it can have serious, damaging effects on children. When parental alienation occurs, a parent can take the matter before the court to be remedied. There are several ways the courts address issues of parental alienation, depending on the severity of the situation.

Examples of potential remedies to parental alienation include:

  • Awarding more custody to the alienated parent
  • Modifying visitation schedules to limit the time the child spends with the alienating parent
  • Reunification therapy and/or family therapy

Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be further options for resolving parental alienation issues outside of the courtroom. For example, in some situations, the alienating parent doesn't realize what they are doing, and therapy or working together with your respective attorneys can help resolve the problem.

However, this is not always possible, especially in cases where a parent actively works to undermine their child's relationship with their other parent. In fact, in some severe cases, additional criminal charges may also be brought against the alienating parent if there are instances of domestic violence or abuse associated with the parental alienation.

Proving Parental Alienation

Proving parental alienation can be challenging. The courts may consider many factors, including social media posts, text messages and emails, child testimony, relative testimony, and testimony from a custody evaluator. If you suspect your child's other parent is actively trying to alienate you from your children, you should document any evidence you have and speak with an experienced attorney right away.

If you are dealing with issues of parental alienation, contact our law firm for guidance. At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, we have helped many families with these types of cases, and we are prepared to use our experience to help you and your family. Send us a message online to schedule a consultation.


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