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What is parental alienation and is your child at risk?

There's no doubt that divorce can be difficult and, for parents who choose to divorce, the emotional ups and downs that accompany the process are likely to be even more magnified. While, in a perfect world, parents who split up would remain on good terms and work together to further the best interests of a shared child; unfortunately, this isn't the reality for many divorcees or their children.

While disagreements about child-rearing matters are fairly common between divorced parents, some parents take things a step further and take action to essentially turn a child against the other parent. According to Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, parental alienation occurs when one parent engages in behaviors that are meant to deliberately turn a child against the other parent.

Not surprisingly, cases of parental alienation are often seen in high-conflict divorces and child custody battles. Examples of these damaging behaviors include making disparaging comments about a child's mother or father, disclosing details of why a divorce occurred, openly blaming a child's mother or father, asking a child to pick between parents and refusing to allow a child to see his or her mother or father.

Combined and over time, these types of behaviors can cause a child to develop a negative view of and attitude toward a parent. A child may even insist that he or she hates and may refuse to spend time with the other parent. If such behaviors are allowed to persist or are encouraged by a parent, a child's relationship with a mother or father can suffer irreparable damage and harm.

Divorced parents who have concerns that an ex is engaging in behaviors that are indicative of parental alienation, may choose to discuss their concerns with an attorney. Every child deserves the right to form a relationship with and be loved by both parents and, in cases where a parent fails to promote a child's best interests, a child custody or visitation agreement may need to be modified.

Source: Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, "PAAO - Raising Awareness of Parental Alienation and Hostile Aggressive Parenting," April 11, 2016

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