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The Role of Parental Alienation in Divorce

Divorce is often challenging and can lead to high-stress and sometimes abusive situations. In some of these instances, one parent may try to manipulate their own child to harbor negative feelings toward the other parent. This distressing situation, known as parental alienation, can be very painful for the parent on the receiving end.

At Z Family Law, we recognize how valuable the parent-child bond is, and we're here to help protect it.  Our parental alienation attorneys have experience successfully managing many high-conflict divorces and child custody battles. We are dedicated  to achieving a favorable outcome for you and your children. Located in Rockville, MD and the surrounding areas, we're determined to put an end to parental alienation when it is happening in your family.

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What Is Parental Alienation?

The term "parental alienation" might sound unfamiliar, but it's a serious issue that could affect your and your child's relationship. First used by child psychologist Richard Gardner in 1985, it describes a scenario where a parent's actions influence your children negatively against you. While not officially classified as a syndrome or disorder, it's a damaging strategy that comes into play during challenging divorces and separations, especially when child custody issues are involved. It is particularly challenging when the alienating parent does not realize that they are engaging in harmful behaviors.

Picture this: In the midst of a difficult divorce, your ex-spouse might try to use your own child to harm your parent-child bond. This doesn't just affect you as the alienated parent—it compromises your child's best interest.

Typically, a child's needs are to maintain relationships with both biological parents, no matter how you and your ex-spouse feel about each other. The issues leading to divorce proceedings are between you two, and involving one's own child(ren) only increases the tension and complexity of the situation.

What's more concerning is that this alienating behavior can adversely affect your child's mental health. As for you, being an alienated parent can result in lasting damage to your parent-child bond, all because of your ex-spouse's interference.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Signs Parental Alienation Is Taking Place

A good parental alienation lawyer in Maryland understands that the idea of parental alienation, where the alienating parent manipulates their own child to turn them against the other parent, can be a very distressing concept. It can range from mild to severe, and it's essential to keep an eye out for early signs of parental alienation. The aim is to catch these red-flag behaviors and counteract them before any lasting mental health issues arise in your child.

Sadly, once this alienating behavior takes root, it's tough to reverse and can lead to a complete breakdown in the parent-child relationship. Your ex-spouse may be bad-mouthing you to your child, interfering with your scheduled visitation rights, manipulating your kids' emotions, and even coming up with false accusations about you.

As a loving and concerned targeted parent, you need to watch for the following behaviors:

  • Denying all past positive experiences with the alienated parent
  • Rejecting contact and communication with the alienated parent
  • Lacking a rational explanation for their newfound disdain
  • Accusing the alienated parent of wrongdoing that’s either been exaggerated or fabricated entirely
  • Refusing to recognize the alienator’s influence over their actions
  • Showing no remorse or empathy for the harsh treatment of the alienated parent
  • A swelling of animosity for the alienated parent that extends to that parent’s family as well. A child experiencing parental alienation, for example, may no longer want to see or associate with cousins, uncles, aunts, or grandparents on the alienated parent’s side

If your child is showing any (or all) of these signs, it's a strong signal that parental alienation might be happening. In this situation, it's crucial to act quickly. Taking the necessary steps and finding a parental alienation lawyer in Maryland to assist the family with ensuring access takes place and ensuring that family therapy takes place between the child and the alienated parent can prevent further emotional distress and harmful effects to your parent-child relationship.


How Can You End Parental Alienation?

Our child custody attorneys are often asked, , "Can you sue for parental alienation in Maryland?" The answer is complex, but you may be able to take action.

As a targeted parent, you may be facing the challenging issues of a high-conflict divorce and child custody battle. It's important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when parental alienation is involved. While it can be difficult to prove parental alienation in a court of law because it's not officially recognized as a mental health  syndrome, there are steps you can take to address it.

How Can You End Parental Alienation?

1. Custody Evaluation

One way to address parental alienation is through a custody evaluation. This evaluation is conducted by a licensed clinical social worker or mental health professional who closely observes the interactions in your parent-child relationship. They then provide a formal recommendation to the Maryland court based on their findings. These evaluators can be court ordered or chosen by the divorcing spouses.

2. Mediation and Parent Coordination 

Mediation and parent coordination can also be helpful in allowing children to spend enough time with the alienated parent and potentially improve their parent-child bond. Since effective communication can be challenging during a high-conflict divorce, mediation through and with a parental alienation lawyer in Maryland provides a structured environment for facilitating conversations focused on addressing the underlying alienation issues.

A neutral third party guides these discussions over several sessions, encouraging understanding and compromise so that ex-spouses, rather than the courts, can reach a favorable outcome. During mediation, parents typically create a parenting plan to guide how they will co-parent their children moving forward. This parenting plan can be referred to whenever disagreements arise, clarifying how they should be resolved. In parent coordination, a specially trained facilitator arms parents with additional support in their efforts to co-parent, from managing parenting plans, to streamlining communications, and resolving disputes. 

3. Custody Modification

If parental alienation begins after divorce and custody orders are already in place, custody modification is an option. This involves revisiting the original custody evaluation and demonstrating that the alienating parent is violating the current order. Corroborating evidence, such as proof of missed visitations without valid reasons, can support this claim.

Modifying the custody order aims to provide the alienated parent with an opportunity to reconnect with their own child and repair any damaged bonds. Maryland courts generally view a parent's desire to spend enough time with their children favorably, as it demonstrates their willingness to be actively involved in their child's life. Ultimately, Maryland courts prioritize the best interests of the child, and in most cases, maintaining a relationship with both parents is considered to be in a child's best interest.

Keep in mind that navigating divorce and child custody issues can be complex and emotional. Seeking professional legal advice from a parental alienation lawyer in Maryland at Z Family Law can be invaluable in ensuring the best outcome for you and your children.

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Non-Compliance with Custody Modifications

If the other parent is not following the original or  modified custody agreement in Maryland, it can hinder your efforts to rebuild a healthy parent-child relationship. In such cases, it's important to take appropriate action. Here are some steps you can consider:

  • Document the violations: Keep a detailed record of instances where the other parent is not complying with the custody order. Note missed visitations, denied communication, or any other relevant behaviors.
  • Consult with your attorney: Reach out to your family law attorney and share the documented violations. They can provide guidance on the legal options available to address the non-compliance.
  • Petition the court: Your attorney can help you file a petition with the Maryland court to address the non-compliance. The court can enforce the custody order and hold the non-compliant parent accountable for their actions.

Remember, the legal process may take time, and outcomes can vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case. It's crucial to work closely with your attorney, who can guide you through the process and advocate for your parental rights.


Finding the Right Parental Alienation Attorney for You

As you navigate this challenging time, a trusted family law attorney at our firm can help you make rational, well-guided decisions. After all, when it comes to your parental rights and your child(ren)'s best interests, the importance of finding strategic, compassionate counsel focused solely on family law cannot be understated.

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By combining our vast legal experience, our tenured team can design a tailored strategy to help you take back your power and build the new beginning you and your child deserve. Set up an initial consultation with a child custody lawyer in Maryland at Z Family Law today.

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