How Parental Alienation May Influence Child Custody Cases in Texas

Child custody cases are impacted by many factors. The more complicated your life is the more factors there are to consider. Even relatively simple lives are complicated in certain ways. What makes your family unique also causes there to be layers to a family law case. Learning how these layers of complexity impact a case is what separates successful parties from less successful parties. 

Where do you start when it comes to planning your child custody case? What are the issues that matter most to you? This is where to begin. Figuring out what issues are the most critical to your family takes time. This is not something you can figure out in a single period of contemplation. Rather, there needs to be a plan in place for considering the most crucial issues in your child custody case. If you don’t know what they are then you had better think about the subject in detail. 

One of the reasons why thinking through these issues is so critical is because your co-parent likely has a plan. On the positive side, their plan may be to do what is best for your child. However, your co-parent may seek to accomplish goals in ways that are not exactly fair or ethical. 

This is where the Law Office of Bryan Fagan wants to begin today’s blog post. One of the most unethical things a parent can do to their co-parent is to engage in alienating behavior. What alienating behavior is, how it hurts families, and how to address it are subjects we are going to get into today.

The co-parenting relationship is crucial to the well-being of your child

One of the ironies of a family law case involving children is that you are trying to separate yourself from your co-parent. Whether this is a divorce or child custody case, you do not get to completely sever yourself from your co-parent. Rather, the nature of your relationship is evolving rather than disintegrating. While you want nothing more than to walk away from him or her the family law case forces parties to work together. 

How do you work together with your co-parent? This is not necessarily a rhetorical question. It is worth asking yourself this question to determine how well you can co-parent right off the bat. Your children benefit from effective co-parenting. The more effective you and your co-parent are at working together, the better off your child is. The State of Texas believes this is the case. Joint managing conservatorships are the norm in Texas.

Do not switch to autopilot as soon as your family law case reaches its end stages. This is not the time to go into warp speed to try and get your case to the finish line. There are worthwhile goals to focus your attention on during a family case throughout its life. We are going to focus on effective co-parenting as a defense against parental alienation.  

The key to avoiding parental alienation? Your relationship with your co-parent

There are all sorts of advice out there for how to benefit your child the most during and after a child custody case. It is the hardest advice to hear that is the most impactful. Working alongside your co-parent in matters related to parenting pays the most significant dividends. When you and your co-parent set aside your differences and do what is best for your kids the benefits are out of this world. Underestimate this at your peril. 

It stands to reason that the hardest thing to do is the most beneficial. Think about this concept and apply it to other areas of your life. When you try to lose weight the exercise component can come easily to you. Getting to the gym or going on a run is fun for many people. Since you already enjoy the activity, the effort needed to do it seems minimal. 

Parenting with your co-parent is not fun for many of you reading this blog post. We all have difficulties from time to time communicating with our co-parents. This is true even in intact and functioning marriages. However, when it comes to parents going through a divorce there is little doubt that co-parenting is a challenge. With that said, there is no telling the benefits available to you. Co-parenting, to extend the exercise metaphor, is like “leg day.” It’s hard. You feel exhausted afterward. But it pays off. Your body notices the difference. Same concept as co-parenting. 

Regular communication with your co-parent

Have you and your co-parent been doing communication all wrong with one another? You may have. Many parents go through marriage or their relationship without ever stopping to figure out the best way to talk to their co-parent. Now is a great time to readjust that approach. Talk to your co-parent during your family law case. Do not allow your attorneys to pass messages back and forth the entire time. Be the bigger person and take the first step.

Respectfully reach out to your co-parent about communication. How do the two of you want to communicate with one another? Simple things such as phone calls and text messages work just fine. No need to reinvent the wheel. You can talk to your co-parent about their preferred method of communication during the week. We are all busy. It may be that text messaging about an upcoming weekend works the best. 

Communicating about basic things like transportation schedules is what I mean. You and your co-parent do not need to develop a strong, emotional relationship. That is probably not possible at this point at least. The co-parenting relationship is much more “business-like” than a relationship that you had previously. Don’t be weighed down by thoughts that you need to build this deep relationship. Establish a basic relationship that is child-centric.

Don’t put your child at the center of the communication

As mentioned, a moment ago, you and your co-parent may need your attorneys to do most of the communication at this point. This is out of necessity. The circumstances being discussed are legal. There are more complex subjects being negotiated upon. That’s understandable. However, once the child custody case wraps up that is not the case. The two of you are more than capable of being able to work through these issues together as a team. However, the communication needs to be between the two of you. 

This means not involving your children in the conversation unless necessary or appropriate. For example, many parents in your position fall into the habit of using their children as conversation facilitators. “Tell your mother/father” is a beginning point to these conversations. Identify when you are doing things like this and put a stop to them. First, children are not great communicators, and some details may be lost when kids are involved. Second, you do not gain the co-parenting experience when your kids do the work for you. 

Interested in learning effective co-parenting techniques? Working with the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is a great way to develop these skills. We know what works in co-parenting and what is less effective. It is all about effort and attitude. When you set out to establish an effective co-parenting relationship it is possible to benefit your child. Placing your child at the center of your communication, figuratively not literally, is the best method to build off. 

Parental alienation- what it is and what it means to your case

Parental alienation is something that most families experience at one time or another. Although it is common not many people are aware of the term “alienation.” Parental alienation occurs when one parent uses their words or actions to try and cast their co-parent in a negative light. This can be a one-time occurrence where your co-parent talks negatively about you to the kids. Or this may be a constant act of badmouthing you to the children. 

Whatever your specific circumstances are it is difficult to identify immediately. For instance, the alienating behavior occurs when you are not there. Your co-parent talks about you to the kids when they are with him. You are not there to defend yourself. Your children are caught off guard by what is being said. They are unable to have any kind of meaningful response to what is being said, as well. As a result, you are taking these verbal blows without any kind of resistance.

Even if you think that your children are old enough or mature enough to ignore these lies, that only lasts so long. Your children are human, after all. Repeat the same lie over and over to them and they will succumb. Planting a seed of doubt during an uncertain time makes for a dangerous situation. The last thing you want is to lose your relationship with them. 

When primary conservatorship is at stake, anything is possible

Your co-parent wouldn’t do these things, you figure. He is a straight shooter. While the two of you don’t get along the least you can say is that he wouldn’t lie about you to the kids. However, one of the issues in a child custody case is primary conservatorship. The primary conservator of your children determines where they live on a primary basis. This means the kids get to live with that parent during the school week, for example. 

When the stakes are this high there is no telling what your co-parent is capable of. Being a straight-shooting, good guy does not mean he won’t be tempted to plant the seeds of doubt in the mind of your child. Couple that with the idea that children 12 and older have the right to talk to the judge about their preferences on custody and you have the right atmosphere for parental alienation. 

What you can do in this situation is to talk with your co-parent about their behavior. Don’t come down on him. Avoid accusatory language. Instead, phrase everything in terms of what you struggle with and what you are concerned with. Place the focus on you and not on him. People are more agreeable to listening in a situation like this. When you make everything about the other person, he gets defensive. 

Negotiating with your co-parent for a ban on bad-mouthing one another

There are steps to take in a situation where you want to avoid alienating behavior. We have talked about how difficult it is to prevent alienation once it starts. Communication with your co-parent is a good way to stop it before it starts. Many parents in your shoes do not adequately prepare for circumstances like this. Do not let yourself fall into that trap. You hold all the cards necessary to prevent issues from arising as far as alienation is concerned.

One of the things you can do is to create court orders that explicitly state that alienation should not occur. Of course, this does not stop parents from engaging in the behavior. However, what it does do is provide consequences should the behavior rear its ugly head. For instance, consider what would happen if you found out about alienating behavior from your children. They are teens who tell you what your co-parents are saying to them about you. For weeks, you reach out to your co-parent. He won’t listen and continues to badmouth you.

Having temporary or final orders that specifically warn against alienating behavior puts you in a position where you have recourse. Finding evidence of the alienation is another issue to consider, however. What you can say is that because your co-parent sees orders against the behavior, he may be more willing to not alienate your children from you. Work with an experienced attorney from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We have the knowledge and skills to help prevent you from falling victim to alienation. 

Parents who alienate are untrustworthy

Ultimately, when your co-parent alienates your children, it hurts him the most. A person who would do this is untrustworthy. That is apparent to adults but less so to children. However, even children pick up on this reality after a while. Older children can eventually tell the difference between a lie and the truth. They know when a parent is telling them a lie. Your behavior during this time is crucial. Even though it is tempting to return fire- resist the temptation to do so.

Instead, use the time with your children productively. Let you know understand how much you love them. If not with your words, then with your actions. They are going to have plenty of time to let your lessons of love sink in. They contrast your actions with those of your co-parent. A lie spreads faster than the truth as many old sayings go. However, eventually the truth reveals itself. The less you engage in this type of alienating behavior the better you look to the kids. 

Speaking to noncustodial parents, it is especially challenging for you all to withstand alienation. You have limited time with the kids to begin with. Being forced to play defense against lies spread by your co-parent is concerning. You want to spend as much time with your children doing enjoyable things as possible. Having to reassure them of your love is not exactly the best use of your time. This will not last forever, though. Keep being there for the kids. Don’t engage in alienating behavior yourself. Once your co-parent sees their words aren’t hitting home the behavior will stop.

Working with an experienced attorney matters 

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan know about parental alienation. We see it in the cases we work on behalf of Texas families. Yes, it can have negative effects. However, there is a lot that an attorney can do to help. First, having court orders that are specific about barring alienating behavior is key. Extending that out to family members of your co-parent is smart, too. Your co-parent should not allow their family to act inappropriately.

Working with an experienced family law attorney also sets a tone for the entire case. When your attorney acts professionally, communicates directly, and holds everyone accountable that matters. The opposing attorney and party pick up on this. An attorney who does not take care of their business allows the other side to feel like they can “get away” with things. This is not the tone that you want in a case. 

Thank you for setting aside time today to spend here on our blog. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan posts unique and informative content on our blog every day. This is to inform our community about issues in family law. Be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions an attorney may assist with. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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