Many people who go through a divorce or child custody case expect that their spouse or co-parent will not treat them well during the case itself. All is fair in love and war, they say. The stakes in a case are high. You could be dealing with your relationship and time with your children. In a divorce, you may have a significant amount of property to divide. In whatever your circumstances are you likely believe them to be extremely high stakes no matter what your reality is. That's just human nature. If your opposing party will try to make life difficult for you is not a huge assumption for you to make.
What can make a family law case especially tough, however, is if you become involved in a situation where not only is your opposing party making life tough on you, but your child is too. I don’t simply mean that your child may act out due to the stress and anxiety associated with a case. Rather, I am talking about something much more pervasive than bad behavior. This is behavior that bad, no doubt. The source of the bad behavior lies more in the attitude and dirty tricks of a co-parent or spouse than in your child him or herself.
In today’s blog post we will be discussing the concept of parental alienation. This is a term that many of you reading this blog post may be unfamiliar with but may nonetheless be familiar with. Parental alienation describes a situation where your co-parent is using your kids as a weapon against you. Typically, a manipulative parent will use their time with your kids to fill their heads with lies and then turn your kids over to you like little ticking time bombs. It is a true dirty trick that is not only frowned upon but specifically barred in divorce and child custody temporary orders. Yet, some parents have no problem with doing it anyways.
I recommend that you read all these blog posts. I'm going to help you learn how to identify signs of parental alienation when you see them and then help you to try and develop methods for eliminating it from your and your children's lives. 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. Family law cases are tough- but our lawyers are tougher.
Parental alienation- what are the basics?
Parental alienation is something that is not new. Manipulative people have existed since the beginning of human interactions with one another. We all know someone in our lives, unfortunately, he was a bit of a manipulator. In an ideal world, we can avoid that person as much as possible due to the potential impacts of their personality on our lives. However, it becomes a huge problem when that manipulative person is your Co-parent. At that point, it is impossible to completely cut off ties with the manipulator do too to raise your child together with him or her.
This is one of the major misconceptions and mistakes that people make who get involved in family law cases. That misconception is that by going through a divorce or child custody case you no longer must interact with your child's other parent. While the divorce may end your marriage or the child custody case may establish parenting orders between you and your Co-parent, that does not end your relationship with the other person. Rather, it creates circumstances where the real work of parenting and putting aside your differences is just beginning. The irony is that the family law case maybe only the beginning of the rest of your relationship with this person.
Coparenting with an alienating partner
when we talk about Coparenting what I mean by this is the type of situation where you are raising a child with a person that you are not married to, not in a dating relationship with, and do not reside in the same household as. I think everyone reading this blog post would agree that it is difficult to raise a child even when you're living in the same household as your Co-parent. However, when you are Co-parenting with someone that you are not living with the degree of difficulty increases. Couple that with having some animosity between you and your Co-parent and you are in a potentially tricky situation. Being able to navigate the waters of managing your emotions with this person as well as understanding would it takes to help your child presents an entirely new set of challenges for you to embrace after the conclusion of your child custody or divorce case.
One of the major challenges that I have found people experience in this situation is being able to determine how you are going to hold your Co-parent accountable to the family court orders but at the same time not being overbearing to the extent that you become a nuisance or a major annoyance. I have found that being firm and direct with people in this situation is for the best. When you can tell the truth to another person about what needs to be done and lay out clear expectations there is not much wiggle room for misinterpretation. One of my favorite sayings in the context of a family law case is that to be unclear is to be unkind. If you can be clear with, you're a Co-parent about what your expectations are, and be willing to listen to what their expectations are, you will be off to a good start.
Otherwise, there will undoubtedly be challenges associated with Co-parenting with a parent who uses alienating behavior. That person will likely use whatever underhanded tricks that he or she can gain an advantage in any number of areas of your life. You do not have to look very long at your life or that of your children to find an area where your Co-parent may attempt to use your children against you. This carries with it the double whammy of being harmful to your relationship with your child as well as being harmful to the family court orders that you and your Co-parent had worked through in your child custody or divorce case.
What it also does is put you in a situation where you can never feel comfortable trusting your Co-parent. Whether it is following the visitation orders, paying child support, or even feeling comfortable with your children at their home it is normal to be skeptical of the behavior your alienating Co parrot displays. There is nothing easy about a child custody case. It is especially not easy to go through this process with someone who is always angling for an advantage or trying to harm your relationship with your children. There is enough inherent in a divorce or child custody case that could harm your relationship with your children. On top of that, you do not need the stress of feeling like your Co-parent may be working behind the scenes to turn your children against you.
The alienating behavior of your co-parent towards your children can vary depending upon the age of your child. For younger children, the alienating behavior may be more subtle. Younger kids aren't as capable of understanding big picture issues as a teenager may be able to. Therefore, the alienating behavior maybe something like mentioning bad things you have done or outright making up stories to have your child be skeptical or at worst afraid of you. Then your Co-parent will send your child home to you and he or she will not be warm or happy to see you.
For older children, the manipulative behavior will often be much more direct. Your Co-parent could share unsavory information about you, disclose personal details about your divorce or child custody case, or even makeup things about you to turn your child against you. This can be especially harmful to a teenager who could potentially be able to speak to a judge about conservatorships issues. If you have a Co-parent who has visitation rights with your child but wants to become the primary conservator, then alienating behavior may be a game that he or she tries to engage in.
During your child custody or divorce case, there will almost certainly be a prohibition against alienating behavior contained within the child custody or divorce temporary orders. Temporary orders are court orders that are in place for as long as your case is ongoing. These temporary orders are intended to keep the peace between you and your Co-parent and provide you with the framework of some rules to be able to treat each other respectfully and manage the co-parenting relationship during the initial stages of your case.
Specifically, you and your Co-parent will be barred from being able to Speak to your children about the other person. this would extend towards your family. For example, your Co-parent is barred under temporary orders from speaking to your children negatively about you or your family outside of your presence. This is one of the most difficult parts of a child custody or divorce case given that you are put in a precarious situation when you leave your child with your Co-parent. You have no control over what they are doing or what your Co-parent is telling your children. In a situation like that, you must trust that the temporary orders will keep your parent from engaging in this type of behavior. The reality is that not much else is standing in between your kids and receiving alienating information.
Violations of a family court order Are dealt with through enforcement cases. In an enforcement case, you are seeking to enforce the terms of your divorce or child custody orders. In the enforcement petition, you would specify the type and number of violations of the court order and seek to Have the judge make a ruling on each. There is a wide range of consequences for violating child custody or divorce order. Those violations range from monetary fines, loss of visitation time with your kids, or even timing in jail. Given this wide range of potential outcomes of an enforcement case, it is a great idea for you to be represented by an attorney. Having an attorney by your side will allow you to learn best practices as far as not only drafting the document itself but in arguing your petition in court.
Otherwise, once your child custody or divorce case is over with it is up to you and your Co-parent to regulate yourselves and your behavior. It is not as if the family court judge will be following you in your Co-parent at every turn to make sure that you are abiding by the court orders. You and your Co-parent are put in a position where you are the ones who are calling balls and strikes on one another. If you believe that your Co-parent is being unfair or engaging in manipulative and alienating behavior, then you need to be the one to try to hold him or her accountable.
This may require you to go outside your comfort zone to directly address the situation with your Co-parent. For example, if you become aware that your child is acting out of character it is due to something said to him or her by her Co-parent then you may be able to address him or her directly rather than go through an enforcement case. That doesn't mean that you could avoid this outcome altogether, but it does mean that you may be able to work something out with him or her outside of court first period you may be surprised to find out that many parents will stop doing these things if you are direct with him or her. Otherwise, not wanting to face these circumstances directly can lead to problems both now and in the future for your relationship with him or her. Most importantly, it can alter the trajectory of your relationship with your child during a period where there may already be problems at home of various sorts.
Is parental alienation a crime in question
We have already walked through situations that have hopefully shown you that parental alienation can be extremely harmful if allowed to fester there can be significant problems that you encounter when your Co-parent is purposely trying to manipulate your children against you. What's more: the behavior is going on behind your back in a setting where you have no control. Although court orders may forbid certain types of language to be used to run your children there are effectively no stop guards in place to protect your children from this type of behavior.
If you are in a situation where your Co-parent has engaged in alienating behavior, then you may need to consider what your divorce or child custody orders state regarding this matter. Alienating behavior by your Co-parent after ordering a child custody or divorce case is not against the law. There is no criminal statute that forbids alienating behavior. However, courts do take this kind of behavior seriously. We already talked about how an enforcement case may be one of the means that you use to protect your child from this language and protect your relationship with your child.
The court that your case is heard in will be most concerned with the best interest of your children. Even though you may be concerned with that as well as your relationship with your child the judge would typically look to the impact of the alienating behavior on your child first and foremost. If you are attempting to enforce an order or even modify a previously agreed to family court order, then that may be done with the hopes of increasing penalties or trying to hold your Co-parent accountable for their behavior.
Once you are confident that alienating behavior is occurring the first step that you should take is to speak with an experienced family law attorney about your case, your specific circumstances, and what options the law affords you considering these first two factors. It can be frustrating and anger-inducing to find out that your Co-parent is engaging in alienating behavior with your children. However, there is a fine line between going overboard with your reaction and not doing enough at the same time when you have questions about what is appropriate and what is not as well as potential remedies for your situation there is no better source than an experienced Texas family law attorney.
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. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.