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How Parental Alienation May Influence Child Custody Cases in Texas

Being able to balance the challenges of a divorce with maintaining a strong relationship with your children is something that every parent who goes through a divorce must face. No matter how resilient your children are they will almost surely encounter difficulties presented because of the split between you and your spouse. This does not mean that they can't lead fruitful lives moving forward. However, by getting a divorce from your spouse the two of you are going to be positioning your children to need to learn how to manage themselves in adverse scenarios. Depending upon their age, you may be doing a lot of the heavy lifting yourself.

There are enough challenges presented in divorce cases without your spouse Making the situation worse. However, that frequently happens if a parent engages in alienating behavior. Parental alienation occurs when your spouse purposely engages in behavior intended to harm your relationship with your children. This can be done through dialogue, actions, or lack of action that is intended to harm your child. To be sure, identifying alienating behavior itself can be difficult. At the same time, being able to ensure that the alienating behavior does not occur in the future here's another challenge in itself.

One of the more frustrating aspects of parental alienation is that it can and does occur without your knowledge. Your spouse can attempt to alienate your children from you without your knowledge when the kids are with him or her. While your court order most likely forbids him or her from speaking poorly of you or your family in front of your children that order may not be enough to prevent your spouse from engaging in this type of behavior. Without question, the need for you to be able to protect your children from this type of behavior is significant. However, you will have limited opportunities given that you and your spouse now reside in different households.

Another issue to consider here is that parental alienation can impact the final determination in a custody scenario for your divorce. Your Co-parent may engage in this type of behavior and pit your children against you. Given that a divorce is a relatively quick process where you and your spouse will not be able to isn't it engage in the process for an extended period then you should be aware that if you allow your Co-parent to act in this way for too long then your children may resent you and you may struggle to win primary custody. For many parents in your position, this is a potentially disastrous scenario and one that you will likely seek to avoid that all costs.

The best interest of the child's standard

A Texas family law court will be charged with making decisions for your children that are in their best interest of them. It is presumed that you and your Co-parent will likewise do the same. While most divorce and child custody cases do not make it to a family court judge, some will. Most family courts will be of the mind that both you and your Co-parent should have a meaningful role to play in raising your children. Based on your specific circumstances this may look different for different people. However, the truth of the matter is that you cannot be sure what a family court judge will necessarily order if given the opportunity. That is why going to court is certainly a risk. It is a risk that you are likely to be counseled by your attorney to try to avoid unless you absolutely cannot do so.

On the other hand, if you can monitor the situation with your child and Co-parent and then produce evidence of the alienation to a family court judge then this could go in your favor ultimately. Specifically, if a family court judge can observe that the alienating behavior has had an impact on your children then that certainly could not be seen as behavior that is in the best interest of your children. As such, being able to Keep an eye on this situation to protect your rights to your children is extremely important. The last thing you want to do is let the situation not only get out of control but also get to the point where you lose time with your children when you otherwise would not have two.

This is not to say that a family court judge may not miss identifying or even failed to make note of alienation when it is occurring. Depending upon how savvy or sneaky your Co-parent is even the most diligent of parents may have a difficult time proving that alienating behavior is occurring. In this way, it is similar to gaslighting behavior where the words of a person become, he said, she said battle between people. While you may not be able to approve that alienating behavior is occurring it is still worth your effort to attempt to learn what the signs of alienation are as well as how to protect yourself and your children from the behavior if it becomes clear that it is occurring.

What exactly is alienation?

As we mentioned a moment ago, alienating behavior attempts to negatively impact your relationship with your child. The alienating behavior comes about because of the words or actions of your Co-parent. Alienating behavior is not something that looks the same for all people. Typically, a parent that would engage in alienating behavior is intelligent enough to understand how to drive your children away from you. This could be done by talking negatively about a past incident involving you and your children or even Confusing your children about an event that did not occur. I have seen some parents go to lengths where they well work hard to convince their children that one parent did something mean to them when it was the alienating parent or herself who did so. This can be confusing and especially effective against young and impressionable children.

We see alienating behavior occur in circumstances where you are not able to constantly monitor what is going on between your children and your Co-parent. There is a certain amount of trust that is necessary when it comes to being able to effectively co-parent. All of the good intentions in the world and willingness to cooperate with your Co-parent mean nothing if you cannot trust him or her period as a result, you need to be able to speak honestly with your Co-parent about your concerns when it comes to alienating behavior. This is especially true if you have reason to believe that your Co-parent has tried to alienate your children from you previously.

The negative feelings and emotions that your child may develop towards you after being alienated from you by your Co-parent can be difficult to turn around. Even if you're right so blatant lies that you and you talk to your child about this, he or she may not fully believe you or may never be able to get a certain image out of their mind about you. This can be especially troublesome when you are going through a divorce and already have trust issues regarding certain things. For that reason, your best bet is to identify potential incidents of alienation and attempt to resolve them with your Co-parents rather than with your children. Bear in mind that your children you can only be told so many times to not listen to something that your Co-parent has to say before they fall susceptible to whatever it is that is being said. Remember that your children are impressionable and young especially when considering the source of the falsehoods being stated is apparent.

The motivation for engaging in alienating behavior can vary based on a family-to-family basis. For example, you're a Co-parent maybe engage in alienating behavior to benefit their position in a child custody or divorce case. This would not be a new Niek reason at all for alienating behavior to occur. It just means that this is something for you to monitor and potentially work with your attorney to try and find evidence of. 

The good part of this type of behavior occurring during a child custody or divorce case is that we have options as far as providing evidence to hey judge who can work 2 enforce your temporary orders and try to ensure that this does not happen again. You may be surprised well your Co-parent listens to a judge or responds to fines or an order to pay attorney fees. That alone may be enough motivation for your Co-parent to stop engaging in this behavior and instead treat you fairly. Most importantly, it may cause your Co-parent to understand that he or she is not treating her children fairly and instead begin to show them the love and respect that they deserve as children. 

On the other hand, alienating behavior may occur because of insecurities and other frailties in the personality of your co-parent. In many ways, this is worse than having a Co-parent who is motivated by harming you in the context of a family law case. What I mean by that is a parent who is doing it out of fear, or another type of emotional response may be less likely to respond unfavorably to being acknowledged by from authority figure like a judge. He or she may continue to engage in negative behaviors despite being shown the consequences of their actions. In that case, it is possible that the alienating behavior will not subside after your case. Rather, behavior may continue to occur long after the case has come to an end. In that case, you may need to be continually vigilant against this alienating behavior as you head into life after a divorce or child custody case.

What are some signs of parental orientation?

Like many things in life, you can only hope to stop the title alienation when you can identify that it is occurring. Even the most vigilant and steadfast parents can find themselves surprised to find out that their child is being alienated from them. To be sure, identifying alienating behavior may not be something that takes place in a short period rather, it may take a fair bit of effort for you and your attorney to determine that alienation is occurring. Here are some potential signs that you can look for As far as parental alienation is concerned.

One of the major signs of parental alienation that I recommend to clients that they look for is whether your child he's acting disrespectfully towards you. This is especially true if your child acts this way only when with your other parent or if the behavior has occurred seemingly out of nowhere. For example, if your child has always been aggressive in their disrespect of you then this may be due to external factors like parental alienation. You can talk to your child about this directly to learn while your child is acting the way he or she is. You may be surprised at how well you can learn about alienation simply by asking your child and being direct with him or her. It may even be a relief to a child to be able to talk to you about things that you're Co-parent is telling him or her.

Another potential sign of alienation is if your child is not receptive towards you as far as receiving gifts or cards. In the world of Texas family law, we see this happen when it comes to a non-custodial parent attempting to show affection and simply remind the child that he or she loves him or her. Put yourself in the position of a parent who has only weekend visitation with their children. In that case, if your child is telling you that he or she did not open the card or does not care about a particular gift you purchased for him or her to miss may be a sign of parental alienation. Most children are incredibly happy to receive gifts which are their signs of affection. However, if your child shows ambivalence or even angered towards gifts that you purchase him or her then this is an especially telling sign of parental alienation.

Another telltale sign of alienation is if your child begins to copy the behavior or speech patterns of your Co-parent in certain regards. For example, let's suppose that your Co-parent has a very distinctive way of speaking about people that he or she does not like. There may be a certain phrase where he or she expresses frustration or discuss with this type of person. If you're a child begins to talk about yourself or a family member of yours using this type of phrase or words and this is a fairly good sign that parental alienation is occurring. This is especially true if your child is young and would not know to use certain words or phrases unless prompted to do so by a parent. This goes well beyond your child using potty language or bad words. Brand certain phrases are being used to harm you in your relationship with your child this is a major reason why you should seek to protect your child from it and address the issue with your Co-parent as directly and quickly as you possibly can.

Next, if your child suddenly expresses a desire not to spend time with you then the list may be indicative of alienation occurring. The difficult part of this type of circumstance is that your child may simply be having anxiety about using you in a new place. However, if your child has always been excited to see you and otherwise has no issues with spending time with you then out-of-character behavior like this may be more indicative of behavior that is ongoing outside of your presence.

Finally, probably the most significant evidence that I can think of when it comes to alienation occurring between your Co-parent and your child is if you're child makes an allegation of abuse or neglect against you when no abuse or neglect occurred. This could result in an exaggerated open event that did occur between you and your child or could be an outright falsehood. This does not mean that your child understands that he is lying. On the contrary, your Co-parent may have brainwashed your child into believing that what he or she is stating he's the truth. No matter what the actual circumstances it is important for you to be able to talk to your child about this type of behavior. Specifically, you must help him or she identify how negative this type of behavior is in the impact that it could have on your family moving forward. 

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.

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