One potential problem that sometimes crops up after a couple gets divorced is that one engages in parental alienation. This can make a custody situation very difficult and create a lot of complications for the co-parents and their child. If you believe this is happening to you or you’re worried that it may be, it’s good to know how it happens and what you can do.
It’s also important to note that this is not just a negative event for you, as a parent. It’s also highly detrimental to your child’s own development and well-being. This is why it is sometimes defined as “emotional child abuse.” A child may not even understand exactly how it is happening, but it is affecting them.
Creating division between parent and child
Essentially, parental alienation is the intentional manipulation of the children by one of the parents. They try to manipulate the children to resent their ex and prefer them over the other co-parent. It’s a play to create favoritism where it may not have existed before.
Some tactics used in parental alienation include bad-mouthing the other parent behind their back, blaming them for the divorce, attempting to spoil the child with presents and instituting vastly different rules between households. The parent who is doing this will try to use their custody time not just to improve the relationship that they have with the child, but also to actively undermine the relationship that child has with their ex.
Why do people do this?
Alienation is sometimes used as a response to a joint custody situation. Say that your ex asked for sole custody but was not granted it because the court believed that it would be better for the child to spend time with both parents. Unable to accept this arrangement, your ex may engage in parental alienation simply to make the child want to spend more time with them.
Similar tactics may also be used when the child has a say in their own custody arrangement. Your ex may try to manipulate the child into saying that they want to live with your ex all of the time, rather than with you.
A situation like this can be very complex and all parents need to make sure that they understand their rights and their legal options.