If you’re like most parents, you value and cherish the relationship you have with your kids. Unfortunately, a divorce can impact that relationship in a number of ways. You may no longer live with your children, see them as often, be able to make important decisions for them, or any of the other unfortunately “usual” ways that divorce affects parent-child relationships.
Of all things, though, the relationship you have with your kids should never be affected by the other parent’s negative interference. When one parent attempts to turn children against their other parent, it’s a form of emotional abuse known as parental alienation. If you are unfamiliar with this term, you may also be unfamiliar with some of its common signs.
How to Identify Parental Alienation: 7 Signs That the Other Parent Is Interfering
Even those who understand what parental alienation is pretty well might not be able to recognize it in their own lives. Our goal here is to point out a few common signs that may indicate the other parent is attempting to damage the relationship you have with your kids.
1. Your Former Spouse Speaks Poorly of You in Front of Your Kids
If the bitterness of a contentious divorce is still fresh in your former’s spouse’s mind, they may be inclined to say rude or inappropriate things about you in front of your children. These statements may paint you in a bad light or even manipulate your children into blaming you for something.
Example: “Mommy/Daddy doesn’t want to see you for Christmas because he/she is spending time with his/her new friend.”
2. Your Former Spouse Told Your Children Details of Your Divorce
Marriages break up for all sorts of reasons, and what happens during the divorce can add to the frustration, anger, pain, and sadness people can feel. Children – especially young children – often have no need to know the nitty-gritty of why their parents aren’t together anymore.
Sharing this information with children might be framed as “giving them the answers they deserve” or “because they’re mature enough to handle it,” but excuses like these may only thinly veil an attempt to turn kids against one of their parents.
3. You Are Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence
Talking about domestic violence with children is sometimes necessary, but not when it’s intended to harm the relationship kids have with their parents – especially when the allegations are untrue.
4. Your Children Are Inexplicably Angry or Upset with You
Once again, divorce can inspire a lot of complicated feelings in parents and their children. Anger, however, could be a sign that the other parent is telling your kids things about you or the divorce that upsets them. If your former spouse isn’t getting a similar treatment, it could be a sign that your children are being manipulated.
5. Your Children Don’t Want to Spend Time with You
If your children don’t seem to want to spend time with you, this may indicate interference from the other parent. They may bill themselves as the “fun” parent and label you as the “boring” parent. This can certainly affect how willing your children are to spend time with you and enjoy doing so.
6. Your Kids Feel Guilty When They Spend Time with You
Kids can feel guilty about spending time with one parent when the other parent is trying to control a monopoly on their affection. If your kids seem like they’re unwilling to say they had fun with you or that they enjoy being with you, your former spouse might be guilt-tripping them for having such thoughts.
7. Your Former Spouse Attempts to Keep Your Kids Away from You
Your custody and visitation agreements say one thing, but the other parent may design lives for your kids that make it virtually impossible for you to spend time with them. They may be signed up for after-school activities, weekend sports, or summer camp activities that line up with the days and times you’re supposed to spend time with them.
What to Do When You Suspect Parental Alienation
If you suspect that this form of emotional abuse is occurring, immediately consult with an attorney. A legal professional can help you investigate the situation and take appropriate legal action. The courts take this issue seriously and may be inclined to consider a child custody or visitation modification to compensate for parental alienation.
For more information about how Claery & Hammond, LLP can assist you with these matters, please contact us online or call (310) 817-6904 today.