Understanding Parental Alienation in CA 

A tactic one parent may use to hurt the other when co-parenting a child is parental alienation. This intended act to manipulate a child into disliking or fearing a parent can create lasting impacts on a child, even factoring into the determination of California child custody when the courts consider who a child expresses the desire to live with. Parental alienation is not without consequences, with a child potentially experiencing the impacts throughout life.

Impacts of Parental Alienation on a Child

A child exposed to parental alienation may display the following behaviors, thoughts, or actions:

  • A dislike of the alienated parent and their extended family without reason
  • Continual support of the alienating parent despite their actions or language
  • Constructing untrue or harmful stories about the alienated parent
  • Parroting the language of a parent encouraging alienating behaviors
  • A lack of remorse or regret for their feelings or emotions toward the alienated parent
  • Harsh criticism of a parent without reason or evidence supporting their attitude

As parental alienation continues, a child may refuse to interact with the targeted parent.

Proving Parental Alienation in Court

Parental alienation is not a crime in California. However, evidence of parental alienation may be used to determine or alter child custody, determine visitation, or court-ordered counseling. Proving parental alienation will require evidence such as the following:

  • Documented conversations between a child and the parent, including texts, emails, and voicemails
  • Social media posts displaying a parent’s disregard or negative thoughts toward an alienated parent; A child may express similar positions
  • Witness statements from friends or family witnessing the behaviors, and may include expert statements from mental health professionals

Seeking personal counseling to find effective ways to manage and approach alienation tactics with a child can be beneficial. A child may also find counseling helpful to find ways to express their emotions and feelings.

Legal Options in California to Counter Parental Alienation

The best outcome in any conflict with a co-parent is that their actions were a misunderstanding and something that can be discussed rationally between adults. When communication is not an option, a first instinct may be to contact child protective services. While this strategy may work, it may reinforce the alienation tactics of the other parent.

Discussing your concerns with a California family law attorney may allow you to seek modifications or enforcement to a court order. Ultimately, an experienced legal professional working for your best interests without an emotional investment in the situation may provide alternative avenues or solutions to help you fight parental alienating behaviors.

Preventing Parental Alienation

It is possible to participate in acts of parental alienation unconsciously. As a parent, choose these behaviors to prevent parental alienation and provide a supporting environment for your child:

  • Structure comments about the other parent in a positive manner. When a negative comment is shared, use a repairing comment to correct the negative stance against the other parent.
  • Listen to negative comments your child makes about the other parent without offering reinforcement of their comment. Concerning criticisms or talk about the other parent should be followed up and investigated with the appropriate professionals.
  • Refrain from becoming overly intimate with a child by sharing adult information with them or becoming overly emotional when they visit with the other parent.

Parental alienation is complex and can create challenges for a child in future relationships. If a child’s behavior becomes concerning after spending time with a parent, seek legal assistance and options.