Contentious divorces often complicate parental responsibilities. Even if you and your spouse worked out a parenting plan, they may try to sabotage it at every turn. If your kids no longer want to spend time with you – or if they avoid you altogether – your spouse may be engaging in parental alienation. If you suspect they are, it’s important to acknowledge the signs and act upon them.

Understanding parental alienation

Parental alienation happens when one parent tries to convince their children to exclude the other parent from their lives entirely. The alienating parent’s behavior must be malicious and calculated to meet its threshold. Depending on its severity, it could qualify as child abuse.

Your spouse may engage in parental alienation if they:

  • Blame you for your divorce in front of your children
  • Share details about your divorce with your children
  • Allow your children to decide whether they want to visit you or not
  • Set up alternative activities for your children to discourage them from visiting you
  • Disparage you – or allow others to disparage you – in front of your children
  • Accuse you of physical, sexual or emotional abuse

Fighting parental alienation

Proving parental alienation can be difficult, since its signs are more subtle than obvious. Yet, to the best of your ability, it is crucial you record any instances of your spouse’s alienating. You must document, too, anything your children have said or done against you. With admissible evidence, you can motion to revisit your parenting plan in court. A judge may mandate therapy for your children to help ease the reunification process. And depending on the severity of your spouse’s actions, they could lose parental responsibilities.

Parental alienation is painful. But remember that your children’s behavior does not indicate their true feelings toward you. Remember, too, that there is a way forward from your spouse’s adverse actions. An attorney with family law experience can help you stand up for your parental rights.