Can Parental Alienation Determine Custody?

Posted on April 15th, 2021

Parental alienation occurs when one parent isolates a child from the other parent through manipulation, usually through words or actions. The child may feel fear of discipline or guilt due to this parent’s abuse, and make no mistake, this is child abuse. Often, if a pattern of parental alienation is established, it can determine a custody ruling if the welfare of the child is being neglected.

Parental Alienation Examples

The child can experience long-term psychological harm from one parent alienating the other. Some examples include:

  • Painting the victimized parent as “evil” – The more narcissistic parent will often paint a picture of the victim parent as evil, a bad parent, make snide comments or criticisms, and say they were the cause of the divorce. This is known as disparagement, and can even extend to other family members making negative comments about the parental victim.
  • Parentification – This is the process of reversing roles in which the child makes parental decisions. The child is often not mature enough to make these types of decisions responsibly. This can include participating in leisurely activities over doing homework or deciding when they can go to bed.
  • Undermining the other parent’s authority – Parents should come to joint decisions involving the child’s health, well-being, safety, and education. If one parent disagrees with the other on these issues, it can have huge consequences on the child. Even one contradiction pits the parents against each other which affects the child.
  • Parental Substitution – When one of the parents starts to date a new partner. Generally, this happens when the new partner moves in with the parent, and then an effort to replace the victimized parent is made. They might try to even have them be called “mom” or “dad”.

Resolving Parental Alienation

Though parental alienation does not always require a change in custody rights, sometimes it does require court intervention. However, before getting to that point, the victimized parent should open up a conversation with the other parent to discuss the wrong conduct. While the parent perpetuating the conduct may resist fixing the problem, it may be enough to identify the issue and limit the damage done to the relationship with the child or children.

Steps you may want to take to improve the situation may include:

  • Ask to see your child in writing: Not only does this work to start the conversation but if the matter goes to court, it will serve as physical evidence.
  • Document everything: Keep track of your visitation days and any days when your child refused to see you or you were denied visitation.
  • Get counseling: Children don’t know that they’re being manipulated so getting a non-biased third party to discuss the matter may not only help you and your child reconnect but serve as proof that you worked to repair the relationship.

How to Prove Parental Alienation With Kalinoski Law Offices

Consult with an experienced family law attorney if you feel you are being alienated by the other parent and feel their decisions aren’t in the best interest of the child. Obviously, one remark isn’t enough to take your former spouse to court. A pattern of behavior must be established in order to take your case to a judge. Be sure to keep records of any encounters, remarks, or any misconduct that can be backed up by statements from third-party witnesses. Bring these documents to your attorney to review so that he/she can be better prepared for your custody case in court that can determine whether sole or joint custody is warranted.

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Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law and personal injury.

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