parental alienation

What is Parental Alienation and What Can I Do?

I feel alienated from my children, what should I do? 

Whether the transition is caused by a divorce, or another legal separation such as a child custody action, transitioning from one household to two can be a stressful time for everyone involved. That stress is only worsened when a child suddenly becomes withdrawn or combative with one parent in favor of the other due to the favored parent’s influence. Since possession time with your client will be limited after your divorce or separation, whether you are the primary custodian or not, this can cause you to lose valuable possession time or poison your time with the child. If you feel isolated or are in constant conflict with your child due to the other parent’s influence, you might be experiencing parental alienation and an experienced family lawyer to discuss your options.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is most often seen in its symptoms. Your child may be suffering from parental alienation if, after a divorce or other separation, the child suddenly becomes withdrawn, combative, or the child is outright refusing to see one parent in favor of the other. This may be caused by false or exaggerated information given to the child by the favored parent regarding the child custody case, or the divorce. Often the favored parent tells the child about the other parent’s “fault” (real or imagined) in the divorce or the parties’ separation in order to make the child angry with the alienated parent. This type of “poisoning” from one parent about the other can lead the child to form biased opinions of the alienated parent based on false or inaccurate information, and can lead to the child drastically changing their behavior towards the alienated parent. 

Signs that a parent is being alienated from their child can look like the child being unusually withdrawn from the alienated parent, not wanting to speak with the alienated parent, accusing the parent of harmful actions, parroting language or rhetoric used by the favored parent, difficulty, or outright refusal to go with the alienated parent during visitation, or a soured mood when around the alienated parent. Often this behavior does not crop up all at once, but grows steadily after the parties divorce or separation. Sometimes alienation starts before the divorce or custody case is even completed. In those cases it is important to discuss the issues with your divorce lawyer or family lawyer about the concerns you have about your child’s actions. 

 In more severe cases of parental alienation, the child could display harmful tendencies, self- harm or other mental illness, and may say that they want to cut all contact with the alienated parent. If you find yourself being alienated from your child, and unable to visit the child at all or without conflict, you should contact an experienced family lawyer for legal advice. 

How to approach the child as the alienated parent 

  • Always keep calm; Do not lose your temper with the child, act aggressive, harshly criticize, or punish the child. Remember, the child is reacting to the favored parent’s false or inaccurate statements about you or the facts of your divorce or custody case. The child will only be further alienated by a negative reaction.
  • Do not passively allow the favored parent and child to dictate visitation or terms of visitation, follow the established court order, and do not budge on your visitation time. Do not wait for the child to come around on their own. If a child is constantly being told negative information about a parent they will continue to act on those thoughts, feelings, and ideals. If the child is constantly combative or refusing to go with you for your possession, speak with an experienced family lawyer about setting up reunification counseling, enforcing your order, and other legal means to resolve the issue. 
  • Engage with the child positively in a conflict-free and pleasurable environment such as a place or activity the child enjoyed with you in the past. 
  • Respect the feelings of the child, do not be dismissive of their feelings no matter how swayed or poisoned they may seem to you. Do not tell them that they are not angry or afraid of you. Allow the child to express their feelings on their own and allow them to have a safe space to voice their feelings. Pushing the child to see your point of view or change what the favored parent has said will only create more tension between you and the child. A counselor may be needed in more severe cases to help facilitate communication.
  • Do not accuse the child of repeating what they have heard from the favored parent. While it might be true, this will only create more conflict between you both as well as invalidate the child’s feelings on the situation. 
  • You may ask the child for examples or justification for accusations they make if the child brings it up first. 
  • Keep record of any text messages, emails, or communications that exhibit the parroted behavior or influence of the favored parent. Communicate with the favored parent via text message or e-mail and maintain a record of any times  they attempt to deny you possession of the child. This record will help you  and your family lawyer in your enforcement case, should it be needed.
  • Above all, do not badmouth the favored parent. Adding more conflict, negative information, or pressure to the child will only cause them to lash out and deepen the divide between you both. 

What can the Court do about my parental alienation situation?

The Court’s goal when establishing or modifying a custody order is to ensure that the children are in a situation where their needs are met. Though you may not always agree with the court’s rulings, the court’s goal is to ensure that the child’s physical and emotional needs are met and that the rulings regarding conservatorship, possession and access are in the best interest of the child. When determining the possession schedule in a divorce, original custody case, or custody modification case in a situation involving an alienated parent, some factors the Court will consider are as follows:

  • Which parent consistently nurtures the child rather than being their friend?
  • Is the child in a situation where they are having to support the parent emotionally such as consoling the parent about the situation or exhibiting reluctance to leave the parent by themselves for long periods of time?
  • Which parent is consistently involved in the child’s schooling, emotional development, and their overall safety?
  • Is the child being abused in any way?
  • Which parent encourages a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent?
  • What concerns are expressed by the child’s counselor, if any?
  • If the child is over 12 years old, the child’s wishes may also be a factor, though they are not determinative.

Contact a Family law attorney for help today.

Navigating between separation and divorce of after a child custody case can be strenuous, a trusted and experienced family lawyer or divorce lawyer can help. At Youngberg Law Firm, we strive to lessen the burden on you and fight for you in court for reasonable and fair custody orders. Our family lawyers strive to help you obtain results that are in the best interest both of you and your child. Our family law firm handles all cases with dignity and respect to best serve our clients. Please contact us for a consultation with one of our divorce and family lawyers today. 

Father putting his son in car seat.

The Rights of a Custodial Parent in Texas

In Texas, a custodial parent is a parent who has primary custody of his or her child. Custodial parents have specific rights in Texas. Some of these rights are shared with the noncustodial parent, and others are exclusively enjoyed by the custodial parent. Below is an overview of the rights of custodial parents in Texas. If you need legal assistance with a child custody issue in Texas, please contact a Texas child custody attorney

Rights Shared by Custodial and Noncustodial Parents

Unless a court order says otherwise, custodial and noncustodial parents in Texas have the right to:

  • Confer with and obtain information from one another about the child’s education, health, and welfare;
  • Obtain education, dental, medical, and psychological records of the child; 
  • Consult with the child’s psychologist, dentist, and physician;
  • Consult with school officials about the child’s educational status;
  • Attend activities at the child’s school; 
  • Be listed as one of the child’s emergency contacts; 
  • Consent to medical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the child’s health and safety; and 
  • Manage the child’s estate.

In addition, unless the court has ordered confidentiality or there is a history of family violence, both the custodial and noncustodial parent must inform the other parent of any important information related to the child’s education, welfare, and health. 

Right of the Custodial Parent 

Some rights belong exclusively to the custodial parent, who is the parent with whom the child lives most of the time. These include the right to: 

  • Establish the child’s primary residence; and 
  • Receive child support on behalf of the child. 

In addition, there are some rights that the parents may agree to share or the court may decide to grant to only one of the parents (typically the custodial parent), including the right to: 

  • Consent to psychological treatment; 
  • Represent the child in legal matters;
  • Consent to surgical, medical, and dental treatment involving invasive procedures; 
  • Consent to enlistment in the armed forces;
  • Consent to marriage; 
  • Make decisions about the child’s education; and
  • Act as an agent of the child’s estate if legal action is required.

Contact our Denton County Child Custody Lawyer 

When determining your rights as a custodial parent in Texas, it’s important that you review and understand the court order in your case. In order to ensure that you understand your rights as a custodial parent, you should consult with a  Texas child custody attorney as soon as possible. At Youngberg Law Firm, in addition to reviewing your court order, our Texas child custody lawyer will efficiently handle any child custody issues you may have while considering the unique circumstances of your family situation. At Youngberg Law Firm, you can rest assured that we will always treat you with the dignity you deserve, and we’ll always keep the best interests of your child in mind while working towards a successful outcome in your case. Please contact us today for a consultation.

Father hugging daughter before he moves out of state.

Can I Move Out of State if I Have Joint Custody?

When a Texas couple divorces, it isn’t uncommon for one of them to want to move out of state. However, things can get tricky when a child is involved, especially if the parents share joint custody. If you have joint custody of your child and want to move out of state, please review the information below. For additional guidance, please contact a Denton County child custody attorney

What is Joint Custody? 

In Texas, unless there is a history of family violence involving either parent or one parent has demonstrated an inability to act in the child’s best interests, courts presume that parents should share joint custody of their children. Joint custody (also called “joint legal conservatorship” in Texas) doesn’t refer to the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Rather, the term refers to the rights both parents have to make decisions for their child, including education and health care decisions. When determining what type of custody to grant divorcing or separating parents, the court examines several factors, including:

  • The wishes of the child 
  • The current physical needs of the child
  • The future physical needs of the child
  • The current emotional needs of the child
  • The future emotional needs of the child 
  • The parenting abilities of the parents
  • The programs available to each parent to help promote the best interests of the child

As noted above, however, barring exceptional circumstances, most parents receive joint custody of their children. And while joint custody is often in the best interests of the child, it can make relocation tricky for the parent who has physical custody of the child. 

Relocation and Joint Custody

When a child’s home has been restricted to a particular area in Texas, whether by the court or by agreement of the parents, one parent can’t relocate with the child outside of that geographical area without first obtaining court approval. Typically, this means that the parent who wishes to relocate must first seek a court order to modify the child custody arrangement. However, even if the original custody order or parenting plan doesn’t restrict a child’s residence to a specific  location in Texas, this doesn’t mean that one parent can relocate with a child without considering the other parent’s wishes. In fact, a parent who opposes such a move can challenge the relocation in court and obtain a temporary restraining order to prevent the move until a hearing can be held.

Therefore, it’s important to consult with a Denton County child custody attorney before moving out of state if you have joint custody of your child. 

Contact our Denton County Child Custody Lawyer 

If you need help with a family law issue in Texas, you need a Denton family law attorney on your side. At Youngberg Law Firm, our Texas family law attorney will efficiently handle your family law issue while taking into account the unique circumstances of your family situation. At Youngberg Law Firm, you can rest assured that we will always treat you with dignity and respect while working towards the best possible outcome in your case. Please contact us today for a consultation.

Woman and child in a same-sex custody battle.

Common Issues in Same-Sex Custody Cases in Texas

Same-sex couples have been allowed to marry and divorce in the United States for some time now. However, despite the acceptance and legality of same-sex marriage in the United States, same-sex couples face unique challenges when seeking custody of a child following a divorce. This is because typically only one biological parent is involved in these types of cases. Since this is a relatively new area of the law, the law is still developing as to whether a non-biological parent who hasn’t formally adopted the child qualifies as a legal parent. Below is an overview of common issues in same-sex custody cases in Texas. 

Common Same-Sex Custody Issues

Standing 

Standing in legal terms is the right to sue and have your position heard by the court. In custody cases, standing is a person’s ability to sue for custody is typically determined by Texas Family code section 102.003, though there are other code sections that may also confer standing. While a biological parent will have standing to sue for custody of a child under Texas Family Code 102.003(a)(1), a non-biological parent will have to qualify under another provision. Recent developments in Texas case law may support an argument for a non-biological parent to qualify for standing if they “have had actual care, custody, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days” before commencing the suit. This could open the door for a non-biological parent to sue for custody of a child in the absence of an adoption, gestational, or other agreement with the other parent. 

Parental Presumption

Some of the Texas appellate courts have also approved the idea of extending the parental presumption available to heterosexual spouses to same-sex spouses. There is a presumption in Texas family law that a husband is the father of a child born to his wife during the marriage. This language clearly excludes same-sex couples which can cause issues for non-biological parents when they seek custody of the child in a divorce situation. While the courts have started to apply this presumption to non-biological parents in same-sex marriages, the code has not been updated. Thus, there is no guarantee that a same-sex parent will be afforded the benefit of this presumption in Texas. Therefore, it is recommended that non-biological parents in same-sex relationships consult with a Denton County child custody attorney to determine their custody options. 

Gestational Agreements

One of the options that non-biological parents have under Texas law is for each spouse in a same-sex marriage may enter into a gestational agreement to have a child through assisted reproduction. If both parents have entered into a gestational agreement that complies with the requirements of the Texas Family Code, that can establish both parents as intended parents, and both will have the right to request custody if the marriage later breaks down. However, child custody cases involving same-sex couples and gestational agreements can be complicated, so it is recommended that you contact a Denton County child custody attorney for guidance on this issue. 

Avoiding Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Cases

When it comes to child custody matters, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Below are two methods that partners in same-sex couples can use to avoid future custody challenges.

  • Adoption – The best way to solidify the legal relationship between a non-biological parent and his or her child is to go through the formal adoption process. And although it is easiest to accomplish this when the relationship between the biological parent and non-biological parent is good, it is certainly possible both during and after a divorce. 
  • Agreement Between SpousesOther than adoption, there are few legal options available for a stepparent who wishes to continue a relationship with his or her non-biological child following a divorce. If a same-sex couple parts ways on good terms, then an agreement between the parents to continue access is an obvious solution. Unfortunately, however, divorces are sometimes messy, and this can prevent a non-biological parent from maintaining a relationship with his or her child. It is best to have any agreements about parentage completed and set up at the time the couple decides to have a child, not when the relationship starts to break down.

Contact our Denton County Family Law Lawyer 

Same-sex custody cases in Texas are complicated. Therefore, if you are divorced or are going through a divorce and need assistance in maintaining your relationship with your child, please contact a Denton County child custody attorney as soon as possible for assistance. At Youngberg Law Firm, we understand the difficulties you are going through and will work to achieve a fair and just outcome on your behalf. Our experienced family law attorneys serve clients throughout Denton County, including Flower Mound, Highland Village, Little Elm and Denton. Therefore, if you need a family law attorney in Texas, please contact us today for a consultation.

Youngberg Law Firm discusses how you can modify your child support or custody order in Texas.

How Can I Modify My Child Support/Custody Orders in Texas?

Following a divorce involving children, the court enters orders regarding child support and custody that the parents must follow. However, as time moves along, things change, and modifications to these orders are sometimes necessary. Luckily, in Texas, it is possible to modify child support and custody orders under certain circumstances. If you need to modify a child support or custody order in Texas, please review the information below, and contact a Denton County family law attorney as soon as possible for assistance. 

Modification via agreement

Parents sometimes make informal modifications to their support and custody orders. However, agreements that are not included in court orders don’t officially change the duties and rights of either parent. Therefore, even when parents wish to modify an agreement in a manner that is in the best interests of their child, they must file documentation with the court. When the parents cannot agree on a modification, though, they must take their disagreement to court. 

Modification via request

When parents can’t agree on a modification, they may ask the court to intervene. Regarding custody, any person who has rights to custody of a child under a court order may request a modification. Following a request for modification of a custody order in Texas, the court will require the parent or individual who filed the request to prove certain facts. If this individual is unable to prove these facts, the court will decline to order a change to the divorce decree. Depending on the request, the individual seeking modification of the order will be required to prove different elements, and all elements must be proved via the presentation of credible evidence, which typically takes the form of witness testimony and documentation.

How the court evaluates modification requests

Whenever an individual submits a modification request to the court, he or she must prove that the circumstances of the child or parents have materially and substantially changed since the court issued the prior order. Whether a change is considered “material and substantial” by the court will vary depending on the case. Given the subjective nature of this standard and the complexity of the family law system, anyone seeking modification of a child support or custody order should first contact a Denton County family law attorney for guidance. 

Contact our Denton County family lawyer 

If you are seeking to modify a child custody or support order in Texas, you need an experienced attorney on your side. At Youngberg Law Firm, we understand the difficulties you are going through and will work to achieve a fair and just outcome on your behalf. Our experienced family law attorney serves clients throughout Denton County, including Flower Mound, Highland Village, Little Elm, Corinth, Aubrey, and Denton. Therefore, if you need a family law attorney in Denton County, Texas, please contact us today for a consultation.