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 That stress is only worsened when a child suddenly becomes withdrawn or combative with one parent in favor of the other due to the favored parent’s influence.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child may be suffering from parental alienation if, after a divorce or other separation, the child suddenly becomes withdrawn, combative, or the child is outright refusing to see one parent in favor of the other.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Signs that a parent is being alienated from their child can look like the child being unusually withdrawn from the alienated parent, not wanting to speak with the alienated parent, accusing the parent of harmful actions, parroting language or rhetoric used by the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. 

Couple holding hands in a common law marriage.

Are There Any Benefits to a Common Law Marriage?

If you and your partner meet certain criteria, you may be considered married by common law in Texas. There are several benefits to common law marriage, the primary one being legal recognition of your relationship. In addition, common law marriage offers couples property division rights, inheritance rights, and possibly spousal maintenance if the relationship ends. Therefore, you should have a clear understanding of common law marriage and its benefits, particularly if you are currently in an unmarried relationship. Below is an overview of common law marriage in Texas. If you have any additional questions, please contact a Texas family law attorney

What Is Common Law Marriage? 

Contrary to popular belief, living with your partner for a certain period of time doesn’t automatically create a common law marriage. Rather, in order to be considered married by common law in Texas, both parties must:

  • agree to be married, 
  • live together as a married couple in Texas, and 
  • represent that they are a married couple to others. 

A common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage, so a couple that wishes to end their common law marriage must obtain a divorce just like a couple in a traditional marriage. However, unlike a ceremonial marriage, if neither party has filed for divorce within two years after the parties separate the law presumes that the parties never intended to be married, which would invalidate the common law marriage. Although common law marriage can be beneficial, it also has some drawbacks. For example, an individual in a common law marriage is more likely to face family challenges when attempting to claim an inheritance from his or her spouse. In addition, states that don’t support common law marriage are unlikely to recognize a Texas common law marriage as valid. Still, the benefits of marriage, whether common law or traditional, tend to outweigh the drawbacks. 

Benefits of Common Law Marriage

In order to receive a marriage certificate in Texas, a couple must meet certain age and waiting period requirements. In addition, a couple that wishes to get married must undergo some form of formal ceremony. Common law marriage doesn’t impose these requirements, making it an option for those couples who would rather avoid these formalities. 

Parties who wish to avoid some of the formalities of a ceremonial marriage but want more certainty about how their relationship will be viewed in court have the option of filing a “Declaration of Informal Marriage”. This declaration acts as a form of marriage certificate for persons in a common law marriage.  

In addition, married couples in Texas, whether married by common law or otherwise, enjoy certain estate-planning benefits. When a couple is married and one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse is eligible to inherit assets without paying estate taxes. Without this deduction, inherited assets could impose a heavy tax burden on the surviving partner. In addition, same-sex couples in common-law marriages may have the right to inherit assets without a written will in place.

Contact Our Texas Family Law Attorney Today

At Youngberg Law Firm, we understand how difficult issues like custody, domestic violence, and adoption can be for families. In addition, we understand the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples in the state of Texas. If you are facing family law issues of any kind in Texas, you need a compassionate legal advocate on your side. 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 to schedule a consultation.