Parental Alienation and What's In the Best Interest of the Child
Parental alienation is the act of getting a child detached from, or turned against a parent. A child alienated from a parent might exhibit resentment, contempt, and anxiety towards the disaffected parent. When a child begins to display these signs, it is known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). This was first defined by Dr. Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist in 1985 after observing and participating in custodial hearings.
What Causes Parental Alienation?
This can happen naturally within the mind of the child. For example, a child can suddenly realize that a parent had been abusive and as a result, decide to stay away from said parent.
It could also happen when the child is influenced by another party to turn against a parent (Usually, by the other parent to gain an upper hand). Other factors that cause parental alienation include domestic violence, abuse, abandonment, and incarceration.
This phenomenon is likely to be an occurrence in family separation cases, where a parent seeks to have an unfair advantage by influencing the child against the other parent.
Parental Alienation often occurs in situations where a parent lies or speaks negatively about the other parent to the child. It can also occur if contact with the other parent is restricted by a parent.
Impact of Parental Alienation on Children.
Parental alienation has negative effects on the mental health of children. It can lead to depression, low self-esteem, self-hate, lack of trust, and substance abuse. If a child is made to grow up believing that they are not loved by their parent, the child can easily develop self-hate, low self-esteem, and depression. Due to their lack of proper guidance, children that suffer from PAS are susceptible to being bad parents and partners. This shows that parental alienation can lead to a vicious cycle.
How Does A Court Determine There is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation is seen as a type of family estrangement. Parental estrangement can happen as a result of the child’s realization of a parent’s unhealthy conduct. This is called “Justified Parental Estrangement.”
The court acknowledges the influence of one parent in alienation and the unnecessary stress it places on the entire family. This has prompted some legal experts to argue that parental alienation should be treated as family violence or child abuse. Some other legal experts call it a mental disorder. The latter argument is seen as faulty because a lot of psychologists disagree that parental alienation is a mental disorder.
The court recognizes parental alienation and accepts it is possible but difficult to prove. However, if a party can prove that a case of alienation is unnatural, they can get the court to rule in their favor.
It is worth knowing that there are no federal or state laws about parental alienation. This has caused different courts to sort out such cases in different ways. Over time courts have followed various characteristics and principles that experts in psychology have identified to inform their judgment. It is not uncommon to see judges require expert testimony before deciding if parental alienation is applicable. Some courts have mandated reunification therapy and suspension of child support while dealing with cases of parental alienation.
At the end of the day, in all custody hearings, the court is supposed to rule in the best interest of the child. This is the most important factor in all custody hearings and it will determine the judgment.
The Palazzolo v. Mire Case.
This 2009 case is a suit for reallocation of visitation and domiciliary parenting rights of a 12-year-old minor between a biological mother, June Mire, and an adoptive mother, Angela Palazzolo, who used to be a lesbian couple. After 17 years together, they decided to have a child by artificial insemination. Although both partners tried to get inseminated, only Mire’s insemination was successful. After breaking up due to alleged infidelity on the path of Ms. Mire. a court mandated that they share co-parenting rights with Ms. Mire getting domiciliary parenting.
As time passed, Ms. Mire violated the court order by keeping the child’s medical record from Ms. Palazzolo, refusing to allow regular phone conversations, and informing the child about immediate court proceedings. All these are cases of parental alienation. In a redress suit, after being accused of improper conduct towards the minor and threats towards Ms. Mire, Ms. Palazzolo was stripped of her visitation rights.
The Court brought in three experts on the matter of child psychology to offer evaluations and recommendations. In the final judgment, Ms. Palazzolo’s visiting rights were restored. The court determined it was in the best interest of the child to live with Ms. Mire, the biological mother and for Ms. Palazzolo to have visiting rights.
In conclusion, the court looks at the relationship between the parents, between the child and each parent, and the behavior of each parent around the child before making a decision. All in all, the decision in a case of parental alienation is to always be geared towards the best interest of the child.
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