Fighting parental alienation in court is still a decidedly difficult undertaking. With all of the controversy surrounding whether or not it is an “official syndrome” – courts have a tendency to frown on the use of such language in the court room. I was specifically advised by my attorney against using the term “parental alienation.” I failed to ask why, assuming simply that if I appeared to be too intelligent or educated on this particular topic, then I must be up to something. I could, however, use terminology such as:
- Interfering with my parenting time.
- Speaking poorly about me to or in front of the children.
- Interfering with phone calls (or failing to take/make them at all).
- Denigrating me to or in front of the children.
- Telling the children lies about me.
These are all ways to speak to the issue of parental alienation without using the “dreaded term” – parental alienation. I know it sounds silly, but with all of the controversy surrounding it – it makes perfect sense to discuss issues related to parental alienation in ways that are clear to the court. Syndrome or not – parental alienation exists.
In order to give yourself the best possibility of reversing parental alienation in the court room, up to and including gaining maximum amount of parenting time with the affected children, the following recommendations should be strongly considered:
- Never violate court orders, regardless of the situation (except serious emergencies or issues surrounding the safety of yourself or the children). This means child support is paid on time and current. This means current parenting-time agreements are followed.
- Take a comprehensive parenting course. Provide evidence that you have undertaken serious efforts to increase your knowledge, skills, and abilities as a parent. Make your parenting skills superior.
- Hire an attorney, if economically possible (and sometimes, even when it’s not economically possible) who is knowledgeable regarding parental alienation, high-conflict divorce & custody situations, and knowledgeable about personality disorders (particularly BPD and NPD). Personality disorders drive much of today’s divorce and child custody litigation.
- Become knowledgeable about how your family court system works. We often recommended taking a day or several days to simply sit quietly in the back of a family court and observe the proceedings. See how both sides’ attorneys work, their language, what they object to and why, see how the judge interacts with the plaintiffs and defendants.
- Become knowledgeable about your state statutes as they pertain to child custody and child support. This is critical because if you don’t know, you will end up on the short end of the proverbial “stick” on both counts. Letting the court authorities or lawyers dictate to you what’s what is potentially detrimental to your final outcome. This is especially true if you are forced to represent yourself (pro se) for financial reasons.
- Always be ready with a comprehensive parenting plan to share with the court. This plan should clearly demonstrate how the child will be completely cared for while in your custody.
- Keep a diary or journal that keeps a record of key situations, both positive (for you) and negative (from the alienating parent). Key milestones and events that you were a part of for your child are as important to document as every incident of custodial interference, perhaps even more so. Record dates, times, details pertinent to the event. Always document events and do so in ways that will be admissible in court.
- Remain stable. This is a lot to ask under incredibly stressful conditions. However, you must remain even-tempered, logical, and completely under emotional control, especially in the court room. Never give the court or the alienating parent reason to portray you as unstable, no matter how normal a “bad reaction” to something may be at the moment. Always be rational, reasonable, and demonstrate unequivocally that you have the child’s well-being at the forefront of your efforts.
- Don’t get caught up in how terrible it all is. If you are consumed by the emotional pit that these situations become, you won’t be focused enough to help yourself and the children. Don’t get caught up in how you’ve been victimized. Always be moving forward with your focus on getting the situation corrected for the benefit of the children and your relationship with them.
- Don’t give up!
In order to have a chance of being successful in effectively exposing the alienator and expecting to see some substantive custody change result, you must do everything “right” all the time. Save your fears and your worries and your concerns for very private times with someone who loves you, cares about you, and is well-aware of the situation and can be trusted! Your therapist’s office may be a great place to address all of those normal feelings without risk to your case.
Finally, give some thought to a forensic evaluator. In cases where a parent has one who can give a strong statement about the alienation, and recommend changing legal and primary custody to the alienated parent, can be the “ace-in-the-hole” in helping a judge decide to change a custody arrangement, often substantially, in favor of the targeted parent. Lately, many cases involving severe parental alienation resulting in significant custody changes have been reported in the mainstream media, giving more attention to this insidious problem of parental alienation in divorce/custody situations.