Divorce can be one of the most challenging experiences of any parent’s life. Apart from the other hurtful concerns in a divorce, healthy parents worry about what is best for their child. These parents attempt to stay on neutral or friendly ground. If they must discuss contentious subjects, they move heated arguments to an attorney’s office. The last thing they want is to involve a child in traumatic divorce negotiations.

Sadly, however, some parents have a hidden agenda. If they can turn a child against the target parent, they may receive sole custody; failing that, they will at least get even by ruining the child’s trust and affection for the other parent. In time, the hostile parent can use many devious methods to work on permanently alienating the child from an unsuspecting spouse.

Signs of a spouse’s attempts to alienate a child

To some people, divorce is an all-out war. The gloves come off, and rules of fair fighting get trampled in the mud of acrimony. The angry parent is laser-focused on destroying a spouse, and she or he sacrifices the child as collateral damage. All spouses considering divorce should watch for child alienation attempts from the other parent:

  • Pressures friends and family members to take sides
  • Bad-mouths or slanders the other parent on-line and in person
  • Limits the child’s contact with the other parent’s extended family
  • Removes all pictures or reminder objects of the other parent from the house
  • Tells lies about the other parent and says the person is dangerous
  • Says the other parent does not like or love the child
  • Removes the other parent’s name from all the child’s school and medical records
  • Finds various excuses not to let the child visit the other parent

If the targeted parent suspects a child is the victim of alienation attempts from the other parent, it may be helpful to seek the experience of an expert who knows the signs of sophisticated lies a hostile spouse uses to tear a family apart.

Pennsylvania and child custody determinations

Pennsylvania judges use many factors to determine custody arrangements; for example, the judge will give careful attention to the child’s safety. If a child is old enough to provide a mature, well-reasoned statement about why he or she prefers living with one parent over the other, the judge will consider the child’s wishes.

The topic of parental alienation receives more attention each year. If a judge believes one parent has alienated a child, the manipulative parent could lose custody and find his or her child visitation rights sharply curtailed until the child reestablishes a close relationship with the other parent through counseling or other means deemed appropriate by the court.