How to Deal With Parental Alienation in Divorce
If You Are Faced With Parental Alienation, Here is What You Need to Know
One very common and very sad fact about the dissolution of marriage process that divorce attorneys in Orlando Florida are forced to deal with is when a divorce involves conduct by one of the parents that amount to parental alienation.
Depending on where you look online you can find several slightly different definitions for parental alienation, however, regardless of how it is defined, there will always be a few key characteristics in common.
What are the Characteristics of Parental Alienation That My Divorce Attorney Should be Watching Out For?
Based on my experience in our Orlando divorce law firm, the typical parental alienation fact pattern will consist of parents who are separated from one or more children who are either going through a divorce or other custody cases or are on the verge of filing for divorce.
One of the parents in this situation will engage in one or all of the following: having inappropriate communications with the children about facts of the litigation intentionally aimed at giving the children a negative view of the other parent.
They will often make an exaggerated allegation against the other parent of a safety concern as a means of withholding or limiting the other parent’s contact with the children. Another manifestation of alienation is an outright refusal by one parent to permit the other parent to have contact with the children whether it be in person, electronically, or by telephone.
Divorce judges in Florida have very little patience when it comes to any of the conduct listed above. This is mainly because there are countless psychological studies that show substantial stress and permanent emotional and mental damage is done to children who are exposed to mature co-parenting topics, exposed to details of the divorce or other litigation, and are not permitted to have adequate contact with both parents.
Here in Orlando Florida, which is the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, the courts take this type of conduct so seriously that they put specific language to address it into an administrative order that is served in every single divorce case.
This language specifies (slight paraphrase) “any parent who withholds contact with kids from the other parent without good reason should have their timesharing with the children called into question”.
What To Do If You Are The Victim of Parental Alienation in Your Case
Now that we have a basic idea of what parental alienation is and we understand how seriously the courts take these situations, let’s examine some steps you should take if you believe you are the victim of parental alienation.
If you have not yet filed for divorce and the other parent is forbidding your contact with the children then you may be in a position where you have no choice but to file for divorce, or to file for custody if you were not married to the mother.
If you are married then you may be able to just pick up your child from school, however, you will want to sit down with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer first to make sure this is the correct strategy.
For married individuals not being permitted time with the kids where all other out-of-court remedies have been exhausted, you will probably need to file for divorce in order to involve the courts.
I want to specify that I am a huge proponent of marriage counseling and reconciliation, however, if one parent is refusing to allow you to see your children then my guess is that a reconciliation may be unrealistic depending on the situation.
Once the case has been filed you will want to make sure that your divorce attorney provides a very clear written demand for contact with the children to the other side. This will be important to show the court that you have exhausted all good faith efforts to see the children.
This should also include texts or emails that you have sent at a reasonable frequency to the other parent requesting contact with the kids in a very calm and mature manner.
Once you have built a solid record of written attempts to get timesharing (I do not recommend spending too much time here) then it will be time to file a motion.
Every judge will have their individual preference on how to address motions for temporary timesharing, however, in a situation where one parent is forbidding all contact to the other parent and the parties are married a lot of judges will entertain an expedited motion for temporary timesharing early on in the process.
You will also want to make sure that your divorce lawyer understands how to push the case forward on an expedited basis. This is because there are many judges who will require that the case has at least been to mediation before they will allow a motion for temporary timesharing to be heard.
For this reason, you will want to find out who your judge is and speak to a divorce attorney who knows that particular judge and their preferences.
Prepare for a possible long process
If the other parent in your case makes certain allegations against you such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or inappropriate treatment of the child then you will want to be prepared for a very lengthy process.
In these situations, your divorce attorney may need to enlist the assistance of therapists, social investigators, psychologists, or to use a guardian ad litem.
None of these things are cheap, but you cannot place a price tag on your time in your relationship with your kids.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.