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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Family > Closely Examining ‘Parental Alienation’ In Custody Cases

Closely Examining ‘Parental Alienation’ In Custody Cases


Allegations of parental alienation are typically seen in acrimonious child custody cases, and they are no small matter. Courts treat these allegations very seriously, and in some cases, it can result in the parent accused of such conduct to lose custody and/or visitation rights.

In a number of these cases, courts must be careful to ensure that they are not dismissing a history of abuse and domestic violence, whereby one parent has brought forward credible allegations of violence or abuse. This is one reason why the United Nations is now investigating the use of this accusation as a tactic in custody cases, including here in the U.S. It is also why working with a Rockland County family law attorney in all child custody cases is absolutely essential.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation can be described as a child rejecting one parent as the result of another parent psychologically manipulating the child to turn against that parent or to otherwise want to avoid that parent. The courts can use the act of alienation in its determination of what is in the best interest of the child, which ultimately influences the custody decision.

Still,  the concept of parental alienation was never formally accepted as an official ‘syndrome’ in the field of child psychiatry (i.e. “Parental Alienation Syndrome”), and there is no universal definition for it.

Why Is There Concern?

According to existing statistics, most individuals accused of engaging in parental alienation are women (mothers) who were also alleging spousal abuse. Unfortunately, a number of family courts have judged these allegations as deliberate efforts by mothers to alienate children against their fathers.

In addition, according to the UN’s investigation, there is an emerging pattern indicating that accusing one parent of parental alienation is now being used as a litigation tactic to gain an advantage in custody decisions. In other words, reports indicate that the concept is being used under false pretenses by some, and it’s working: in some instances, the judicial system is favoring one parent over another in these cases, even where there is a history of domestic violence or evidence of abuse against the parent ultimately awarded custody. The result is that a number of parents having experienced a history of domestic violence and/or violence or abuse of their children could purposely stay silent in order to avoid custody consequences.

That is not to say that parental alienation doesn’t exist or never occurs. Sometimes, in an acrimonious separation or divorce, there can be subtle or blatant attempts to disparage the other parent to a child, and even purposeful actions to turn the child against a parent. However, the morale of the story is: the courts have to be careful in their investigations in these cases, as the accusation of parental alienation can also be used as a tactic to gain a custody advantage, and the children at issue in these cases can be placed in danger if signs of abuse or violence are not recognized.

Rockland & Westchester, New York Family Law Attorneys

These cases are probably the hardest on the children involved in them. If you live in Rockland or Westchester County and have concerns about child custody, divorce, or any other family law issue, contact our experienced family law attorneys at the Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine, P.C. today to find out how we can help.



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