Parentificaiton in Parental Alienation Cases

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

Parental Alienation cases require a complete analysis of the family dynamics to determine what is really going on with the child custody, but one of the easiest dynamics to determine is Parentification of the child.

This is a role reversal, where the child is now taking care of the emotional needs of the parent. This is child abuse and has disastrous long term effects on the child’s abiltiy to form proper adult relationships.

Parentifying a child robs the child of not just the normal childhood experiences and joys of youth, but it causes the child to feel guilt and shame when they are unable to provide the emotional support for their parent that they feel obligated to deliver. A child does not have the emotional equipment to confront and resolve the hurts and stresses of being an adult, and to expect them to be able to, causes a sense of failure which translates into low self-esteem which will affect all future relationships.

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Children do not normally reject their parents absent a cause. Even children who have been sexually molested by a parent will still want to have some relationship with that parent. It is not normal for a child to sever all contact with a parent, and if the reasons given are flimsy or seem superficial, the odds are that they are being alienated by the other parent in a child custody case as part of a divorce.

For a parent who is being rejected, they need to first establish what is happening, when they come in to my family law office in Santa Monica, we determine what are the alleged reasons for the rejection. In one case it was because the alienated parent made the child set the table for dinner -hardly a reason for the termination of all communication – so clearly something else was going on.

Once it is determined what it happening to cause the rejection of the parent by the child, a therapeutic intervention or a court ordered intervention can be arranged. In Los Angeles County, we file a Request for Orders to have a judge order the parties to co-parenting classes, reunification therapy and a child custody evaluation to provide the court with an unbiased opinion of each parent’s skills and strengths.

We develop a long term strategy that can take 6-12 months to fully implement and during which the rejected parent is taking action to get back the formerly loving relationship they had with their child.

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The Alienated Parent’s Easiest Mistake

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

For an alienated parent who has not spoken to their child in months or perhaps years, the easiest mistake they can make is to blame themselves and assume that the emotional distance between the child and the estranged parent is to the fault of the alienated parent somehow.

Most alienation cases involve an alienator who is suffering from the devastating effects of a narcissistic personality or a borderline personality disorder, occasionally they are histrionic but usually it is the narcissist that is the most difficult to deal with in these child custody cases.

The targeted parent is not to blame in most alienation cases because one of the hallmarks of an alienation case is that there is no factual basis for the severing of the parent child relationship. In those cases where there is a basis, such as child physical or sexual abuse, the severing of the relation does not fit the definition of Parental Alienation.

Thus the estranged or alienated parent should not feel guilt or shame, or think that the distance or negativity of the relationship is about them.

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Parental Alienation – The Long War

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

For parents who once had a close and loving relationship with their child, becoming the targeted parent in a child custody battle, who is estranged from their child through no fault of their own, the time away is an excruciating period. Having an estranged child or estranged children means every little thing can be a stark reminder of what is missing in one’s life.

My child custody and divorce clients in Los Angeles County and Orange County have told me they want to run away from the constant reminders. From the Hollywood Hills where they would hike with their daughters to the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice where they would play in the surf, there is a constant source of painful reminders for these parents.

The parental alienation or estrangement didn’t happen over night, the alienating parent had to work for years to force a wedge between the alienated child and the alienated parent. Breaking the bonds of parent and child is not easy, and consequently, rebuilding them is not a quick or easy process particularly in the midst of a child custody dispute.

The estranged parent needs to be patient during the long war of child custody hearings and conjoint therapy sessions to rebuild a trust and love that was once as natural as breathing. Being impatient and failing to see how long it takes, or to recognize progress when it happens will only prolong the process.

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In Parental Alienation cases, it is very tempting for the targeted parent to want to fight back and try to make the child hate the other parent who started the alienating.

This is a very bad idea. Especially when the parties in the middle of a heated child custody battle over legal custody and physical custody of the child.

The Alienating Parent is not an equal warrior in this battle. They have no sense of fairplay, there are no rules of engagement that they will abide by. The alienating parent is psychologically damaged and as a consequence they feel no remorse or guilt about what they do. They are sacrificing their own child’s well-being to satisfy their own emotional needs, so they are certainly not going to play nice with an ex-spouse.

The Targeted Parent is at a severe disadvantage in this child custody battle if they have an essentially normal psychological profile. An Estranged Parent is generally not capable of being as cunning, ruthless and cold-hearted as the narcissistic, borderline or histrionic alienator. The targeted parent will care more about the alienated child and be willing to walk away on the mistaken assumption that by leaving they are making it easier on the child. THAT IS WRONG.

The alieanted parent cannot fight fire with fire, they need to fight for custody of the child with strategy and develop a set of tools to box in the alienating parent.

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Reunification for Alienated Parents and Children

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

When alienated parents and children are trying to re-establish their relationship it can be a rocky period and the parent may want to explain, persuade or become defensive about the events that lead up to the separation. This is generally not a good idea.

The alienated child has undergone extensive abuse and needs to be treated with the kindnes and gentleness of someone who has been through a war, for in many ways they have. The war of a child custody battle that is so much more than legal custody or physical custody – it is a war for the heart and mind of the child. They frequently exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, low self-esteem and have attachment issues that affect their relationships for life unless properly treated.

As a result, estranged parents and estranged children, should be treated by a qualified reunification therapist, of which there are several in Los Angeles County and Ventura County.

There are also residential programs to help bring alienated children and alienated parents together again in a natural setting.

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Help for the Alienated Parent

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

When I first start working a child custody case with an alienated parent, someone who has become an estranged parent from their child by the malicious actions of their former spouse or partner, I start by assessing the situation to determine how much work must be done to reunite parent and child.

I usually put people in a Parenting Class right away in child custody cases, even when I don’t expect there to be much of a battle over the legal custody or the physical custody – it just helps me to have the ammunition that my client is being proactive. I refer people to Jayne Major’s course at on a regular basis because alienated parents need to learn how to speak with their child in such a way as they don’t cause more damage. Her course is located in Los Angeles County. She also has an online course I have used in my paternity cases for men who are out of state or a long distance from her office.

First and foremost though when dealing with an alienated child and parent is to not use guilt on a child. Hard as it is, when your child is being disrespectful, adding guilt only makes their situation worse.

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The Top Mistake Alienated Parents Make

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

You can’t play football by the rules of baseball, and the top mistake that alienated parents and estranged parents make in these child custody and divorce cases is to think that a reconciliation should based on what’s fair.

Family Law, Domestic Relations and Child Custody Cases are not based on fairness. Parental Alienation cases do not turn on fairness. Nothing about this is fair, and parents who are targeted need to give up the idea of fairness, and start thinking about strategy. Whether you are in Los Angeles Superior Court, Orange County Superior Court or Ventura County Superior Court, you need to be working with a lawyer and a therapist who strategize for the long haul.

Targeted parents are usually dealing with someone who has a personality disorder. Frequently they are Narcissistic, Borderline or Histrionic personalities which means that they are very injured people who do not put their child’s best interest first. They only claim to, so they can win.

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Alienated Children are Abused

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

Parental Alienation is child abuse, unambiguous, abuse.

Alienated children suffer the loss of a parent, a sense of security in the world and have low self-esteem and higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse problems.

Parents who are alienating their children from the other parent in a child custody case are committing child abuse and should be stopped. In Los Angeles County we represent mothers and fathers who are fighting evil exes who want to ruin the relationship between them and their children.

We have had success in courts across Los Angeles County, from Santa Monica to Van Nuys and north to San Fernando in reunifying parents and children who were being alienated by a narcissistic or borderline parent.

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The Degrees of Parental Alienation

Published on 22 December 2011 by in blog

Like most things in life, there is a spectrum of Parental Alienation, there is the mild parental alienation that occurs when a couple divorces and each parent is overly critical in front of the children of the other parent. This is usually a short lived practice.

Moderate Parental Alienation involves a pattern of continued harassment and interference with the other parents custodial time and visitation with the child or children.

Severe Parental Alienation is a sustained war on the other parent’s relationship with the child.

We have fought child custody cases that involved different degrees of Parental Alienation in the courts of Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange and San Diego Counties.

We use a variety of tools to put a stop to the alienating behavior of the offending parent and to reunify the targeted parent with their child so that child custody can be returned to a normal relationship.

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