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Parental Alienation Syndrome Law

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What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental Alienation Syndrome, also known as Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) occurs when one parent exhibits hostile behavior and language toward the other parent, and in turn, causes their child to also become hostile toward the other parent. Even though the child may express a hatred for the parent, they may still long for the parent’s attention and affection.

In essence, PAS is a form of emotional abuse, and is common in divorce proceedings. Similar to brainwashing, children in this situation may start to believe what they are hearing, and begin acting out socially and emotionally at school or around other family members.

Is Parental Alienation Syndrome Admissible In Court?

Depending on the laws of evidence in your state, PAS may be admissible in court. Some courts will admit the evidence, but do not base their decision regarding custody entirely on the diagnosis. Other courts will not admit PAS, because it comes from expert opinion and not scientific evidence.

What is an Example of Parental Alienation Syndrome Used in Court?

There are several weapons parents may use to alienate another parent. For example, they may interfere with the child’s contact by picking up the child early or dropping him off late; they may make excuses to keep the child during a scheduled visit, or refuse to let the child call or contact the alienated parent. A more extreme example, is one parent falsely accusing the other of abuse toward the child.

What are the Legal Effects of Parent Alienation Syndrome?

Generally, parental alienation is not yet regarded as a crime. However, if false accusations of abuse are made, which would involve the police, a parent may be held responsible. Other legal effects may include:

  • Major impact on the outcome of a custody hearing.
  • The child may have to go through counseling, or other rehabilitative measures.
  • The child may also have lasting psychological or medical diagnoses that can create a multitude of problems.

Is Parent Alienation Syndrome Different From Parent Alienation?

Yes. Parental Alienation Syndrome refers to the diagnosis of the child and the presenting symptoms characteristic of PAS. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty adjusting to social situations.
  • Clinical symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mood swings or mood disorders.
  • Distrust toward one or both parents.
  • False aversion or hatred toward the alienated parent.
  • Learning disabilities, trouble concentrating, or other mental difficulties.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Where Parental Alienation Syndrome involves the diagnosis and symptoms of the child, parental alienation is the conduct of one parent toward the other which results in the child developing PAS. Conduct that may lead to PAS includes:

  • Making degrading remarks about the other parent within earshot of the child.
  • Limiting or refusing contact between the child and the other parent.
  • Teaching the child to hate the other parent.
  • Making accusations of physical or sexual abuse.

Parental alienation can be broken down into three major classes:

  1. Mild alienators: May say a few negative things about the other parent, but they make an effort to control their remarks. They tend to cooperate with the other parent, and encourage the parent/child relationship.
  2. Moderate alienators: This type is usually very angry, and may have outbursts in front of the child. They may also try to repair the damage of their behavior, as they are aware of its impact on the child. They tend to be uncooperative.
  3. Extreme alienators: May cause lasting damage to the child through brainwashing, manipulation, and trauma. They will sabotage any relationship the child may have with the other parent, and coax the child into hating the alienated parent.

What Should You Tell Your Children About the Divorce?

It is important to refrain from sharing the details of your divorce with your children. Use neutral language and keep it short so as not to put them in the stressful situation of choosing sides. It is also imperative to keep your child’s best interest at the forefront of anything else, regardless of how you may feel toward your former spouse.

What If My Spouse Is Alienating Me? What Can I Do?

If you are the subject of alienation, be persistent with your rights. If you have a court order granting you custody or visitation, your spouse cannot take that away. Continue seeing your children, regardless of any resentment they may feel. It is important to show them that you are not going anywhere, and they won’t lose the relationship they have with you. Consulting an attorney is highly recommended. This type of situation can be damaging, and the court may grant mandatory therapy for all parties involved.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If PAS or parental alienation is an issue you are dealing with, contact a family law attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer can help protect your rights, guide you through family law hearings, and also decipher whether any criminal behavior has taken place.

Photo of page author Sarah Tipton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-15-2018 10:28 PM PDT

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