Divorce attorneys from West Palm Beach to Jupiter know that recognizing parental alienation is not simple. In 1999, J. Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh published an article for the Florida Bar Journal that defines four conditions that have been shown to mark the existence of alienation. Even though the article is more than 10 years old, the key circumstances laid out in it are still applicable today: blocking access, false abuse allegations, relationship deterioration, and child’s fear reaction. This article will focus on blocking access or contact.
In the journal, Bone and Walsh state that the primary indicator of parental alienation is when a parent actively blocks “access or contact between the child and the absent parent.” An alienating parent’s rationale for such behavior often starts with the “need” to protect. It can begin with a simple belief that the absent parent exhibits poor behavior or makes unfortunate decisions. An alienating parent then systematically prohibits the child from seeing the other parents by using various behaviors.
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For example, when the non-custodial parent’s plans change due to normal life circumstances, the custodial parent takes the change as an inconvenience and does not follow-through with the change, “relegating it to the status of an errand or chore.” This behavior says to the child that seeing the other parent is not important.
According to Chaim Steinberger, a private practice attorney in Brooklyn, the alienating parent may “forget” telephone messages left for the children or “lose” the letters or postcards sent them. Steinberger said, “She might also ‘forget’ to relay holiday greetings or even lie and tell the children, ‘Your father hasn’t called’.” These types of behaviors are subtle ways to undermine the feelings of the child towards the absent parent.
Over time, an alienating parent’s physical blocking of contact, along with more dangerous mental and emotional blocking can destabilize the relationship, leaving scars for years to come.
Parental alienation is a dramatic ordeal for a child and for a non-custodial parent. Identifying some of the markers in a former spouse, a friend, a family member or even yourself, can lead one to reach out for help. For more information on parental alienation in Florida, contact a qualified attorney in your community.