Parental Alienation – How Your Legal Decision-Making Case May Be Affected

Parental alienation.

Parental Alienation – How Your Legal Decision-Making Case May Be Affected

Family law cases involving children are often highly contentious. While all family law cases may involve some level of underhanded tactics from the other party in an effort for them to obtain their desired outcome, such tactics are particularly detrimental when children are involved.

According to Psychology Today, “parental alienation occurs when a child refuses to have a relationship with a parent due to manipulation, such as the conveying of exaggerated or false information, by the other parent. The situation most often arises during a divorce or custody battle, but it can happen in intact families as well.” Examples include:

  • A parent making a child believe that the other parent is dangerous in some way, when this isn’t the case.
  • A parent screening, hiding, or deleting calls or messages from the other parent to the child, and then telling the child that the parent has never reached out.
  • Bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the child.
  • Denying the other parent visitation or parenting time with the child, and then telling the child the other parent has made no attempt to see them.
  • Hiding or destroying money or gifts from the other parent to the child.
  • Playing the role of the “victim” to obtain the child’s sympathy.
  • Wrongly blaming the other parent for any issues that go wrong.
  • Convincing the child that the other parent does not love them.
  • Telling stories about the other parent that are both false and negative.

Parents who deliberately alienate their children from the other parent typically are striving to win sole legal decision-making or primary parenting time with the children.

How Does Parental Alienation Affect the Child?

Parental alienation tactics may serve to effectively brainwash a child, making them lose respect for, or have negative feelings toward, the other parent. Children often act out in divorce cases, even those which are otherwise amicable and do not involve underhanded tactics, but if the following behaviors are occurring from the child, parental alienation may be occurring:

  • Trying to avoid spending time with one parent in favor of the other parent.
  • Questioning the authority or integrity of one parent’s values, beliefs, standards, or actions.
  • Refusing to interact or communicate with one parent in favor of the other parent.
  • Talking back to or openly disrespecting only one parent.
  • Bringing up issues involving one parent that the child should have no knowledge of and could only be learned from the other parent.

How to Handle Parental Alienation

A parent who believes that parental alienation is being used against them through their legal decision-making case will need to bring the matter up with an attorney to assess the situation and create a plan to address the matter before it gets out of hand. Working with a family law attorney will allow the parent to:

  • Review the situation to determine if parental alienation is actually occurring and to what extent.
  • Compile documentation in order to provide evidence to the court of alienation, often through the documentation of behavior timelines, electronic messages, testimony, or online posts.
  • Create a plan to move forward:
    • Drafting a petition to enforce parenting time, if the other parent is preventing parenting time as ordered by the court.
    • Requesting that a guardian ad litem be appointed to assess the situation neutrally.
    • Request mediation sessions to help address issues between the parents and/or children.
    • Drafting a petition to modify current legal decision-making or parenting time orders.

Parental alienation situations can be difficult to navigate and prove. In some cases, one parent will claim this tactic is going on even when it isn’t as a method of trying to get a leg up on the other parent. When alienation is occurring, having an experienced attorney allows the appropriate evidence to be gathered to have the best shot at proving the case. When cases of parental alienation are not addressed quickly and expertly, the children involved often suffer emotionally.

Legal Outcomes for Cases Involving Parental Alienation

Courts in Arizona tend to favor joint legal decision-making for parents along with near-equal parenting time when possible. Spending equal and meaningful time with each parent is often in the best interest of most children. However, if one parent has stooped to exhibiting toxic behavior, the court may need issue a new ruling regarding legal decision-making or parenting time in order to benefit the child.

If it can be proven that one parent’s actions have negatively impacted a child in a way that inhibits a meaningful relationship with both parents, the court may issue or modify parenting orders. Legal decision-making orders that were formally joint may be changed to be sole and parenting time schedules that were equal may be modified to allow one parent greater time.

Judges do not look favorably on parents who use parental alienation to manipulate children or court rulings. When parents use such tactics, they make themselves vulnerable to actually losing parenting time or decision-making rights if their behavior is proven in court.

If you feel you are being alienated from your children by their other parent, contact Rideout Law Group right away to review your case and learn how to gather the appropriate evidence to get the situation back on track to most benefit your child.


Rideout Law Group handles cases throughout the entire state of Arizona, with offices located in Scottsdale and Lake Havasu City. Our attorneys are experienced in handling family law cases involving parental alienation. For a free consultation, call 480-584-3328.

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