During your divorce, you and your ex-spouse might have gone through a contentious custody battle. Working to establish a custody order was likely a tortuous process. Even with one in place, your dispute may continue if your ex-spouse disregards its terms. Not only may they make it difficult to see your children, they may be trying to turn your children against you.
If your children are saying or doing hurtful things to you, you must understand these behaviors are not their – or your – fault. Rather, your ex-spouse may be engaging in parental alienation.
Understanding parental alienation
Parental alienation happens when one parent tries to program their children to reject their other parent. Often, it begins with the alienating parent making derogatory comments – whether subtle or overt – about the targeted parent to their children. Children who have an alienating parent are often influenced by their comments and actions and tend to ally with them out of fear and loyalty. As a result, they may act out against their targeted parent, resist spending with them or try to sever their relationship altogether.
Recognizing parental alienation
A change in your children’s behavior toward you is often the first sign of parental alienation. It may the easiest sign to spot, especially if you rarely interact with your ex-spouse. Yet, you will want to observe their actions as well. Some indicators your ex-spouse is engaging in parental alienation include:
- Excluding you or failing to inform you of your children’s events
- Scheduling alternative activities for your children during your time with them
- Refusing to let your children keep any belongings at your house
- Monitoring your communication with your children or preventing you from contacting them
- Keeping information about your children secret from you
Protecting your parental rights
You may feel helpless if your ex-spouse is trying to alienate you from your children. Yet, you can protect your parental rights by filing a petition to modify your custody order. To do so in New York, you must show that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, and that the modification is in your children’s best interests.
Because parental alienation can be difficult to fight back against, you will not want to do it alone. A family law attorney can help you work to preserve your relationship with your children.