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What is Parental Alienation Syndrome and How Does it Affect Your Divorce?

Teaching a child to hate one of their parents, a practice known in family courts as parental alienation, can have permanent effects on their emotional and psychological well-being. If allowed to continue, it could result in a condition known as Parental Alienation Syndrome. Unfortunately, Parental Alienation Syndrome is common in contentious divorces, where one or both spouses make the other look bad to get the child to pick a side. This often results in the child unjustly rejecting one of the parents, with effects lasting even as the child becomes an adult.

What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?

PAS is an unofficial psychological condition commonly observed in children caught in a family dispute. It often manifests in the child suddenly showing hostile behavior towards the alienated parent. This may come in the form of expressions of fear, avoidance, and even resentment. Parents who may have had great relationships with the child while the family was stable are not immune from this possible change in a child’s affections.

What Causes It?

The usual suspect behind an alienating child is a manipulative parent.

In the context of divorce, this is normally a maneuver to get the child to choose one parent over the other. There are also several cases of parents using their children to get back at the other parent, leading to serious long-term effects on the child’s wellbeing.

Signs and Symptoms of PAS

Look out for certain behaviors from your child that could signify alienation. According to parental alienation syndrome expert Dr. Amy J. L. Baker, the signs of PAS include:

  1. Fostering intensely negative views and behaviors toward a parent. This could range from simply refusing to spend time with a parent to denying past experiences that were positive for the pair.
  2. Hating a parent for trivial or illogical reasons
  3. Developing a highly polarized view of both parents – with one seen as all good and the other seen considered all bad
  4. Showing a clear bias for the favored parent against the alienated parent without regard for the context or situation of the antagonism
  5. Deliberately hurting the alienated parent’s feelings
  6. Professing their rejection of the alienated parent and claiming that the favored parent had no influence in this
  7. Mimicking the favored parent’s words and actions
  8. Exhibiting hostile behaviors toward the friends and family of the alienated parent
Parental Alienation Laws

There are no laws with specific purview over parental alienation, but current statutes are clear that signs of child abuse are a major factor in a judge’s decision on which parent gets custody. Depending on the circumstances, parental alienation can be considered a form of child abuse. As such, being accused of alienating the other parent may call for a proper assessment of the child by a mental health professional.

If you have more questions about child custody in Texas and would like to consult with a qualified divorce attorney, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation about your case.

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