Picture of Attorney Daniella Lyttle

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.

Client Reviews
"Before finding you, I had contracted three different lawyers. You were able to quickly resolve and settle a case that I thought was impossible for settle. Because of your expertise and your professionalism, I was able to save thousands of dollars that I can now dedicate to my family. You were sharp, creative, and a strong advocate for me and my family in the Courtroom and in negotiations with the opposing side. Thank you so much for the work that you do!" T.F.
"Daniella, you helped me during the darkest and most difficult time in my life. You were always honest, gave me realistic expectations, and you were prepared for anything in the Courtroom and out of the Courtroom. I will be forever grateful for what you did for me and my children. Because of you, I feel that I got a settlement that will put me on the right path for this next chapter of my life as a divorced parent. Thank you and your wonderful team! you all are great!" A.R.
"Ms. Lyttle's name was given to me by a mutual friend who described Ms. Lyttle as an intelligent lawyer with an athlete's competitive spirit. Ms. Lyttle was a wonderful representative of calm preparedness during what became a lengthy and tenacious divorce litigation. I appreciated her knowledge, her calmness despite the fact that I was very anxuous, and her polite and respectful attitude in the courtroom, and outside of it. Ms. Lyttle helped me to stay focused on the larger picture, and her experience and advice came to me at a time when I was desperate and depended on her. I am glad to report I placed my trust in someone who actually delivered." R.E.
"I have known Ms. Lyttle for more than two years. She has represented me in my divorce and then in my modification/enforcement case in the most proffessional manner. Ms. Lyttle's ethics are of the highest standards. Her friendship , courtesy ,knowledge and honesty have become very important to me during the last two years as she represented me in my family law case. I have recommended Ms. Lyttle to a many friends facing family law matters and I know I can count on Ms. Lyttle should I need her again in the future." A.W.