Once the custody battle in the San Diego Superior Court is over in your divorce, legal separation or even paternity case, often a new battle begins: a battle for the hearts and minds of your children. Many custodial parents believe the absent parent’s participation in the child’s life should be limited to the timely payment of child support. They may sincerely believe the child is better off without the other parent’s influence. They may be upset about a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend. In laws may become involved and influence the parents. The parents may speak with their friends and others who tell them what to do.
This often leads to a concentrated effort to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent. This has been identified as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS.) There are several reasons that this is detrimental but these three reasons why this has serious consequences are outlined as follows: your relationship with the other parent, your child’s emotional health, and the legal consequences you may incur.
Why Your Relationship With the Other Parent is Important
While it may no longer be possible to have an intimate relationship with the other parent, your child is the connecting point that remains. In an adversarial relationship, it is the connecting point that will feel the greatest strain. Common outcomes can range from shouting matches at visitation exchanges to physical assaults or vengeful tactics to avoid or delay child support payments. Ongoing animosity almost always results in ongoing legal fees and repeated visits to court. Remember, at some point your children will become adults. They may have children and you will both have the same grandchildren. In addition, the family law court files are open to the public. Your adult child can go to court and see what each of you has alleged and written about the other. It is most difficult, when you are in the middle of the divorce crisis, to not be able to look into the future as all your time and effort is consumed in the present.
Your Child’s Emotional Health is at Stake
Both the law and the medical profession recognize the serious consequences of PAS. For example, your child’s self-esteem is strongly rooted in his family history. If one-half of his or her “DNA” is constantly decried as “worthless,” it is only natural to infer an insurmountable sense of worthlessness. This can lead to antisocial or even criminal behavior, drug or alcohol use and ongoing relationship problems. There are many studies regarding the effect of parental alienation on children and articles and research on the internet is a very good place to start.
It is important to realize that no matter how strong you think your relationship with your child is, it can be rare for a child to express negative self-doubts, especially to a parent. A perceived need for self-defense may result in the child becoming critical of you, which also bounces back to hammer at the child’s self-esteem.
The emotional aftermath of PAS can also manifest in your child as physical conditions such as headaches, stomach problems, or other symptoms with no apparent physical cause. If you believe your child is suffering from PAS, you should immediately research the symptoms and education yourself and then speak with a professional.
Finally, PAS can backfire as the child gets older. The child may feel compelled to choose between parents and may decide to exclude you from his life. Sometimes, the best tactic is to let the child see the other parent’s faults firsthand. There have been cases where children resent the custodial parent, once they reach the age of majority or before, for cutting off contact with their other parent. The consequences of PAS can manifest themselves in many different ways.
Legal Consequences of PAS
PAS can have serious legal consequences as well. In some jurisdictions, a finding of PAS can lead to a change in custody and this transfer of primary physical custody could be permanent. The court may find the offending parent guilty of contempt resulting in jail time if court orders are violated. A series of court hearings will cost you time and money and also expose all sides to an in depth psychological evaluation.
While “custody battles” are common in divorce situations, they are often a battle which nobody wins. By making the effort to have civil relationship with the other parent and not making negative statements about them, your child will see you in a positive light as a reasonable, responsible adult. This will also give your child the best foundation to grow into a reasonable, responsible adult.
For a free consultation on this or other family law issues, contact us online or call our office at 858-312-8500.