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Parental Alienation in Custody Cases

Tonight's post was written by one of our Marietta custody attorneys, Naomi Lumpkin.

When we talk about divorce or modifications with children, there is always one standard: what is in the best interest of the child. That standard is extremely subjective so what it means varies case by case but what is NEVER in the best interest of the child is for one parent to put their child in the middle or alienate the other parent.

Parental alienation happens more often than you might think. Parental alienation occurs when one parent's efforts to consciously or unconsciously brainwash a child combines with the child's bad-mouthing of the other parent. In some situations,  one parent constantly speaks ill of the other parent in front of the child or refuses to let the non-custodial parent spend time with the child. In severe cases, the child won't even want to see or talk to the alienated parent.

There are many other examples of parental alienation, for example, the custodial parent who doesn't tell the other parent about upcoming events at school or dance recitals, who fails to mention Awards Day or the child being promoted to black belt in karate? This is a form of deception. That child feels like mommy or daddy doesn't care enough to come to the important events in their life, when really, they just weren't aware of it. Is this really in the best interest of the child or the best perceived interest of the parent?

Parental alienation can have severe consequences, some you might not expect. Custodial parents can quickly become non-custodial parents. Months back, I tried a matter in which the parties did not have a set holiday schedule. Father's Day happend to fall on the mother's weekend. Instead of thinking about the best interest of her child, the mother thought about what was best for her. She did not let her daughter spend time with her dad that Father's day. That decision painted a very clear picture in the judge's head.  That decision ultimately cost this mother  full custody of her daughter.

Judges want to see that you have the ability to co-parent.  Judge's want to see that you care enough about your child to keep the other parent up to date on and involved in the most important aspects of your child's life. That's doing it the right way.

If you are going through a custody battle or a divorce, think about how you are extending yourself to co-parent. You walk in your own shoes enough. Take awhile to walk a mile in your child's shoes. Then determine what really is in the best interest of your child.

Naomi Lumpkin

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