Navigating Parental Alienation in Arizona: Understanding and Overcoming Its Impact

Parental Alienation in Arizona

If you have a child, the thought of them one day deciding they dislike you is potentially a parent’s worst nightmare. The idea of someone psychologically manipulating them to turn them against you is almost unimaginable, especially if that person is your child’s other parent. Unfortunately, this form of manipulation is quite common in co-parenting situations, particularly after divorce or another breakup, and is called parental alienation.

Parental alienation can permanently harm your relationship with your child and play a major role in your battle for child custody in the state of Arizona. It is, therefore, important to understand how to recognize it and how to address it as swiftly and effectively as possible. Learn more about parental alienation – and what you can do about it – from the family law team at The Valley Law Group.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation occurs when an adult tries to turn a child against one of their parents. Often, this comes in the form of outright negativity towards the child’s other parent in the child’s presence in an attempt to change their opinion of that parent. Unfortunately, parents who participate in parental alienation often do this to achieve their desired outcome in a custody battle. For example, if a former partner thinks that the court will grant the other partner full custody of the children, they might begin telling lies about that parent in an attempt to get the child to express a preference to live with them exclusively.

This kind of malicious behavior can permanently rupture a parent’s relationship with their child. Many children, if told to fear or mistrust an adult, can be influenced to do so. In some cases, this alienation can also result in a child strongly preferring to live with the manipulative parent and potentially even relaying lies concerning abuse and other mistreatment that can influence the court’s custody decision. This can lead to a parent missing major milestones and moments in the child’s life.

The Arizona family court system strives to approve child custody orders that consider the best interests of the child involved, so they do not take parental alienation lightly. If you suspect that your child’s other parent is alienating your child from you, time is of the essence. Do not hesitate to reach out to an attorney to collect evidence and put a stop to the harm before it becomes irreparable.

How Does Parental Alienation Affect Child Custody

You will find that child custody laws vary throughout the 50 states and that some have different legal perspectives on the topic of parental alienation. If you are going through a divorce in the state of Arizona and you have a child with your partner, the court must approve any decision about child custody. If you and the other parent cannot agree on an amenable co-parenting plan, the court must assign custody.

Typically, the court presumes that custody will be split roughly 50-50, meaning that you have joint legal decision-making over your child’s life and that both you and your former partner spend about the same amount of time caring for the child. Often, one person will assume primary parenting responsibilities, but the court generally ensures that the child can maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.

However, certain factors can motivate a judge to grant unequal custody to one parent. The court’s main concern is the best interest of the child, so it will take factors like the child’s relationship with each parent into account. More critically, the court will consider any factors that put the child’s safety at risk or suggest that a parent would be unfit or unable to care for the child. For example, in instances where one parent has serious substance abuse issues or has proven to be violent, the court will often grant full decision-making rights and parenting time to the other parent. Since the court does strive to take a child’s wishes into account, as well, it is especially important to identify and put a halt to any parental alienation.

If you do not stand up against alienation and your relationship with your child is fractured, your chance for shared custody could be at risk. If the court determines your child is capable of expressing an opinion on the matter, they may display a strong preference for the other parent due to the psychological tactics the other parent has used to turn your child against you. Your child might even echo false information they learned from the other parent about you in court to make you seem unfit to raise them.

What Behaviors Constitute Parental Alienation?

Parents who are intentionally alienating their children from the other parent often take some common steps to negatively impact their child’s relationship.

Be on the lookout for this behavior from your child’s co-parent:

  • Telling lies about you that paint you in a negative light
  • Frequently talking negatively about you in the child’s presence
  • Urging your child to disrespect you
  • Bribing your child into spending more time with them than you
  • Preventing your child from contacting you
  • Repeatedly asking the child questions about your private life
  • Refusing to share information about you with the child or the child with you
  • Frequently failing to show up to agreed-upon drop-offs and canceling time that you were supposed to have with the child

How Can You Recognize Signs of Parental Alienation?

Signs of Parental Alienation

It can be tough to identify signs of parental alienation, especially if you are not spending every day with your child.

However, if you pay close attention and see your child start displaying any of the following behaviors, you might be witnessing the impacts of alienation:

  • Blatantly disobeying you or showing you disrespect
  • Repeatedly making negative remarks about you
  • Refusing to communicate with you
  • Questioning your beliefs or authority
  • Bringing up the divorce or legal issues that they shouldn’t be worrying about
  • Discussing information about your personal life or past that you have never shared with them
  • Showing an uncharacteristic lack of interest in spending time with you
  • Making false accusations about you or misrepresenting your actions
  • Blaming you for bad things in the other parent’s life, like their financial standing
  • Avoiding you or showing a new strong preference for the other parent

Children’s behavior can be hard to read, and sometimes, they might simply be acting out as a result of difficult times, including the process of divorce. However, while some of these behaviors might arise naturally without parental alienation, it is worth investigating further if you are in a custody battle and these changes in attitude and behavior come on suddenly.

How Can You Address Parental Alienation?

If you are nervous about addressing parental alienation or unsure where to start, you are not alone. Delving into your child’s emotions and their connection with you is always a treacherous road to navigate, but there are some steps you can take.

First, you will need to be attentive to your child’s behavior, especially those listed above. Some actions you can take include the following:

  • Note changes in behavior – If you start to see abrupt changes in your child’s behavior, start noting details about each, including when they started and what exactly they consist of. This will be of particular use if you consult with a lawyer to investigate whether parental negotiation is occurring.
  • Communicate with the other parent if possible – In an ideal situation, you will be able to speak openly and respectfully with your co-parent about your concerns regarding alienation. They might get defensive or upset at the accusation but remember to remain calm and focus on emphasizing your concern for your child’s well-being.
  • Pursue counseling – You might find that hiring a counselor for your child or both you and your child can help you work on the relationship and get to the root of the issues at hand.
  • Contact a lawyer – Although navigating the legal complexities of alienation might not be at the top of your to-do list, contacting a lawyer in a tough case of parental alienation can help mitigate the damage before it goes too far and get your child in safe, compassionate hands.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Determining whether parental alienation is occurring can be difficult, so it is in your best interest to seek legal support if you suspect your child’s other parent is attempting to destroy your relationship with your child. If you reach out to an experienced family law attorney, they can help you navigate the complex process of identifying alienation and addressing the issue before it escalates too far. Your attorney can help you with the following tasks:

  • Assessing your situation – If you’re unsure whether parental alienation is occurring, your lawyer can meet with you to discuss what you’re going through. They’ll patiently and respectfully listen to all of your concerns and review any evidence you have.
  • Collect evidence – If you do not have solid evidence when you first consult with your lawyer, they can aid in gathering more so that you have a compelling argument for the court. For example, evidence of alienation might be texts, emails, or voicemails from the other parent, communication on social media, or witness testimonies.
  • Create a strategic plan – With the evidence in hand, your lawyer can help craft a plan for your situation. You may wish to pursue mediation or file a motion to adjust a custody arrangement.
  • Prepare you for the process – The legal action required to address parental alienation can look different depending on your family’s circumstances. For instance, the court may appoint a professional guardian ad litem to evaluate the situation. The evaluation may include an interview with the involved parents and children.
  • Enforcing custody orders – Sometimes, your child’s other parent might be violating an existing custody order with their parental alienation. Your lawyer can help legally enforce an order and ensure you have the time you need with your child.

Is There Controversy Around Parental Alienation?

Parental Alienation

There is some controversy swirling regarding whether parental alienation is a real phenomenon. Of course, children sometimes have a closer bond with one parent or have witnessed one parent’s mistreatment or abuse.

Difficulties surrounding parental alienation include the following:

  • Proving that alienation is occurring – Effectively proving that someone is manipulating their child against their other parent is hard to do and might require invasions of privacy, like reading text messages, that some view as unethical and that might exacerbate a lack of trust with a co-parent or a child.
  • Misusing the claim – Custody battles can be messy and are often the most tense parts of a contested divorce; for that reason, many people worry that there are parents who will falsely claim that the other parent is alienating the child in order to bolster their chance of getting full custody. This is why the court has extensive measures to evaluate claims of alienation.
  • Potential negative impact on children – Some also worry that people falsely identify normal adolescent behaviors, like increased privacy, as related to parental alienation. This can stigmatize normal behaviors, have a negative impact on the child’s emotions, and strain an already tough relationship. Some believe that increased focus on parental alienation shifts the custody case away from the best interests of the child and risks invalidating a child’s natural resistance to co-parenting.
Although parental alienation and its role in custody cases are sometimes disputed, if you think your co-parent is emotionally harming your child and disrupting your relationship with them, you should consult with a lawyer to determine your next steps. Arizona courts will do everything in their power to protect your child’s best interests, and this is quite often a lasting relationship with both parents. You can request an update to your custody order, change parenting arrangements, or request therapy for you and your child.

Seek Legal Help With Parental Alienation

Seek Legal Help With Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can cause your relationship with your child to deteriorate before your very eyes. As frightening as this is to face, you don’t have to deal with parental alienation alone. Seeking professional support in this emotionally turbulent time can help you and your child maintain a lasting, fulfilling relationship. The skilled family law attorneys at The Valley Law Group can help you determine whether you are experiencing parental alienation, answer all your questions, listen to all your concerns, and aggressively advocate for you and your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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