Parental alienation is a reality in many family law matters and although it is a phrase which is often thrown around by the media, by celebrities, and even by family law attorneys in their Motion practices, there are very few cases which have addressed this issue in New Jersey and therefore, this is an area of law that continues to develop and which needs to be developed to protect the true victims of such cases- the children. Unfortunately, like any overused terminology, the more “parental alienation” is thrown around without the knowledge of 1) what exactly it is; 2) the recourse available to a litigant through the court; 3) admissibility of experts on the issue; 4) scientific reliability of parental alienation syndrome, and 5) the severity of the impact that causing such alienation could have on the party responsible for causing the situation, cases involving parental alienation will continue to be some of the most difficult cases a family law attorney will face.
As stated above, in New Jersey, there are very few cases, which, address the issue of parental alienation and there are no cases, nor statutes, which, apply at this time. Instead, there are a few cases wherein the issues has been raised and wherein the Court has attempted to address same, however, it remains unclear the proper procedures, proofs, or standards which will apply in any given case. That being said, parental alienation can destroy the bonds of a parent and child, and ultimately result in guilt, pressure, and responsibility on a child that only rears the negative impact on them in their young adult years. In post-judgment divorce cases, most of the children involved have been raised by both of their parents until the divorce and therefore trust both parents as a source of comfort, stability and security. To remove that other parent from that child’s life or encourage an acrimonious relationship can destroy a child’s sense of security and trust in the adults in their lives. Unfortunately, despite these dire consequences to a child, some parents are incapable to separating their feelings of hurt and rejection from those of their children and act in a way to ensure children align with them during these custody and divorce proceedings, or after the divorce when they have been unable to reach closure otherwise. Even more unfortunate, and just like any other mental illness, parent’s involved in the alienating behavior are often completely unaware of their actions and instead believe that they are protecting their child making matters even more difficult to sift through. In other cases, a parent’s hurt, hatred even, or the effect of a perceived or real betrayal causes them to use their child as confirmation that the other parent is “unfit” or “bad.” In the end, and regardless of the “why”, it is clear that as parents we are the source of guidance for our children and their road map in life. Therefore, despite the push back our children give us on a daily basis, we are their number one role model and the their desire to please us, especially in times of stress or perceived loss makes them incredibly vulnerable to suggestion. In other words, our actions and words, intentional or otherwise make an enormous difference during trying times such as divorce.
In sum, cases involving parental alienation are incredibly difficult and in New Jersey this remains an area of family law, which, needs to be developed as the impact on the children now and in their future is incredibly real and can result in the loss of a parent child relationship that they deserve. First, there is the admissibility of an expert of parental alienation syndrome and the scientific acceptance of same as a mental health disorder. There is the impact on the child who although was intentionally alienated from the other parent, would be harmed by being forced into the custody of the alienated parent whom they fear or don’t trust. There are also concerns relating to the length of time in which the alienated parent fails to act on their concerns which in and of itself can create a precedent for custody and ensure the child remains in the care of the alienating parent because to do otherwise would be contrary to the child’s best interest and disrupt the only stability they know. In other words, every case must be addressed individually and creatively, and parent’s concerned must act quickly vs. allowing time to “heal all wounds”.
If you are experiencing a strained relationship with your child and believe that it is a result of parental alienation, contact the lawyers at the Martone Law Group who are family with these issues and the impact on custody and can provide you the quick guidance you need to ensure the best possible outcome.