In Florida, as in all states, the best interests of the child guide custody discussions and decisions. That said, it isn’t news that between two parents a tug-of-war sometimes ensues for the child’s affection and loyalty. The courts do not support this, for a child needs healthy bonds with both parents.
In the worst cases, parental disputes can result in a psychological issue known as Parental Alientation Syndrome.
Parental Alienation Syndrome
In Florida, any behavior on the part of one parent (the “alienator”) to discredit or undermine the other parent (the “target parent”) is understood to be parent alienation.Parental Alienation Syndrome is the behavior exhibited by the child thereafter.
Does this child suddenly not want to spend time with the target parent? Is the child overtly critical of the target parent or others associated with him or her? If these sorts of behaviors are observed, PAS may be in play.
It’s difficult to know what goes awry in parenting, but specialists investigating a case will look for tell-tale signs:
- The alienator blocks access to or contact with the target parent. Corrosive remarks are made along the lines of visitation being inconvenient or having a disquieting effect on the child. The alienator asserts obliquely or directly that s/he is the superior parent.
- False accusations of sexual or emotional abuse, sometimes used as a way of framing different parenting styles.
- A cognizable deterioration in the child’s post-divorce relationship with the target parent.
- Intense fear or anxiety in the child of the alienator because there is either a relentless or intermittent implied suggestion of abandonment, i.e., my way or the highway.
These behaviors can be addressed. The courts can intervene, and to do so they’ll need a detailed account of behavior patterns. The target parent should keep a journal of observations, interactions and the like. Evidence can also be collected through texts, emails and social media.
Co-parenting has its many challenges—PAS is one of them. The guidance and representation of experienced counsel can help pave the way for a positive outcome.