What is parental alienation, and does it affect parental rights?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2023 | Family Law, Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a term that describes the situation when one parent tries to damage or destroy the relationship between their child and the other parent. This can happen during or after a divorce, separation or custody dispute, and it can have serious consequences for the child’s well-being and the parent’s rights.

What is it?

Parental alienation is not a single act, but a pattern of behaviors that aims to undermine or interfere with the bond between a child and the other parent.

Some examples of parental alienation behaviors are bad-mouthing or criticizing the other parent in front of the child or to others, or limiting or preventing contact or communication between the child and the other parent.

It could also include making false or exaggerated accusations of abuse, neglect or unfitness against the other parent, or refusing to cooperate or share information with the other parent about the child’s health, education or activities.

These parents also encourage or reward their child for rejecting or disrespecting the other parent. They create a negative impression of the other parent by blaming them for the divorce, financial problems or other issues.

They exclude or replace the other parent from the child’s life by changing their name, enrolling them in a new school or introducing a new partner as a parent figure.

Devastating effects

Parental alienation can have devastating effects on the child’s emotional and psychological development. Children who are exposed to parental alienation may experience confusion, guilt, anger, sadness or fear. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, difficulty trusting or forming relationships with others and poor academic performance, behavioral problems or substance abuse.

It can also lead to loyalty conflicts, ambivalence or estrangement from one or both parents.

How does it affect parental rights and responsibilities in Florida?

In Florida, parental rights and responsibilities are determined by the best interests of the child standard. This means that the court will consider various factors that affect the child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being when making decisions about custody (time-sharing) and parental responsibility (decision-making authority).

One of these factors is described as “the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship.” If a parent engages in parental alienation behaviors that harm the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court may consider this as a negative factor when deciding how to allocate time-sharing and parental responsibility.