Thinking about a divorce or separation? If children are involved, one of the most important considerations is protecting the children from the stress and turmoil of the divorce and ensuring that their interests are represented. Generally, children benefit from both parents involvement in their lives and good relationships with both parents. However, sometimes in a custody dispute, one parent harms the children’s relationship with the other parent.
Parental alienation occurs when a divorced or separated parent tries to turn the children against the other parent. This may include:
- Disparaging the other parent to the children;
- Telling lies about the other parent;
- Failing to cooperate with visitation;
- Using Manipulative actions;
- Forcing the child to choose between his or her parents;
- Limiting or withholding contact with the other parent, or threatening to do so; or
- Any other actions that intentionally damage the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Real concerns about abuse may lead a parent to try to keep his or her children away from the other parent. These protective actions do not constitute alienation, and concerns about abusive behavior should be addressed with law enforcement and appropriate legal action taken.
In any custody dispute, various negative effects on the children may be unavoidable as divorces are often filled with tension and stress. Therefore, when the children are old enough to be aware of what is going on, they will generally recognize that stress — even if the parents are doing their best to avoid contention in front of the children.
Additionally, the disputes and stress inherent in a divorce may lead to the children taking sides and blaming one parent for the breakup of their family. Parents, however, must avoid intentionally prejudicing their children against the other parent. They must not use the children as a tool to get their way in the divorce.
Effects on Custody
In Illinois, custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. Illinois law lists several factors that the family Court should consider when determining a child’s best interests. One of the factors is each parent’s ability and willingness to foster a close and continuing relationship between the children and the other parent.
If one parent is alienating the children from the other parent, this can affect the Court’s custody decision. The Court is required to take alienation into account, and any such actions may lead to a custody arrangement that is unfavorable to the alienating parent.
Parental alienation can become a serious problem, and can have negative effects on custody determinations and on a child’s well-being. If you believe that you have been the victim of parental alienation, please call skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson to schedule a free consultation.